As most English and Writing teachers know; student success and their outlook on the writing process in general can be greatly affected by the skills and habits established in their early writing years. As a teacher, you don’t have control over the quality or content of what the last teacher covered, but you can take responsibility for your new class of students by starting fresh and assuming nothing of their previous education, especially when it comes to preventing plagiarism.
So, at the risk of eliciting some yawns, take some time at the start of each term to establish your ground rules and expectations. Invest that time upfront and it will pay dividends to the long-term success of every student who walks through your door. To help get you started, we’ve put together the following 4 things you can do right away to address plagiarism awareness and ethical writing habits.
1. Clearly Define Plagiarism
Sometimes simply stating the facts isn’t enough; providing your students with plenty of examples to reference can be the critical component to instilling proper ethical writing intuition in your students.
2. Explain Why It’s Wrong
After you’ve clearly articulated the definition of plagiarism and addressed any outstanding questions or confused looks, don’t expect all your students so take your word for it that it’s wrong or connect the dots themselves. Be explicit and have a detailed point-by-point rationale for why plagiarism is unethical. You can cover the classic and obvious reasons such as; it’s theft, it’s dishonest, it’s often illegal and go from there.
3. Layout the Consequences
Most of your students will be responsive to the moral case against plagiarism, if not at least your edicts banning it. However, we know there’s always the one or two students that find it all too convenient to rationalize plagiarism. What starts out as fear of the blank page combined with an encroaching deadline and the ease of incorporating a few “borrowed” ideas, eventually devolves into a monstrous paper born of unattributed concepts and stolen facts held together by the occasional Wikipedia citation. Frankly some students simply need to understand that plagiarism is serious and its consequences are equally severe. Make sure you spend some time covering those repercussions; they’re not so obvious to new writers and go a long way to preventing plagiarism in your classroom.
4. Use a Plagiarism Checker
Hopefully, if you’ve defined plagiarism, it’s ethical implications and its consequences then you’ve done everything you can to help get your students on the right track in establishing strong writing habits to serve them well into the future. However, if all these measures have failed you’ve got one last weapon in your arsenal to prevent plagiarism from becoming endemic in you classroom; a plagiarism checker. Sometimes just the knowledge that work will be held accountable is enough to ward off most students, however, if one clever pupil decides to test your grit, it never hurts to simply run your students finished submissions through a plagiarism checker like Quetext. There’s always value in hard lessons from getting caught. Plus it’s better to catch the students who think they can skirt their responsibilities early on than to let them get all the way to college or professional life only to learn a much harder lesson when it’s too late. This is probably one of the easiest steps in the process.