Software to detect plagiarism (Turnitin, SafeAssign, etc.) does not and cannot take the place of expertise, experience, and common sense. These software packages many times miss a lot of plagiarism that could have been easily discovered by a human being. Here are some strategies to detect plagiarism:
- Pay attention to writing style. If grammar, syntax, word usage, etc., do not sound like they could come from your student, they probably haven't.
- Get to know your students' writing "voice." Plagiarized materials will jump at you as being written in a different voice.
- Notice the flow of the essay: plagiarized papers generally tend to seem choppy, with changes in style, tense, structure, etc.
- The student includes ideas that she/he is not likely to be familiar with.
- The work contains references to materials that are very difficult to access or that are no longer available.
- The work contains citations that are mangled, incomplete, or inaccurate.
[Source: Cizek, G.J. (2003).Detecting and preventing classroom cheating. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.]
- Educate yourself about plagiarism, about the whys and the hows.
- Educate your students about it; show what the consequences can be and what plagiarism says about character.
- Show your students why we cite sources and what the scholarly value of this practice is.
- Be clear about expectations and about penalties.
Some practical strategies:
- Instead of asking students to write a References/Works Cited, ask them to create an annotated bibliography.
- Ask students to attach copies of all their sources.
- Ask students to prepare a synopsis or abstract of every cited source.
- Assign some of the sources the students must use for their papers.
- Use more in-class writing.
- Include a research journal with assignments. Students could write about their research process, including how and where sources were found and why they were chosen.
- Require that papers be shorter than six pages, to teach students to be concise and to the point.
- Require oral presentations of all or part of the assignment, including oral summaries and analysis of sources, and require students to answer questions and defend their arguments.
[Source: Lathrop, A., & Foss, K. (Eds.). (2005). Guiding students from cheating and plagiarism to honesty and integrity. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.]