How to Stop the Plagiarism Plague (page 2)

How to Stop the Plagiarism Plague

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Updated on Apr 2, 2014

How to Teach Academic Integrity

The good news is you can help your child understand and avoid plagiarism.  Talking about plagiarism can be complicated, however.  According to the Common Sense Media report, 80% of parents say they have addressed cheating with their kids, but only 64% of teens recall this conversation.  How do you make sure the message sticks?

  • Discuss plagiarism: Use meaningful examples, such as music sampling, to explore the concept of intellectual property. Lead children in developing their own explanation of why it is important to credit the words and ideas of others.
  • Practice good researching and writing skills: Provide instruction in compiling research notes. Peha warned, “Telling kids to ‘paraphrase’ things makes little sense. It's just a version of bad plagiarizing. Teaching kids reading strategies like synthesis, however, is very helpful.” (See these tips for "Undertaking the Long Paper")
  • Review school and class policies: Understand the definition of plagiarism, the preferred system of citation, and the consequences of plagiarizing.
  • Teachers can strive to create “plagiarism-proof” assignments: Innovative assignments that are “easier to complete honestly than to cheat on” remove the incentive for plagiarizing, according to Greg Van Belle, Professor of English at Edmonds Community College. “We can’t change the fact that students are increasingly stretched thin by work and family...We can’t stop students from taking too many classes or adding too many activities to their schedules.  What we can do is teach better.” Instead, Van Belle suggested “individualizing” assignments by requiring students to write creatively, take a different perspective, or relate topics to issues of local or personal importance.
  • Emphasize the process: Students who lack time management skills or confidence may procrastinate and then be tempted to copy as deadlines approach.  Scaffolding the assignment allows educators and parents to provide support and input as the student works through the writing steps.  Kate Povejsil, VP of Marketing at elaborated, “What students need during this process is lots and lots of substantive feedback—from their instructors and from their peers. They need high quality, frequent feedback that applies directly to their paper and their writing—not a bunch of rules and guidelines and ‘do’s and don’t’s.’” By emphasizing the process over the result, the student learns more, improves his organization skills, and even finishes with a stronger paper. 
  • Work in public: Van Belle also has his students work “in full view of the world.” If students complete some of the writing steps in class or with peers, they receive feedback as part of their process.  And when everyone is looking, it is harder to cheat.
  • Utilize technology: Many popular word processing programs now automatically manage sources. Sites such as NoodleTools offer some free assistance with proper citation. Plagiarism detection tools, such as Write Check, can serve as a preventative measure and teaching tool. Using these services as part of the process helps students identify and improve upon areas of concern.
  • Value writing: Show your children that you value writing as a means of expression and argumentation. Rather than emphasizing “morality tales” of writers who have gone astray, Stolley recommended focusing on the importance of rigorous thought and proper citation in a student’s academic development: “When students cheat on writing, particularly wholesale copying of another's work, they are missing out on a very important part of their education.”
  • Model honesty and integrity: Our actions provide the most vivid lesson. Always give credit where credit is due and explain to your kids how citing your source bolsters your argument and is the right thing to do.
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