As we noted in an earlier post, most college students are, to a certain degree, concerned about the problem of plagiarism; 25% of respondents to our survey said their peers are “very concerned,” and an additional 20% say they’re “somewhat concerned.”

Concern is one thing; action is another. So, how do they go about ensuring their work is, indeed, original and free of plagiarism?

In our Spring 2015 Student Engagement Insights survey, we also asked: “What steps do you take to make sure that your work is plagiarism-free?” The chart below shows students’ responses.

The top steps students take to avoid plagiarism

Students: What steps do you take to ensure your work is plagiarism-free? - Cengage Learning

Nearly all students (93%) take the the care to carefully cite the resources they’ve used. This is a vital step, which ensures that they’re giving credit to those whose work formed the basis of their research. It also enables you (and all readers) to see the hard work and scholarship behind their final projects.

But, as you can see by the numbers, most students take a multi-pronged approach to ensuring that their work is truly original and backed by appropriate citations:

  • 68% of students refer to formatting and style guides to ensure that they’ve done everything correctly;
  • 59% look at notes from courses, books, and library sessions to ensure they’ve followed the right procedures;
  • 44% ask their instructor for advice or clarification if they’re unsure what to do; and,
  • 31% use plagiarism-checking software.

Are your students struggling with keeping their work free from plagiarism? Encourage them to take more of the above-named steps as they work through their research projects and papers.

They might also appreciate some advice from their peers, which we’ve shared below!

Avoiding plagiarism: Additional ideas for students, from students

Several students noted that they take different, additional steps to avoid plagiarism. We’ve summed up some of the more popular ideas that they mentioned:

1. Be confident in your own skill and originality! Remember that your assignments allow you to put your own creativity and hard work on display. As one student put it: “If you’re a boss, you don’t have to take from others.” And another: “I have the capabilities to achieve success on my own.” Being original can also build your confidence and peace of mind: “I do my own work and don’t worry about it.”

2. Take care when quoting or paraphrasing others’ ideas. One student is sure to “never write right after I’ve read source material, so there’s no subconscious plagiarism.” Another student suggests a creative step: “When re-stating an idea, close the book and then write without staring at the words.”

3. Ask for assistance. Many students noted that they ask others to review and provide feedback on their work. They specifically mentioned such people and resources as “the librarian,” “friends,” “peer review,” “the writing lab,” and “the tutoring center.”

4. Check and re-check your work. Many students refer to websites that help them cite their reference sources. One thoughtful student takes the time to “compare current essay with one of my previous ones, to clarify any questions regarding APA format.” In addition to naming specific plagiarism-checking software tools (such as, another student mentioned using “plagiarism tools provided by my professors.”

By taking many (or all) of these steps to avoid plagiarism, students will be successful in crafting papers and projects that truly reflect their own diligent work, as well as the creativity and originality of their thoughts.

Looking for even more tips to share with your students? Refer them to our previous post: “Tips for Students: How to Avoid Plagiarism and Its Consequences.”


What are your own students’ strategies for avoiding plagiarism? Do you provide them with tools that help them avoid plagiarism in their work? Share these ideas in the comments.