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Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a growing problem on campuses throughout the country; in many cases it is a direct result of the Internet's ability to provide access to not only large amounts of information but also entire research and term papers. Not all of the downloaded papers lead to plagiarism, but many do.

On this page is information to help you prevent and detect plagiarism. This includes links to sites at other universities that address the same topics and provide guidelines for both prevention and detection. Also included are links to term paper sites, to show you what is available. The term paper sites include prewritten and "made to order" options, book reports, theatre and movie reviews. A perhaps unexpected source of material for plagiarism comes from college and university professors who post their own work and writing on the Internet.

Tips that discourage plagiarism
  • Avoid having students simply find answers. Encourage students to do their own thinking, not paraphrase the thinking of someone else. What are their thoughts and ideas on a given topic? 
  • Ask questions which require students to make an inquiry or investigation. 
  • Have students compile and turn in working bibliographies well in advance of term paper dates. This will require students to begin research at an early date, avoiding the temptation for last minute information downloads. 
  • Have students maintain a research log. This will note the databases and indexes searched, search dates, keywords and subjects used, and a summary of search results.

Identifying plagiarized papers

The following can all assist you when you suspect a paper has been plagiarized.

  • Ask the student to recreate portions of the paper and see how closely this matches the syntax and sentence structure included in the paper in question. 
  • Use search engines. Entering a four to eight word, distinctive phrase in a full text search engine will often yield the source of the plagiarism. Be sure to use the proper search techniques for locating phrases.
    Note: "entering phrases within quotation marks" works with most search engines the same way as using the " this exact phrase" box in the Advanced Search option.
    Select one of the following search engines: 
  • Search some of the common, full text databases used by undergraduates. Searching unique, selected phrases can help locate the exact article in which it appears.
  • Look for vocabulary not commonly used in this particular class. 
  • Look at the citations included. Are they all from sources not likely to be encountered in undergraduate research? Are they outdated? 
  • Look for statements at the end of the paper that acknowledge a source for the paper. 
  • Look for unusual formatting, either a change in fonts or the formatting itself. 
Plagiarism information and prevention sites

Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It. Indiana University. http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml
The section on archaizing is particularly helpful, this is a great site to share with students.

Helping Students Avoid Plagiarism. University of Maryland University College. http://www.umuc.edu/ugp/ewp/plagiarism.html

Talking About Plagiarism: A Syllabus Strategy for Talking About Plagiarism with Students. Bedford/St. Martin's. http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/technotes/workshops/talkingplagy.htm

Cyberplagiarism: Detection and Prevention. Penn State University. http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/cyberplag/

Assistance in identifying plagiarism

Term paper download sites