Course Content and Course Assignments: Considerations for Combating Student Plagiarism
Student plagiarism occurs in different disciplines and across all grades (Holt, 2012; Wang, 2008). Plagiarism in colleges and universities is a concern (MacLennan, 2018). Cummings et al. (2002) report that research on plagiarism began in the 1960s. Although plagiarism has been studied for 60 years, the rate of plagiarism engagement continues to rise. The literature on plagiarism tends to focus on three categories: plagiarism rates, reasons why students engage in plagiarism, and strategies for detecting or preventing plagiarism (Evans, 2006). The exact rate of plagiarism in higher education is unknown (Ehrich et al., 2016).
Ives (2020) suggests that learning Why student involvement in school misbehavior can help “design interventions to reduce this behavior” (p. 46). There are many reasons why students engage in plagiarism. Balbuena and Lamela (2015) studied students’ motivations to engage in academic dishonesty and found that students commit academic misconduct because they don’t want to fail, they are busy, they don’t understand not the content and they want to make their parents proud. Nguyen (2020) also investigated why students engage in plagiarism, and he found many reasons, the three most common reasons being time pressure, lack of paraphrasing skills, and misunderstanding of the lesson. [content]. Students may also plagiarize due to uncertainty about what is expected from assignments (Colella, 2018; Sterngold, 2004).
There are many reasons why students engage in plagiarism and addressing all the reasons is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, this article will focus on course content and course assignment considerations – a key factor in why students may choose to plagiarize.
- One minute papers: After presenting an assignment, ask the class to write a one-minute article explaining the assignment to an absent classmate. This will allow you to learn what your students know about the assignment, as well as give you an idea of what parts of your assignment might need further clarification. If you don’t want to pick up the papers, you can do so as part of a class discussion and assign a note taker to compile the notes. You can answer any questions that arise during the discussion. This information can be shared with absent students.
- Provide a sample assignment and grading scheme: Have students work in small groups. Provide each group with a sample completed assignment and the corresponding rubric. Ask each group to evaluate the sample exercise. Ask the groups to take turns sharing with the class the grade they gave to the sample assignment. This will allow you to determine if the class understands the expectations of the assignment and where clarity is needed. You can share the grade you would give the sample assignment with your justification. Sharing how you graded the assignment can help students better understand how their work will be graded. Allowing students to work in groups will give them the opportunity to discuss the assignment with their classmates. Through group discussions, students can build relationships with their peers, develop a better understanding of what is expected for the assignment as they engage with the material, and receive answers to any questions they have. on duty.
*Note: If you don’t have time to do this in class, you can have students do this activity in focus groups and then discuss it at the start of the next class.
- Incorporate knowledge checks and exit tickets into lessons: Add simple knowledge checks throughout your lesson and/or exit tickets at the end of your lesson. Knowledge checks and exit tickets are a quick way to determine if your students are grasping the topic of the lesson. You may want to let students choose if they want to complete them anonymously. Here are some ideas:
- Compose a 40-word tweet that includes the main ideas from today’s lesson.
- Choose a sticker that best represents how you feel about today’s lesson. Put your sticker on your cue card and write why you chose this sticker to represent how you feel about today’s lesson.
- Check the color of the red traffic light that represents where you think you are with today’s topic. If students are red, you can request that they contact you so you can provide further support. If several students are red, you may want to consider reviewing the content with the whole class. If you’re teaching an online lesson, you can include a note on your slide letting students know that they don’t need to answer in front of their classmates and that they can send you their color in a variety of ways (via your LMS , chat function, etc.).
As mentioned earlier, there are many reasons why students plagiarize. One of the reasons for student plagiarism, as reported in the literature, is the result of not understanding the course content or the coursework. Adding simple knowledge checks and/or exit tickets can help you know where students need extra support. These are ideas to consider, and I’m sure you have plenty to add!
Julia Colella also wrote Plagiarism education: Considerations for starting a semester.
Julia Colella is a professor of communication at Lambton College in Sarnia, Ontario. Colella’s PhD focuses on education, and her research interests include student engagement, online learning, and academic integrity.
Balbuena, S., & Lamela, RA (2015). Prevalence, motives and opinions of academic dishonesty in higher education. Asia-Pacific Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 3(2), 69-75.
Colella, J. (2018). Plagiarism Education: Perceptions and Responsibilities in Postsecondary Education education. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Windsor]. Electronic theses and dissertations.
Cummings, R., Maddux, C., Harlow, S. and Dyas, L. (2002). Academic misconduct among undergraduate teacher education students and its relationship to their principled moral reasoning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 29(4), 286-296.
Ehrich, J., Howard, S., Mu, C. and Bokosmaty, S. (2016). A comparison of Chinese and Australian university students’ attitudes towards plagiarism. Graduate studies, 41(2), 231-246.
Evans, R. (2006). Evaluation of an electronic plagiarism detection service. Active learning in Higher education, 7(1), 87-99.
Holt, E. (2012). Education improves plagiarism detection by undergraduate biology students. Biosciences, 62(6), 585-592.
Ives, B. (2020). Your students cheat more than you think. Why? Educative Research: theory and practice31(1), 46-53.
MacLennan, H. (2018). Student Perceptions of Plagiarism Avoidance Skills: An Action Research Case Study. Journal of Teaching and Learning Fellowship, 18(1), 58-74.
Nguyen, DTT (2021). Understandings, attitudes and experiences of university students on plagiarism. Cyprus Journal of Educational Sciences, 16 (4), 1471-1478. https://doi.org/10.18844/cjes.v16i4.6001
Sterngold, A. (2004). Dealing with plagiarism. Change, 36(3), 16–21.
Wang, YM (2008). College student online plagiarism. International e-learning journal, 7(4), 743-757.