Plagiarism in the Classroom Prevention rather than Detection

Is it getting worse?

Some studies suggest that plagiarism is on the rise in the classrooms of today. Experts disagree on the primary cause, but it is clear that there are many elements that factor into plagiarism. Demographics, generational differences, and technological resources have all played a role in the expansion of plagiarism. In addition, our morally relativistic society continues to blur the line on moral decision making. Here are a few thoughts on how to prevent plagiarism in the classroom, rather than using detection to address the problem.

Are students devious or clueless?

The definition of plagiarism is the act of submitting material that was not actually written by the author. In other words, if a student copies a quote from a book and does not give credit to the person who actually wrote the book, they are committing plagiarism. Depending on the writing style, a quote or a concept must be cited or referenced properly in order to highlight the quote and give the reader the exact source of the information.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

One method of dealing with plagiarism is to educate students prior to writing research papers. Some students are not aware of writing standards and plagiarize due to inexperience. For example, teachers ask the students to find literary sources for a paper. The student goes out, does some research, and inserts information into the paper. However, they either forget to give credit or they simply don’t know how to do it. Therefore, a teacher should do a brief review of writing standards at the beginning of every course. This way the student has received fair warning and the teacher has justification for scrutinizing for plagiarism.

Technology is not always our friend

What makes this issue complicated is the fact that technology makes it so easy to plagiarize. Before the Internet, people would actually have to copy materials out of a book by hand. Now, they can “cut and paste” text from a website directly into their paper. This makes it easier to plagiarize, but it also makes it easier for teachers to detect it.

Finding a way

If someone truly desires to plagiarize, they will probably find a way. People can educate all they want, but that doesn’t prevent other people from making particular decisions. However, some plagiarism can be prevented by pro-actively educating students on writing standards and what it means to plagiarize.