Student Tip: Avoid Plagiarism

In online courses, teachers sometimes have difficulty determining if students have plagiarized or are submitting their own work.  As a student, you can prevent any misunderstandings about the originality of your written work by following some of the following strategies.

1.  Take the Practice test to determine how much you already know about plagiarism.  Too easy?  Try the Plagiarism Quiz.

2.  Be sure you know the definition of plagiarism, what style guide is required by your instructor and how to follow it.  Take a look at these Plagiarism Examples.

3.  One of the best ways to avoid plagiarism is to use a well organized process for researching and writing your assignment or essay.  Sometimes students plagiarize accidentally simply by rushing the research process and/or keeping sloppy records of references.

First, set up a timeline for completion of your written assignment using the Assignment Calculator.  That way you can stay on track and avoid writing your paper at the last minute and making careless mistakes.

Next, use a careful system for keeping track of your references as you go along your research process.

4.     Some instructors use an online service, such as Turnitin, to check student written work for plagiarism.  You may want to learn more about Turnitin services for yourself BEFORE you submit your written work for an instructor.

5.  After writing and submitting any written assignment you ought to be able to answer the following questions from your instructor:

  • What did you learn from the assignment?
  • What problems did you face in gathering information you needed and how did you overcome them?
  • What research strategy did you follow? 
  • Where did you locate most of your sources?
  • What is the most important thing you learned from investigating this subject? 

Answering these questions will help you think about your own learning as well as provide evidence to your instructor that you did your own work.  If your knowledge of written work you submit is sketchy then your instructor may be concerned.

6.     Imagine serving as a student representative on a Student Appeals Committee where you have to decide on a grade in a student plagiarism situation. 

  • What evidence would you want from both the instructor and the student? 
  • How would you decide if the student plagiarized or if it was an honest mistake?
  • What are some benefits of citing sources in written work?
  • What skill-building opportunities are lost by students who plagiarize?