The Vermont Tech’s Academic Honesty Policy (PDF) defines plagiarism as “offering as one’s own work the words, ideas, or arguments of another person, without appropriate attribution.”
The Community College of Vermont’s Academic Honesty Policy (PDF) defines plagiarism as “the presentation of the language, ideas, or thought of another person as one’s own work in the preparation of a paper, laboratory report, oral presentation, or any other presentation.”
Educating Students About Plagiarism
Helping students understand the definition of plagiarism will help them avoid it. You can direct them to the library’s Understanding Plagiarism Tutorial for a general overview of what constitutes plagiarism and strategies to avoid it. Giving students specific examples is also useful:
- turning in someone else’s work as your own, whether it’s purchased from the Internet, written by a friend, or obtained elsewhere
- copying words, images, or ideas from someone else without giving credit
- failing to put quoted passages in quotation marks
- giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
- changing words but copying the ideas of a source without giving credit
When assigning research projects, let students know which citation style is required and provide examples of correct citation. Direct students to library citation resources.
Strategies to Detect Plagiarism
Detecting plagiarism begins with a hunch or suspicion, but tracking down proof can be time-consuming. Here are some things to look for:
- an average student hands in a sophisticated and error free paper
- the topic doesn’t match the assignment
- the typeface on the title page doesn’t match the type in the body of the paper or the paper is a photocopy but the title page is an original
- the formatting is different from what you required
- there are odd sentences stuck into an otherwise well-written paper (for example, a sentence that is more personal or relevant to the assignment than the rest of the paper, a sentence using a different verb tense or personal pronoun, etc.)
- poorly written or incomplete citations can be a sign of made-up sources
- all the references are older than three years (typical of Internet term paper mills)
- strange or inconsistent layout – students sometimes paste a plagiarized passage or entire paper into their own document
- find some distinctive phrases or misspellings (2-3 words) and search for them using “quotation marks” around the exact phrase in a search engine such as Google
- review commonly available online encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia.com, encyclopedia wikis such as Wikipedia, and study guides such as Sparknotes.com to see what students may be using for study aids
- look at commercial essay and paper services, such as Custom Research Center.com, CustomWritings.com, or Essay-Bay.com to compare paper titles or subjects
Assignment Ideas to Prevent Plagiarism
- Make the research paper a semester-long project. Start in the first few weeks by talking about “researchable” topics and assign topic selection itself as an assignment. Follow that with weekly assignments such as “presearch” and finding background information, identifying credible sources and evaluating sources for the topic, submitting a preliminary bibliography for review, and writing a thesis statement. Each aspect of the research paper process is reviewed in the library’s Research Basics Guide, which you can incorporate into your syllabus.
- Make the assignment expectations clear and detailed. Should the paper be unique to your course or can the student submit it to other courses? What kind of research do you require (original research, historical research, analytical research)? Which citation style (MLA, APA, etc…)?
- You may opt to provide a list of “researchable” topics and require students to choose one of them. Choose unique, unusual topics, very current events, topics specific to your region, or directly tied in with the essential objectives of the course. Change topics from semester to semester. If you let students choose their own topics, be wary of a request to change a topic at the last minute.
- Require specific types of resources or research help. For example, require at least two book sources, two journal articles, one interview, one website, etc. Direct students to specific library databases or require that students consult with a librarian as part of their assignment.
- Consider assignments other than a research paper, such as an annotated bibliography or an oral presentation. For presentations, require a bibliography and have the students submit a brief description of their research process.
- Meet with students individually during the research process or ask them to keep a research log or diary describing their research process and how they found the sources they’ll be using.
- Require some in-class written work prior to the submission of a research paper so you can gain some knowledge of the student’s writing style and vocabulary.
- Use Moodle’s TurnItIn tool to create a “TurnItIn Assignment” which helps discourage plagiarism.
- If you suspect plagiarism, you can also ask the student to summarize the research process, make an oral presentation, and answer questions about the sources they used.
Academic Incident Questions
If you suspect a student of academic dishonesty, need assistance determining potential instances of plagiarism, or want more information about eTutoring or TurnitIn, please contact your CCV Coordinator.
If you suspect a student of academic dishonesty, or need assistance determining potential instances of plagiarism, please contact Associate Academic Dean Rosemary Distel at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about TurnitIn, consult the Moodle documentation website or contact the Moodle Medic through the portal.