Are You Encouraging Plagiarism? Tips for improving Term Paper Assignments
The following information was adapted from an article by Maryellen Weimer published online in Faculty Focus, April 2009.
- Break up major research papers into smaller assignments— “Dividing a research assignment into a series of more manageable components forces students to work on the project over time instead of trying to write the entire paper at the last minute when they may be most tempted to plagiarize.”
- Require students to write about course-specific topics— The advice here is to tie topics closely to course objectives and content. “I often require students to write research papers relating course topics to campus speakers or current news events.” The more course-specific the paper topic, the more difficult it is to find material that can be directly pasted into the paper.
- Choose some required source material for your students— Select major reference works in your field and sources you know well. Students are less likely to plagiarize if you have demonstrated your knowledge of the sources.
- Incorporate assignments into class discussions and tests—“I frequently call on students during class discussions to give examples from their … research that relate to the day’s topics.” This practice encourages students to work more persistently on their papers at the same time it makes clear who is not working on their paper.
- Meet with students to discuss their research— This reinforces the importance of the assignment and helps students develop the kind of comfort and familiarity with their topic and sources that ends up making them confident enough to rely on their own ideas and opinions.
- Require students to submit printouts of source materials—This all but ensures that students won’t plagiarize from these sources. If it sounds cumbersome and daunting, Sterngold reports, “Reading over the students’ article-packets is less tedious and time-consuming than you might fear if you assign research topics that interest you.”