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Assignments: Avoiding Plagiarism

Assignments should reflect the desired learning outcomes you have for your course and your students. Assignments should complement classwork and prepare for the testing and exam process.

Plagiarism-Proof Assignments

"While there may not be a “plagiarism-proof” assignment, there are some strategies that make it much harder for students to turn in work that is not their own. The following suggestions are collected from faculty members and writing instructors across campus.

  • Make the writing assignment specific to the course. You might require that students quote from one of the texts you have read together in class, or you might make the topic specific to discussions you have had in class. A generic prompt – “write a research paper” – can be more easily plagiarized.
  • Require pre-writing and/or multiple drafts of papers.  Asking students to turn in their notes, outlines, and/or drafts of papers helps you track their progress from the original idea to the final project. These materials need not be graded; you may simply note whether they have been submitted or not, and refer back to them when the final paper comes in. 
  • Write assignments in stages/parts. If an essay assignment has several parts to it, each due at a different stage of the writing process, students will be less likely to “borrow” an entire paper from another source at the last minute.  So, you might ask students to do an informal journal entry on their topic for one part of the assignment; to summarize a scholarly article that is to be used in the assignment; or to submit an introductory paragraph before the final version is due.
  • Read a lot of each student’s work - including informal, ungraded writing assignments. If you know your students’ writerly voices, you will be able to tell when a piece of writing doesn't match their usual diction or level of achievement."

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