Actions Instructors Can Take to Help Prevent Plagiarism

  • Resources for Information on Plagiarism
    • It is important for students to learn how to write effectively and create theses that are based on the formulation of their own ideas. While most students understand that plagiarism involves using someone else's words and ideas without giving them credit, some students are confused about how to write about someone's ideas without using their exact words. You may refer your students to the Columbia University Undergraduate Guide to Academic Integrity, which provides information about academic integrity, various forms of academic dishonesty, and practical guidance on keeping work honest.
    • Make sure to specify to students what constitutes plagiarism in your course.
  • Citing of Sources
    • Another topic that students may not be familiar with is how to cite their sources. Giving students instructions on citing sources when they are given their paper topics can avoid some of the problems with plagiarism. Because there are multiple citation styles, you can refer students to the pages on the Columbia College web site which specifically address questions regarding when and how to cite.
    • Make sure to specify what kinds of sources you expect the students to use and supply a guide for how to cite a journal or an online source.
  • Discouraging Plagiarism
    • Ask students to write a short summary of their search strategies, or a summary of one of the references used.
    • Require that students have copies of their references available should there be any questions, or require that they hand in their references with the paper, in addition to having a reference section in their paper.
    • Change the assignment each year to help with the problem of a generous prior year's class.
    • Recognizing that many instances of plagiarism occur because students do not plan their work ahead of deadlines, you might consider requiring students to submit draft work prior to the deadline - for example, a thesis statement or an outline of the work.
  • Inappropriate Collaboration
    • Make sure to specify to students what constitutes appropriate collaboration in your course, and the consequences of engaging in inappropriate collaboration.