Encourage Academic Integrity and Prevent Plagiarism

Plagiarism can be a confusing matter for both students and teachers. The degree to which students understand the meaning of plagiarism and the use of citation is as varied as the degree to which teachers and schools address the issue and teach strategies to prevent it. Taking a proactive approach by communicating openly with students about the problem of plagiarism, encouraging and teaching proper citation format, and devising assignments that promote original thought will provide a trusting learning environment for both you and your students.

The Environment

The digital world has significantly changed education forever. Internet searching is the preferred means of research. Compared to library research, internet research is extremely fast paced. Cutting and pasting passages from web pages, clicking from one site to the next, forgetting where information was retrieved, and missing the context of a quotation are all examples of what can happen due to researching quickly over the web. In the end, hasty searching and disorderly note-taking lead to bad research and poorly written papers.

Additionally, web surfing encourages the free flow and exchange of ideas. Sharing and borrowing are integral parts of the online experience. Shareware is a positive example of this philosophy in use. Plagiarism, whether it is unintentional or not, is a negative example. Without teachers who actively promote academic integrity and the understanding of plagiarism, students are ill equipped. Temptations are everywhere!

Websites exists for the sole purpose of selling term papers or giving them away for free. Fraternity and student clubs swap papers via email in seconds. A paper turned in by a Phi Kappa in Wisconsin is used two weeks later by another student in Arizona. Students can find free papers available online, cut and paste them into MS Word, change the name and date and be done with their homework in 10 minutes! Not to mention the fact that most students prefer doing their research online from a computer and some do not know how to evaluate the information they are receiving. Thus, the quality of information is suspect. Academia has certainly changed.

Teaching strategies must also change in this new digital era. This guide is intended to help instructors help their students avoid plagiarism as well as help instructors detect and confront plagiarized papers.

Important Definitions

Academic Integrity
The International Center for Academic Integrity defines academic integrity as "a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility." These values should be promoted within academic communities. http://www.academicintegrity.org

Common Knowledge
Academic Integrity at Princeton defines common knowledge as "a fact or a piece of information that is generally known and accepted." Information in dictionaries and encyclopedia which would then appear in many other sources need not be cited, unless exact words are quoted.

The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish and sell a literary, musical, or artistic work.

Intellectual Property
The ownership of ideas and control of their use. Use of others' intellectual property may require payment or permission at times and always includes credit to the source.

Intentional Plagiarism
Deliberate copying of some one else's writing without giving credit by providing a proper citation.

A restatement of text, giving the meaning in another form.

As shown in City College of San Francisco's Rules of Sudent Conduct, "Plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use of the language and thoughts of another author and representing them as your own."

Unintentional Plagiarsm
Failing to give credit to another person's words and language without knowledge of doing so. Unintentional plagiarism often occurs when a student does not have a solid understanding of using citation styles or has sloppy note-taking skills.

Online Resources

The following links represent a portion of plagiarism workshops, assignments and resources other instructors use to teach students about the meaning of plagiarism and how to avoid it.

Purdue OWL: Avoiding Plagiarism
Provides advice for students and best practices for teachers. 

WPA: Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism
Provides a broad overview of plagiarism; identifies shared responsibility to avoid plagiarism; best practices as a teacher.

Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill
This source includes a good explanation of what is plagiarisma and methods to help avoid plagiarism. 

Teaching Strategies

  1. Make sure your students understand what plagiarism is by discussing it with them in length.
  2. Discuss the moral and ethical issues related to plagiarism, include the issue of trust between students and teachers.
  3. Stress the importance of academic integrity. Include in the discussion a lesson on how bodies of knowledge are created by scholars who build on eachothers' works within a given discipline. 
  4. Early in the semester have students write a one-page response to a given topic, in class. Become familiar with each students' writing ability. Save these assignment as examples of in-class writing to monitor progress and to have as a comparison if plagiarism is suspected.
  5. Give students classtime to practice paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing, and citing passages. Include a lesson on creating a Works Cited List.
  6. Avoid assigning one large term paper at the beinning of the semester and collecting it at the end.
  7. Build the research strategy of term paper writing into many small assignments throughout the semester. Smaller assignments could include developing a thesis or topic proposal, paper outlines, creating an annotated bibliography, finding an article and writing a response to it, and submitting multiple drafts of the intended paper.
  8. Have students share research topics. Talk about which ones are standard and which are more original.
  9. Refer to Alternatives to Research Papers, developed by librarians at the University of Connecticut Library for new assignment ideas.
  10. Ask students to justify sources used in reports. This exercise requires the student to analyze the resource in the context of the research question and topic. It also involves decision making skills.
  11. Asking students to turn in photocopies of sources also ensures that they have actually found the resources.
  12. Insist on using the library.
  13. The Anti-Plagiarism Strategies website, written by Robert Harris and hosted by Virtual Salt, provides a detailed overview on strategies of awareness, prevention and detection.


When you type "term papers" into an internet search engine, that's exactly what you get. Many sites exist where students can download term papers and essays. Some papers are free, others will cost money. Six or seven dollars a page is standard. You can even find sites that will custom write a paper for you. Below is a very small sample of papermills available online.

Student Guide

CCSF Rules of Student Conduct

Item #3 reads: 

Academic or intellectual dishonesty, such as cheating or plagiarism. Cheating is defined as taking an examination or performing an assigned, evaluated task in a dishonest way, such as by having improper access to answers. Plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use of the language and thought of  another author and representing them as your own

CCSF Student Rules of Conduct

The following tips will help students avoid unintentional or accidental plagiarism. Remember, a research paper begins when you start reading your first source.

  1. The research process oftentimes takes more time than expected. Allow enough time to gather, read, and absord the information you find.
  2. Develop a system for good note taking.
  3. When you copy word for word from a resource, place quotation marks around the passage.
  4. Use a different colored pen to distinguish quotations or highlight the passage.
  5. Always write the page number next to the quotation in your notes.
  6. After reading a paragraph, page or entire article, look away from the text and paraphrase what you have read. This method helps ensure the words are in your voice.
  7. Separate your ideas from others by using a different color pen or putting your ideas in brackets.
  8. Include the citation (author, title, year) on each page of your notes.
  9. Learn one system of documentation (the one used most in your field of study) and obtain written guides to help you with the process. You should feel comfortable with the basics of one citation style and refer to guides and handbooks for more difficult or unusual citations. The Library has guides on how to cite sources in-text and in bibliographies as well as citation handbooks in the reference collection.
  10. Know the policies and punishments for plagiarizing at City College.

Confronting Plagiarism

Many methods exist to test whether students in your classes are plagiarizing.

When confronted with a possible plagiarized paper, begin by asking these questions:

  1. Is the writing style consistent with that of the student's? Compare it to the in-class writng sample you collected at the beginning of the term.
  2. Do the citations fall into a narrow time period? Are they too old or too recent?
  3. Are there mixed citation styles (APA, MLA, Turabian)?
  4. Is the bibliography padded or exaggerated? Do all of the citations match the discussion provided in the paper?
  5. Are the books cited available in the CCSF Library? Are the articles available full text via the periodical databases the library subscribes to or are they available in print at the Library? Examine and verify the sources.

If you still believe the student plagiarized, ask for a written review of his/her research process then set up a time to diuscuss the paper.

Finding the plagiarized passages can be a chore but can be done.

  1. Submit an unusal or distinct phrase from the paper into a search engine, like Google. Place quotation marks around the phrase.
  2. Try the same tactic as a KEYWORD SEARCH in one of the Library's periodical databases, such as Gale Powersearch or EbscoHost.
  3. Again, try this tactic in Google Books. Google Books puts the content of books right in your search results!
  4. Search for the title of the paper in papermill sites.

Online Detection Services

Online detection services allow professors to submit entire papers that are then compared with information found in a centralized database. The centralized database includes papers found online, academic websites, documents indexes by major search engines, and other student papers previously submitted. The database does not include print sources, or student papers not previously submitted for analysis. Databases have varying performance with articles found in periodical databases. Use any detection service with caution. 

Examples of detection services include:

The Pros and Cons of Online Detection Services



Saves Time Some services do not differentiate between quoted and nonquoted passages
Effective tool when used WITH a critical eye (reading and judging) Analysis is not definitive (only compares)
Provides proof Guilty until proven innocent
  Does not distinguish between intentional cheating and common paraphrasing mistakes
  Gathers the intellectual property of students for profit



Burke, Margaret. "Deterring Plagiarism: A New Role for Librarians." Library Philosophy and Practice 6.2 (Spring 2004). Available: http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~mbolin/burke.htm

Dehnart, Andy. "The Plagiarism Police." Salon, Technology, June 14, 1999. Available: http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/1999/06/14/plagiarism.html

Ehrlich, Heyward. "Plagiarism and Anti-Plagiarism." Newark, New Jersey: Department of English, Rutgers University, 2000. Available: http://newark.rutgers.edu/~ehrlich/plagiarism598.html

"How to Recognize Plagiarism. Tutorial Home." Indiana University Bloomington. School of Education, 2005. Available: http://www.indiana.edu/~istd/

McKenzie, Jamie. "The New Plagiarism: Seven Antidotes to Prevent Highway Robbery in the Electronic Age." From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal 7.8 (May, 1998). Available: http://fno.org/may98/cov98may.html

Pearson, Gretchen. "Electronic Plagiarism Seminar." Syracuse, NY: Noreen Reale Falcone Library, Le Moyne College, 2001. Available: http://www.lemoyne.edu/library/plagiarism.htm

Standler, Ronald B. "Plagiarism in Colleges in USA." Concord, New Hampshire, 2001. Available: http://www.rbs2.com/plag.htm