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Services: Plagiarism

A Resources for Faculty

"Download your workload."-- Internet term paper mill

The Internet provides a tempting array of opportunities for students to plagiarize with unprecedented ease:

  • simple no-cost copying & pasting of content from a web browser into a word processor
  • ordering, for a fee easily charged to a credit-card, a pre-fabricated term paper
  • "custom ordering" a paper from an Internet term paper mill such as ""

To empower faculty who are teaching in a time of increasing "cyber-plagiarism" this resource is intended to:

  • increase faculty understanding of why students plagiarize
  • offer faculty strategies and assistance to prevent plagiarism
  • offer faculty strategies for detecting plagiarism
  • alert faculty to F&M resources, policies and procedures regarding academic honesty



transitive senses : to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source

intransitive senses : to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online 

Why Students Plagiarize


  • may not understand what plagiarism is
  • may not realize they are doing something wrong
  • might think they will not be caught plagiarizing, and that if they are, there is no penalty, or the professor will not expend the time and effort to pursue the case
  • may not understand that information taken from the Internet needs to be cited--some think it is a free-for-all information source, with no acknowledgement necessary, or copyright restrictions, etc.
  • may not expend sufficient energy for courses not in their major
  • can be natural economizers, looking for the shortest route to accomplishing a task
  • often have poor time management and planning skills
  • may fear their writing ability is inadequate, and would rather not submit what they consider sub-par work

    Compiled from the Robert Harris document "Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers"

Strategies for Preventing Plagiarism

Talk About It In The Classroom

A simple yet powerful method of preventing plagiarism is to talk about it openly with students.

Discuss with students:

  • what plagiarism is; explain how people ethically and legally use and acknowledge each other's ideas
  • why plagiarism is wrong (as a violation of trust between the student and the professor, as illegal use of intellectual property, as violation of "fair use," etc.)
  • how to avoid plagiarizing; alert students to:
  • the moral, ethical and legal consequences of plagiarism
  • your awareness of Internet "term paper mills," and their lack of quality control, grade guarantees, etc.
  • the availability to faculty of plagiarism detection tools

    Compiled from : "Cheating 101: Easy Steps to Combatting Plagiarism" (Coastal Carolina University Library).

Assign Non-Plagiarizable Work

An effective means of prevention is requiring work that cannot be completed by plagiarizing. Librarians are available to consult with you regarding assignment design.

Suggestions for Non-Plagiarizable Research Papers:

  • teach students the p r o c e s s nature of research by portioning an assignment into discrete, graded or reviewed parts to be submitted over the course of the semester:
    • written proposal
    • annotated bibliography
    • rough drafts, or working notes
    • research journal
  • have students discuss their papers in class 
  • require submission of all sources consulted

     Compiled from the Robert Harris document "Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers"

Alternatives to the Research Paper:
  • Primary vs. Secondary Sources: assign readings on a topic from both types of sources, and have students compare/contrast
  • Popular Article's Research Root: assign students to find a short article in the popular press which is based on, or makes significant mention of, a "scientific study", and have students research the original study, and compare it to the popular press presentation.
  • Popular vs. Scholarly Information: assign readings on a topic from both types of sources, and have students compare/contrast
  • Citation Hunt: assign students an article or book chapter, and assign each student the task of tracking down an original article listed in the bibliography. Each student must document her/his approach, share the content of the original article, and explain its relationship to the assigned article.
  • Internet vs. Scholarly Database: have students find information on a topic by searching the Internet and a scholarly ("subscription") database, and compare the authority and content.
  • Research Log: have students maintain a record of their research process, including their topic, keywords used in developing search statements, results lists, copies of articles, etc.

    Compiled from "Alternatives to the Research Paper" (Grant MacEwan College Learning Resource Center--no longer online) and "Effective Assignments Using Library and Internet Resources" (UC Berkeley Library)

Enhance Student's Information Literacy

The Library

Librarians educate students to become fully

information literate: able to recognize when information is needed, and able to locate, evaluate, and use effectively, ethically, and legally the needed information

through the Library Research Instruction program.

The Library provides a citation guide:

The Writing Center

The Writing Center produces a guide for students

Strategies for Detecting Plagiarism

Some clues which may indicate unoriginal work:

Visual Cues:

  • unusual formatting of the paper (odd use of space, inconsistent layout, etc.)
  • variety of citation styles present
  • strange, extraneous text at the top and/or bottom of the page

Content Cues:

  • the content does not address the assignment requirements
  • inconsistent quality of writing (the introduction or conclusion is of poor quality compared to body of the paper)
  • use of vocabulary or jargon with which you do not think the student is familiar
  • significant change in writing style which differs greatly from previous writing
  • in the bibliography:
    • are the sources cited all from the same year?
    • are there any recent sources, or are they all 3-4 years old or older?
    • are any links to web sites cited inactive?

    Compiled from the "Detecting and Preventing Plagiarism" (Dalhousie University Library), and "Cheating 101: Detecting Plagiarized Papers" (Coastal Carolina University Library)

 Recommended reading: "Detecting Plagiarized Papers" (Coastal Carolina University Library)

Strategies When You Suspect Plagiarism

A simple search of the Internet may confirm suspicions. Search for a suspect phrase or sentence in at least 3 Internet search engines.

F&M Policies & Procedures

Through the course management system Blackboard, faculty have access to SafeAssign, a "plagiarism prevention service." ITS' QuickStart document on SafeAssigh can be found here.

 "If an instructor believes that a student has plagiarized material and can locate the source, then the instructor will normally bring the evidence promptly to the attention of the Dean of the College or designee. If the Dean of the College agrees with the instructor that the student may have plagiarized, then the Dean of the College or designee may send the case to the Committee on Student Conduct for prompt hearing. Alternatively, with the agreement of the faculty member, the student may accept a penalty imposed by the Dean of the College or designee."

--excerpted from The F&M Catalog: Academic Policies and Procedures: Academic Honesty

"If an instructor believes that the student has misrepresented his or her work, but the instructor cannot locate a source, the instructor will normally consult with the department chair or the Dean of the College. If the chair or Dean agrees that there are sufficient reasons to believe a student may have misrepresented his or her work, the faculty members involved should try to determine whether or not misrepresentation has occurred. One means would be to ask the student to explain the paper. A student's inability to understand the work he or she submitted will normally result in a significantly lowered grade for the course. Moreover, the chair should inform the Dean of the College when the instructor concludes that a misrepresentation has occurred."

--excerpted from The F&M Catalog: Academic Policies and Procedures: Academic Honesty

The F&M College Life Manual: Student Rights and Regulations

For further reading:


"Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers" by Robert Harris. A comprehensive discussion of plagiarism with fantastic suggestions for prevention.

"Student Plagiarism in an Online World" by Julie J.C.H. Ryan, American Society for Engineering Education. An account of the author's experiences with various forms of plagiarism.

"Plagiarism, Policing, Pedagogy" and "Plagiarism: What Should a Teacher Do?" by Rebecca Moore Howard, Director of the Writing Program at Syracuse University. Advocates better understanding of the full range of student mis-use of information, and misrepresentation of ideas.

  Other Academic Library Resources:

Cheating 101: Paper Mills and You (Coastal Carolina University Library)

Faculty Tips on Academic Dishonesty in the Classroom (UC-Berkeley)

  Internet Term Paper Mills:

Internet Term Paper Mills A collection of links to over 200 mills.

Internet Subject Specific Term Paper Mills A list of term paper mills devoted to a single author or topic, e.g. "" and ""

If you would like to chat and/or consult with a librarian about plagiarism,
contact Lisa Stillwell, Information Literacy Librarian, ext. 3844.

last updated: 08/13 ls


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