Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques by Laura DeSena

Strategies for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Vague assignments are more likely to send students to online sites for what they think are the right answers. If you ask for plot, theme, or character analysis, you are likely to see more students heading to sites like SparkNotes for help. General book reports will also temp students to fetch summaries online. Precise assignments that focus on specifics in a work and ask students to draw generalization are harder to find online. Each student should have a different assignment to avoid unwanted collaboration. As long as you get authentic writing, you can focus your instruction for each student’s needs. (Doug: It may help to tell the students that if you don’t see their real work, you won’t be able to help them grow.)
  • Assignments that contrast characters or analyze character evolution may be harder to plagiarize. You can also ask for comparisons between different media such as art and literature or plays and movies. You might even ask students to turn in online study guides with their original work. That way they know you have the sources that offer plagiarism potential. Creative assignments such as haiku or writing alternate endings might work. The rest of this chapter goes into more detail regarding research papers that should also start with free writing.
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