If your course involves a research project, or if you’re teaching students the skills related to information literacy, you likely address the topic of plagiarism as it relates to their work. Though some students may readily recognize the seriousness of the matter, it may not “sink in” for others quite so easily.

To ensure that all students grasp the impact that plagiarism could have on their academic careers, it pays to discuss it in earnest. In the Annotated Instructor’s Edition for FOCUS on College Success, Fourth Edition, Dr. Constance Staley recommends the following in-class activity, which can prompt students to think very carefully about the importance of academic integrity and the ramifications of plagiarism:

Make sure students have a copy of your institution’s policy on plagiarism. Have them highlight the consequences and discuss them. If students are dismissed from the college, can they return? Does the policy vary by instructor? Make sure students understand the policy. (Staley, 207)

Want to provide your students with additional guidance that will help them avoid plagiarism? In 100% Information Literacy Success, Third Edition, author Gwenn Wilson, MA provides several strategies that can help students avoid both intentional and unintentional plagiarism. We’ve paraphrased them below:


  • Give yourself enough time to write your project, so that you don’t feel rushed and, in the process, unintentionally skip over important steps, such as fully completing and verifying your in-text citations and reference list.


  • Pay strict attention to the reference style guide required by your instructor, and follow it carefully as you write and polish your project.


  • As you take notes on your research material, be sure to identify which are pieces of information taken from your sources and which are your own ideas and reflections. For example, you could jot down the author’s last name and page number beside a quote from a book or article, and make an asterisk or write your own name beside your own ideas. Put quotation marks around any direct quotes. (A checklist for bibliographic information can also be of great assistance; complete one for every source you use.)


  • If you want to directly quote your source material within your paper, you must set that quotation off with the proper marks and include a proper citation. If you need to add your own words for clarification purposes, set them off in brackets.


  • Paraphrasing an author’s statement—that is, putting it into your own words—is another way to incorporate others’ thoughts into your work. Likewise, if you wish to communicate the point that an author makes in a longer portion of a work (such as a chapter, article, or book), you can summarize those ideas. However, you must still be certain to use quotation marks around any direct quotes, provide the appropriate citation, and take care to represent the writer’s ideas accurately (that is, without changing or twisting them to fit the point you wish to make). To do this successfully: read the work, write down your ideas (without looking back at the original), step away for a bit, then re-read what you wrote to ensure that you’ve captured the information correctly without strictly copying it.


  • Contextualize the quoted or paraphrased material by elaborating on those ideas with your own insights and analysis.


  • Use plagiarism-detection software such as turnitin.com to check your own work and verify that you have not unintentionally plagiarized any material.


  • Keep your own work secure by password-protecting your computer and documents. (Wilson, 194-197)


What are your strategies for teaching students about the perils of plagiarism? Share them in the comments section below.



Staley, Constance. 2015. Annotated Instructor’s Edition of FOCUS on College Success, 4th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Wilson, Gwenn. 2015. 100% Information Literacy Success, 3rd ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

© 2015 Cengage Learning.