Tips and Tricks

21st Century Plagiarism: An Age-Old Problem in a Modern World

Helping students understand the scope of plagiarism in today’s classroom and helping teachers curtail it.

Whether unintentional or blatant, every teacher that’s created an assignment has probably dealt with one form of plagiarism or another. From the student that literally had no idea to the student that paid a person or service for a completed paper to others that fall somewhere in between the murky lines, plagiarism is a real problem that can lead to some very severe consequences. In our technologically laden age, the copy/paste functions make easy work of moving, sharing, and unfortunately, plagiarizing endless amounts of information.

Direct instruction when it comes to plagiarism and its many modern faces is a necessary component for any classroom. To ensure quality independent work from students, teachers need to share the forms of plagiarism, how to avoid plagiarism, and the methods in place to identify plagiarism. By opening discussions about it and modeling techniques for avoiding it, we are creating learning environments where independent thought can flourish.

The Many Faces of Modern Plagiarism:

Plagiarism.org shares 6 forms of plagiarism:

  • Turing in someone else’s work as your own
  • Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • Failing to put quotation marks
  • Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

While some students may search online for papers to purchase or download for free, other common situations that may occur include sharing answers via electronic devices and collaborating with others when independent work is expected.

Some key prevention methods highlighted by Education World include:

  • Create multiple checkpoints- By checking notes, outlines, drafts, bibliographies, etc. along the way, teachers are opening up the ability to catch unintentional plagiarism at its earliest stages. If a student is reluctant to make any changes throughout the drafting process or has an end-product draft on day one, it’s time to do some digging for intentional plagiarism.
  • Conduct lessons in note-taking- Reinforcing proper notetaking skills is time well spent. Review the need to cite all sources, place quotes around word-for-word notes taken during research, and cite paraphrased information.
  • Assign narrow topics- The more unique the subject matter the less likely students will be able to find pre-fab papers or lengthy missives to cut and paste as their own work.

Plagiarism red flags taken from Meredith Burr’s Plagiarism in the Classroom presentation on Prezi:

  • Unusual formatting that is not within the requirements.
  • Information that is too narrow or too broad to fit the topic and/or unrelated to it.
  • Writing that doesn’t fit the style and/or ability level of the student.
  • A mix of writing styles and/or skills within a single document.

Plagiarism checking websites and services:

No-cost and subscription options are available for checking student work. Content can be copy/pasted or uploaded to check for unique authenticity. Depending on the frequency of usage and length of documents, teachers have a variety of choices when it comes to checking for plagiarism.

  • Plagiarisma – Upload or paste text to be checked. The percentage of uniqueness is returned and any questionable sentences or phrases are noted with links to plagiarizing domains.
  • PlagScan – Text is pasted or uploaded to be reviewed. Two searches are completed. The first runs the database for direct text matches, and the second displays links with similarities.
  • Small SEO Tools – Paste or upload text for review. The checker returns the percentage of work that is unique, and offers links to online sources where plagiarized text is located.
  • Turnitin – This is a subscription-based service that offers plagiarism checks, online grading forums, and revision assistance for students. High-quality with a matching price tag.

Is there a fail-safe way to avoid plagiarism? No. Are there means and methods for educating students, setting high expectations and guidelines, and monitoring student work? Yes. While plagiarism continues to be an age-old problem, we’ve compiled some resources and information to help students avoid it and create authentic work in a modern world.

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