Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism

Preventing Plagiarism

    • Require specific components for the paper. Develop a set of requirements that allow flexibility but that also prevent a canned or downloaded paper from fitting the assignment.

      • At least two sources must be less than a year old.
      • Include a discussion or analysis of a specific book or article named by the instructor.
      • Require specific formatting.

      Tip: Consider assigning interesting, personalized papers that require students to integrate their own opinions.

    • Require process steps. To prevent a student from handing in a paper downloaded or borrowed the night before the assignment is due, require that you see evidence of ongoing construction of the paper. Points should be given to each piece of the process, so that a student who hands in a paper without turning in the pieces will not pass the assignment. Consider requiring some of these steps, spread out over the time allotted for creating the paper.

      • A preliminary bibliography, or annotated preliminary bibliography.
      • A prospectus.
      • An outline.
      • A rough draft.
      • Require oral presentations of assignments.


  • Clarify rules of academic honesty. Pass out a policy on academic honesty with your syllabus.
    Define plagiarism. (provide examples)
    Tip: Let students know that you are aware of internet plagiarism and that you are internet savvy.

Detecting Plagiarism on the Web

A large percentage of student plagiarism appears to be coming from the Web because searching, copying, and pasting are so easy. These strategies focus on finding information taken from the Web.

  • use a search engine, like, to find out if students have handed in plagiarized materials.
    Try typing in parenthesis:

    • The first sentence of the paper.
    • An unusual phrase or a string of words particular to the topic of the paper.
  • Look at online paper mills.
    Go to and type in “free term papers” Or try:

Final Advice to Instructors
In my experience, other than the whole-paper or paragraph-after-paragraph type of plagiarism, much plagiarism occurs through the student’s lack of understanding about how to quote, paraphrase, and cite sources. Many students simply do not know what they are doing. Providing them with clear instruction about plagiarism and how to avoid it will help reduce the amount you see.
–Robert A. Harris, Ph.D.
The Plagiarism Handbook: Strategies for Preventing, Detecting, and Dealing with Plagiarism and Using Sources Effectively: Strengthening Your Writing and Avoiding Plagiarism
Excerpts from Robert Harris, “Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism: Top Three Strategies for Preventing Plagiarism”


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