Dealing With Plagiarism in the Classroom

If you are a fresh teacher, or a teaching assistant in the university, you might be wondering about ways for dealing with student plagiarism.

On the one hand, you may not want to punish them severely, because it was accidental. However, if they don’t learn the correct way to give reference to the original content now, it will cause graver problems in the future.

Should you talk to them in private, or right in front of everyone to make them ashamed? How do you warn them without having them hate you for the rest of the semester?

In this article, we will try to answer all of these questions, and more!

Understand Why Students Plagiarize

people sitting in lecture hall listening to a presentation by their teacher.
Photo by Dom Fou on Unsplash

Before resolving plagiarism, you have to understand why do your students do this in the first place. In some instances, students engage in academic plagiarism because of reasons beyond their control, like tight deadlines. If that is the case, you can nip it in the bud fairly easily.

To begin with, it is important to recognize plagiarism isn’t always malicious or mischievous. While you shouldn’t allow students who have stolen intellectual property, you should know the reasons why one of your students would do that.

Students may plagiarize for many reasons, such as laziness, sloppiness, or a lack of understanding about citations. However, teachers can employ a series of strategies to prevent problems while teaching students how to appropriately write academic papers.

Students engage in academic dishonesty when they have no idea about the assignment, or they lack the time to prepare adequately for their assignment.

Providing time in class for questions or doing one-to-one sessions outside of class with students will relieve this feeling. Encourage your students to visit you in your office hours, whenever they want to do so. Students often cheat and plagiarize because it’s easy, or they think they won’t be caught.

However, plagiarists aren’t all well-meaning students who are struggling with academic stress. Some students are 100% capable of doing an assignment, but they resort to dishonesty simply because they don’t want to do the work.

They procrastinated and ran out of time to complete the assignment, or maybe they didn’t bother. Regardless of their reasons, these offenders must be disciplined properly.

Dealing With Student Plagiarism

Make students aware of the academic consequences of plagiarism. When students perceive they have a higher chance of getting caught, they are less likely to do this deliberately.

Make sure you have a clear statement in your syllabus, and let students know that you check their sources using Turnitin or Google. You can dissuade your students in the first place by letting them know you use all the tools available.

Make it so hard to engage in plagiarism that they may just as well write the paper. As an example, you might request them to document their writing process by sending them a paper proposal, an outline, an annotated bibliography. You can also ask them to send multiple drafts before the final.submission.

Make it difficult for plagiarism to occur by setting assignments around specific questions or problems. Avoid general topics like income inequality. Instead, ask them to write about income inequality in a rural town in Alabama.

Students may intentionally plagiarize when they feel themselves shoved into a corner in a high-pressure situation with little chance of being caught. Poor time management skills explains the behavior.

Students believe that scholarly articles are facts. They treat them as a dictionary where they can find definitions or correct sentences. Explain to your students how science works by building on the ideas of those that came before them. As Isaac Newton said; “If I have seen further than any man, it is because I stood on the shoulder of giants.”

Your students should know the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism. While many students realize that paraphrasing is common in research papers, many do not realize if they have paraphrased too much or too little.

To Wrap Up

Dealing with student plagiarism is one of those things that teachers look with dread. However, correctly resolving this issue can give your students a lesson that will stay with them for a life time!

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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