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The WaLC's Guide to Help Your Students Stop Plagiarizing
The reasons why students plagiarize are as varied as our culture itself, but several questions are worth asking of your own teaching practices:
  • Are your research assignments designed to be meaningful learning experiences?
  • Do your students understand not only the consequences of plagiarism in your class but also in the professional world?
  • Do you expect your students to perform well and provide strategies for them to succeed?

Every semester, instructors who assume their students are following standard research guidelines are unpleasantly surprised. To help offset your end-of-semester blues, the Writing and Learning Commons (WaLC) offers a tested strategy for teaching your students what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. Let the WaLC know how the strategy works in your class(es) by emailing or calling 227-2274. And best wishes for the semester.

A Strategic Plan for Clean Research

1) Use the syllabus template based on  WCU's Academic Integrity Policy to provide accurate information in your syllabus. Be sure to include the consequences of violating the policy in your course.

2) Include in your syllabus the documentation format your class or discipline will be using, and briefly explain its unique characteristics. If you allow your students to “freelance” a documentation style, they will only find learning a legitimate style harder. The following documentation styles are available and can be downloaded as Adobe Acrobat files: MLA , APA , AMA , and Turabian .

3) Within the first week or two of class, assign a close reading of Avoiding Plagiarism. Be sure to read this resource yourself, including the example section. To evaluate your students’ understanding, assign the following exercise:

  • Provide a paragraph of a college-level text pertinent to your course. Include examples of an in-text entry and a bibliographic entry in the documentation style your students will be using.
  • Ask your students to summarize the paragraph, creating one or two sentences. They must also provide the appropriate in-text citation (based on your example).
  • Ask your students to paraphrase a selection from the paragraph, creating text of approximately equivalent length. Again they must provide the appropriate in-text citation.
  • Ask your students to quote from the original, including an introduction to the quotation and in-text citation.
  • Finally ask your students to compose the appropriate bibliographic entry (based on your example).

5) Evaluate your students’ work to identify those who need further help. Contact the WaLC at 227-2274 to discuss strategies for improving individual student performance.  

Ways to Plagiarism-Proof your Research Assignments:

1) Assign topics and ways of approaching those topics that are “unique, creative, or at least unusual, thus limiting the sources that could be used to plagiarize” (Alan Altany, former director of the Faculty Center). Contact the Faculty Center in Hunter Library for one-on-one help.

2) Break down your assignments into meaningful steps, including requiring students to develop a useful research question. See the WaLC resource on Research Papers.

3) Assign an annotated bibliography as an early step in the research process. Visit the WaLC mini-course on Compiling an Annotated Bibliography.

For more faculty help, visit Plagiarism and Anti-Plagiarism

If you have a plagiarism-proofing strategy to share, send it to


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