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Designing Plagiarism-Proof Assignments

Assume Nothing about Your Students’ Awareness of the “Rules of the Game”

  • about writing background and experience
  • about cultural background
  • about field- or discipline-specific background
  • about familiarity with documentation styles
  • Begin by teaching students what you don’t want them to do.

Get to Know Your Students

  • Decrease anonymity and increase community.
  • Enable students to get to know one another through collaborative work, thereby providing opportunities for peer pressure to reduce plagiarism.
  • In the first week of class, obtain an in-class writing sample from each student, to get to know each individually and to establish a baseline for their writing.

Reduce Grade Pressure

  • Provide many assignments throughout the semester.
  • Provide clearly articulated assignments with clearly articulated criteria for grading.
  • Offer oral or written responses to work in progress, so students know where they stand.
  • Provide ample time to complete multiple drafts.

Hold Students Responsible

  • Require a paper trail.
  • Help students to complete a paper trail by requiring three drafts with substantial revision and requiring that all drafts be submitted with the final version.

Invent Assignment Scenarios

  • Define the audience and purpose.
  • Move the assignment outside of the academy. For example, an assignment in Environmental Biology may ask students to “Write an editorial for the local paper, arguing that logging of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest should be sharply curtailed. Use at least two sources supporting your argument and one source that aids in conceding one of your opponents’ points.”

Create Course-Specific Assignments

  • Use unusual combinations of texts: “Use Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs to analyze the condition of the Joads in the beginning of The Grapes of Wrath and their condition while at one of the work camps in California.” It’s highly unlikely that a student will be able to purchase a paper that is responsive to that assignment.
  • Use course-specific terminology and require students to use it.
  • If the course uses online discussion forums, require students to use those discussions as a source.
  • Impose restrictions on the sources that students may use (for instance, from three referred journals and two web sites, each of which have been determined beforehand).

Create Ancillary Assignments

  • paper/project logs or journals
  • student-created grading rubrics
    • What questions will the paper or project answer?
    • What kind of support for ideas will the paper or project use?