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Plagiarism & Writing

Faculty support for identifying and dealing with plagiarism and other writing concerns


This guide provides support to faculty in identifying and addressing plagiarism and writing concerns.  If you are a student in need of writing support, see the Writing Center Libguide (linked below).  It has Writing Center, Online Writing Center, Virtual Writing Center, APA, and MLA information.

Defining Plagiarism

Plagiarism is using someone's words, work, ideas, pictures, art, paper, paragraph without giving them credit. Need help with information on making ethical writing choices or need to find a few videos to help? Check out the Ethical Writing Choices Libguide. This will open in a new window when you click on the link.

This great article from Plagiarism Today may help you and  your students. This will open in a new window when you click the link to 5 Reasons People Plagiarize (And How to Stop Them).

What Kirtland Librarians & the Writing Center Recommend

Instructors are strongly encouraged to utilize the Library and Writing Center for help with Plagiarism.

Some Quick Tips -

  1. Create a pre-test for your program (we can do it for you) that tests student's knowledge of Plagiarism and Writing.
    1. This will help generate awareness for your students that the program takes it seriously.
    2. This will generate awareness of where student weaknesses in writing may be so that help can be tailored to their specific needs.
  2. Create stacked due dates for papers (we can help you with this). This means:
    1. Students build a paper through the course of the semester.
      1. Submit a topic, thesis and source check in the first 3 weeks (may also be known as a research proposal).
      2. Submit an article evaluation in weeks 4 or 5 in which they learn to evaluate source quality and the information presented.
      3. Submit a plan or outline of the research paper (this makes the focus on set up and organization) in week 7.
      4. Submit 1st third of paper (this can be called a rough draft if you wish).This is where students have the opportunity to practice their citing, see their thoughts come to fruition and get feedback before the final submission. This is where you have to opportunity to really look at how the students are putting their research to work within their own papers. This can happen any time after week 4, but we would encourage it to happen in Week 8 or 9.
      5. Optionally, students can submit the other thirds of their paper if you wish within 1 week after you have returned with your comments or concerns or you can simply have them submit their final in week 13. This gives you time to make comments and the students time to make changes based on your comments.
    2. Throughout all of these processes, if you or the student have concerns, you can be sending them to the Writing Center, the OWL or the Virtual Writing Center. If they need help finding quality sources (you will know this before the final paper is submitted or the week before the paper is due), you will be able to direct them to the Library for research help. This gives multiple opportunities for quick 1 minute reminders throughout the semester and pushes in the right direction for help.
    3. The purpose is to create writers of high quality papers. These type of papers are not written in a weekend or over the course of 1 week. They should be worked on throughout the semester. If you do not force the student to take the steps, they will often leave it on the back burner until it absolutely has to get done, in which case the quality research and writing does not have time to take place.
  3. Give yourself time to grade the papers. If you have been looking at the citing and sources and are aware of the topic, it should help this process run a little more quickly and smoothly as you should only have to look at any new sources that they have brought into the paper (of course, you could have them resubmit their bibliography every time that they want to add a new source).

A Couple of Things to Remember

  • Writing is learning - we learn and think as we write. All of us do this, which means that as your students are writing their papers, they are thinking and learning out loud. Having multiple mini-dates for a single paper allows them the time and feedback that they need. It does not have to be feedback from you, the instructor; feedback can come from fellow students as well.
  • Writing is a process - as with anything a process takes time and revisiting. You don't learn to play the piano in a week, nor do you only play it the week or weekend before the concert. It is a process that you practice over and over. The word process means a series of actions taken to achieve an end.
  • Writing does not happen overnight - as much as we would like to believe that we can just sit down and whip out a paper overnight, it does not happen. Nor will it happen for our students. Mini-due dates help reinforce this for us and our students.

Plagiarism Checkers - What They Do

This is what we have found after reading several articles and talking with professors from other universities. Plagiarism Checkers:
  1. Prioritize policing over teaching.
  2. Do not save any time. The detection software only detects language that matches regardless of whether or not it’s cited appropriately, therefore an instructor still has to determine what matched because it was plagiarized and what matched because it was a direct quote.
  3. Cannot evaluate. They cannot judge that "crossing the Great Lakes" is simply a phrase that cannot be written any other way. In other words, it will come up as plagiarism even when it is not.

Please note: Turnitin wouldn’t exist without the student labor producing essays for their archives. They are essentially collecting student writing that we already have and selling it back to us.

Plagiarism Checkers

Plagiarism Checkers are tools and only tools to help find phrasing and words that are used elsewhere. Ultimately, the instructor still has to determine if it is plagiarism. Plagiarism Checkers are not something we recommend. According to the article by Weber-Wulff, Möller, Touras, and Zincke, there are "constant problems with false positives and false negatives, as well as massive usability problems" (2). We also need to remember that "Plagiarism detection software is only a tool, not an infallible test" (Weber-Wulff et al. 2). Remember, a Plagiarism checker can really only point out that there is a possibility. Ultimately, the instructor will have to make the final evaluation.

Are you aware that many (if not most) of these programs keep the paper(s) that you submit on their servers? This means that you are sharing private intellectual property of a student with a program that will keep the student paper for their own purposes. Our research and conversations with others at universities and colleges across the nation and around the world tells us that Plagiarism Checkers only point out the potential.

You will find a list of links to articles pertaining to Plagiarism Checkers in the box below. These links will all open in a new window.