Four Tips for You

Taking steps to prevent plagiarism can help save you and your students from the unpleasant task of handling plagiarism. In McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, contributors Peter Elbow and Mary Deane Sorcinelli outline how you can take action to prevent plagiarism.

  • Be clear in your syllabus about what plagiarism is in your course. Let them know what they’ll need to provide to show their research, as well as how you expect them to work with — or not work with — their classmates.
  • Encourage questions. Let your students know that if they’re doubtful about proper citations to come to you or to visit with a librarian.
  • Collect and read smaller writing assignments. This will help familiarize you with students’ writing styles, helping you to detect any noticeable changes in future submissions. This may not be possible in larger sections, but an option for a course with multiple sections could be assigning different prompts in each, cutting down on the potential to get copied work.
  • Assign unique topics. For example, ask students to apply a theory they’ve learned in class that week to an example outlined on a specific page. By asking students to research very specific circumstances you cut down on the probability that they’ll be able to find essays or papers online or from their peers to pull from. (pp 231-232)

Four Tips to Share

In addition to the steps above that you can take to prevent plagiarism, share these tips from 100% Information Literacy Success authors Amy Solomon, Gwenn Wilson, and Terry Taylor with your students to help them from making mistakes that can constitute plagiarism. Also keep in mind that you can always direct them to the library for help with research and finding information on creating proper citations!

  • Use quotation marks. It’s OK to directly quote a source, but be sure to use quotation marks to indicate that it is a direct lift and then cite where you acquired the material. Consult the style guide for the preferred style manual in your course to guide proper citation.
  • Paraphrase and summarize. You can’t write an entire paper using strictly quotes, and you’ll likely want to put information into your own words and sum it up a bit. Be sure that you’re not altering the author’s meaning as you paraphrase or summarize, and again, cite your sources!
  • Mark up your draft. Go through your first draft and be sure to make note of what ideas are your own and what you quoted, paraphrased, or summarized from a source. By doing this, you can remind yourself of all the instances that require citation and source information.
  • Take advantage of available detection software. Instructors will frequently use software that’s available to help detect when students have plagiarized part of a paper, but you can also utilize these resources to make sure you’re not unwittingly plagiarizing before you turn in your work. Remember that plagiarism occurs whether you act with intention or make a mistake and forget to attribute work to a source. (pp 188-190)


Content adapted from Solomon, A., Wilson, G., and Taylor, T. 2012. 100% Information Literacy Success, 2nd Edition. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Content adapted from Svinicki, Marilla and McKeachie, Wilbert J. 2011. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. 13th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.