Preventing plagiarism

In his book titled The Plagiarism Handbook (2001), University professor Robert Harris proposes several ways professors can prevent academic fraud:

  • Knowing the reasons why students cheat and helping students avoid the pitfalls. Personal reasons (such as the pressure to obtain good marks or a lack of confidence in their writing skills), lack of awareness of acceptable and unacceptable practices and lack of time-management and organizational skills are many elements that compels some students to cheat or plagiarize.
  • Informing students of effective practices they should adopt and the consequences of academic fraud. You should include this information in the course syllabus and ensure you answer any questions students may have on the subject.
  • Clearly conveying assignment instructions and expectations and specifying presentation requirements as well as how sources must be used. Do not hesitate to repeat these instructions for each assignment.

HARRIS, Robert A., The Plagiarism Handbook, Los Angeles, Pyrczak Publishing, 2001.

Professors can take several measures to ensure the work they assign is not conducive to plagiarism, such as:

  • changing assignments each time they give the same course;
  • choosing original subjects instead of commonly used ones;
  • asking specific questions that require analysis and reflection on unique perspectives.

Another possible method for promoting academic integrity and preventing plagiarism is to ask students to sign a statement of academic integrity and submit it with their assignments or exams. This will make students more aware of the importance of academic integrity. Here is an example used at the University of Ottawa:

  • The Telfer School of Management requires students to submit with their assignments a signed form attesting that their work conforms to the rules of academic integrity at the University of Ottawa. This form (PDF) is required both for individual and group assignments and is explained in the syllabus of each management course.
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