Throughout their college careers, students will complete numerous writing and research projects. Not only do such projects engage students in the study of topics related to their course material, they also help students develop their skills as critical thinkers and writers.

Academic integrity is a key principle related to students’ skillful completion of these projects. If students engage in scholarly research practices, and if they learn to cite their sources accurately, then they come away from the project with a finished product that represents their academic skills and their own informed thoughts on the topic or issue at hand. However, if they copy others’ work, neglect to give proper attribution to their sources, or fail to include citations, then they are (whether intentionally or unintentionally) engaging in plagiarism… which can have a very negative impact on their academic careers. Therefore, students’ knowledge of how to avoid plagiarism is an important part of their college education.

Most colleges have stringent policies against plagiarism; these outline what plagiarism is, as well as the consequences for engaging in plagiarism. Students should familiarize themselves with these policies, but they also may learn about the avoidance of plagiarism from their instructors.

Are students receiving this training through their college courses? In our Spring 2015 Engagement Insights survey, we heard from nearly three thousand college students, as well as nearly seven hundred instructors, on the topic of plagiarism. Below, we review what these college students and instructors had to say about anti-plagiarism instruction.

Coverage of Anti-Plagiarism Instruction in College Courses: Students and Instructors Respond

We asked college students: “Do your instructors teach you about plagiarism?” The great majority of those surveyed, 92%, said that yes, they do learn about plagiarism in their classes.

College Students - do your instructors teach you about plagiarism? Cengage Learning

Likewise, most instructors address plagiarism in their courses; 76% of those we surveyed said that they talk to students about it.

Instructors - do you teach students about plagiarism in your courses? Cengage Learning

Going by these numbers, we can safely assume that, by and large, students do receive some level of anti-plagiarism instruction through their courses, at various points in their academic careers. However, it’s clear that not all instructors cover plagiarism, perhaps due to the nature of their course material, or perhaps because they assume that students have learned about it in prior courses.

As an instructor, you play a vital role in students’ understanding of plagiarism and of proper writing and research practices. By teaching students about plagiarism, and by reinforcing their knowledge of appropriate research skills, you’ll also reduce the number of incidences of plagiarism in your course.

If you find yourself among that portion of instructors who do not cover plagiarism, yet you do want to make your students aware of its consequences, we cover some simple tips for doing so below.

Teaching Tips: Avoiding Plagiarism and Improving Academic Writing Skills

If you don’t currently cover plagiarism, but you would like to address it in some fashion, consider taking the following steps:

  • Post a link to your institution’s academic integrity policy to your syllabus, class website, or LMS.
  • Direct students to your campus library’s website; the site will often include helpful tutorials that help students understand (and avoid) plagiarism.
  • Ensure that students know which style guide they should be using when completing projects for your course.
  • Call attention to these resources at the start of your course; remind students about them when it’s time for them to begin their projects.
  • Tell students that you’ll be using an originality checker (such as Turnitin) to vet their work (and then, do so).

 

Looking for additional tips? Review our previous post, “Preventing Plagiarism: Tips for You and Tips to Share,” for suggestions on integrating anti-plagiarism instruction into your course.

Students may also appreciate Questia’s helpful resource, “Nine Steps to Writing a Research Paper,” a helpful (and clear) guide to the process of crafting an interesting (and academically sound) paper.

 

How do you incorporate anti-plagiarism instruction into your course? What are your strategies for helping students to identify and combat intentional and non-intentional acts of plagiarism? Share your ideas in the comments.