Nine ways to reduce plagiarism

Avoiding plagiarism

Based on her research with postgraduate students in the Department of Media and Communications, Megan Le Masurier developed nine ways to avoid plagiarism. The nine steps are detailed in her article published in Synergy and summarised below.

Step 1: Maximise student engagement

Since class size has been found to impact on student engagement and plagiarism, find ways to increase student participation by decreasing class size or introducing groupwork.

Step 2: Devise a subject-specific questionnaire

A questionnaire will allow you to discover what your students know and don’t know about academic honesty and attribution practices. You will then be able to build course content around any gaps in knowledge.

Step 3: Fill the gaps in student knowledge

After providing correct answers to the questionnaire, design simple exercises based on class needs. For example, students can be asked to attribute a quote using departmental guidelines.

Step 4: Test knowlegde of plagiarism

Ask your students to produce a written and signed response to the question what is plagiarism?. This will help you to identify students who are still confused about attribution and to assess English language competence.

Step 5: Encourage student language support

Use the written statements (see step 4) to direct at risk students to available support.

Step 6: Make course content and assessment relevant

Select course content and assessment task which your students can relate to, for example on a cultural level. Research suggests that this increases student engagement and diminishes the chance of plagiarism.

Step 7: Ask students to discuss their writing

Via consultation or email provide incremental and assessable feedback on how well students can discuss their own writing.

Step 8: Develop plagiarism 'unfriendly' assessment

Design tasks which work against the possiblity of plagiarism. For instance stagger due dates to prevent students from being overwhelemed with assignment demands. Request brief annotations with list of references, submission of essay plans and research notes, or ask for transcripts if interviews are part of the assignment.

Step 9: Prepare an assignment-specific checklist

To the normal coversheet add a checklist which alerts students to possible instances of plagiarism in their assignments. For example ask them if you have quoted have you attributed the source in the text?.