Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism
Plagiarism is a particularly thorny problem on college campuses. Part of the problem is that students in high schools here and abroad do not learn in detail what plagiarism is and are not held to the same standards that are generally applied at the college level. Some of them bring with them practices such as paraphrasing or patchwriting (piecing together ideas and parts of sentences from many different sources without citing) that were not scrutinized in the same way they are here. Others find themselves racing against deadlines and take the easy way out in order to get a paper in on time. Most do not see plagiarism as an ethical issue in the same way that faculty do.
Definitions and examples
"Plagiarism is the act of using another person's ideas or expressions in your writing without acknowledging the source…. to plagiarize is to give the impression that you have written or thought something that you have in fact borrowed from another." (MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert, 3rd ed., New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1988, p. 21.)
Examples: (from the Policies and Procedures section of the web site)
- To use a specific idea, detail, or illustration drawn from a particular source without reference in a footnote and bibliography.
- To use general background for an assignment from a book, article, or other source which is not acknowledged.
- To submit another person's paper, project, or homework as one's own.
- To paraphrase without citing the sources.
- To use even a brief phrase exactly quoted from a source without putting it in quotation marks or indenting it, and citing it.
- To use material from residence or fraternity files and turn it in as one's own work.
- To use information or material from the Internet without citing the sources.
It is clear that some students who are found guilty of plagiarism simply do not understand what information must be cited. It is important that in rewriting you demonstrate your own synthesis of ideas and fully credit your original source. Paraphrasing causes students the most difficulty. When you change words in a sentence, but the idea remains the same, you must cite your source.
Educating our students about plagiarism is the best way to prevent it.
All first-year students must take an interactive on-line academic responsibility orientation before they arrive on campus, but these are lessons that must be taught more than once in order for the students to internalize them.
Describing the different forms of plagiarism is a good start. Having students study and analyze examples of plagiarized text is even better (see several of the web sites listed below). If we do a thorough job educating our students, the incidence of cases involving plagiarism will drop significantly and it is much less likely that a student who commits plagiarism will do so out of ignorance or carelessness.
Faculty may also ask students to submit assignments through a "SafeAssignment" in Blackboard (thru June 2013) or a "Turnitin Assignment" in Moodle, both of which checks submitted papers for similarities to electronic sources.
On-line resources at Bucknell
Online Resources for Writers provided by the Bucknell Writing Center
On-line resources from other universities
The University of California at Davis has an excellent statement entitled "Why Integrity Matters" that will help students understand why we take academic honesty so seriously.
Georgetown University’s Honor Council web site offers very good definitions and examples of plagiarism and paraphrasing and challenges students’ assumption that everyone does it and it’s not a big deal.
Dartmouth University has created a handbook for students entitled "Sources: Their Use and Acknowledgement."
The University of Minnesota's Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing has a very good web site on plagiarism with resources for faculty and students.
The University of Southern Mississippi has an excellent Plagiarism Tutorial.
Purdue University's Online Writing Lab has several very useful resources:
• an exercise that helps students determine whether they are plagiarizing.
• You may wish to use some of these sources in class or direct your students to them: a guide to help students learn to paraphrase correctly and a guide to documenting electronic sources
Princeton University has a wealth of useful information on its site, Academic Integrity at Princeton, including examples of plagiarism and a guide to help students develop good work habits so they can keep track of their sources.
Indiana University’s Writing Tutorial Services also has very good information on plagiarism and paraphrasing.
Alex Aiken, a computer scientist at Berkeley, introduces Moss, a free system for detecting software plagiarism.
The University of Alberta (Canada) library has a good guide for faculty on ways to prevent plagiarism and links to a wealth of other information.
Barbara Gross Davis, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education at Berkeley, wrote a book entitled Tools for Teaching (Jossey-Bass; San Francisco, 1993), and posted the following section on preventing academic dishonesty.
Print resources (* indicates it’s available in the Writing Center)
*Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom, San Francisco:Jossey-Bass, 2001. Of special interest: Chapter 12, "Encouraging Engagement and Inquiry in Research Papers." 197-214.
Bliwise, Robert J. "A Matter of Honor," Duke Magazine, May-June 2001, pp. 3-7, 42-44.
Harris, Robert A. The Plagiarism Handbook: Strategies for Preventing, Detecting, and Dealing with Plagiarism. Los Angeles: Pyrczak Publishing, 2001.
_______. Using Sources Effectively: Strengthening Your Writing and Avoiding Plagiarism. Los Angeles: Pyrczak Publishing, 2002.
*Howard, Rebecca Moore, "Forget About Policing Plagiarism. Just Teach." Chronicle of Higher Education. November 16, 2001. B24.
*_______. Standing in the Shadow of Giants: Plagiarists, Authors, Collaborators. Stamford, CT: Ablex, 1999.
*Price, Margaret. "Beyond ‘Gotcha!’: Situating Plagiarism in Policy and Pedagogy." CCCC: The Journal of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. 54.1 (2002): 88-115.
*Whiteneck, Peggy. "What to Do with a Thought Thief." Community College Week. 14.24 (2002): 4-6. (Available on InfoTrac)