Teaching students about plagiarism should help them understand not just what to avoid—copying others’ work without acknowledgement, but also what they should aspire to—joining the academic conversation in order to influence it.
Handling sources well is part of each writer’s intellectual development, development that occurs over the space of several years. It’s vital that you address responsible source use within the context of your course in a particular discipline because expectations for using sources differ across disciplines. Students will give these lessons special weight when conveyed by faculty members whose expertise they respect.
Effective education about plagiarism often involves these three components
An effective warning will warn the student of penalties for cheating, as well as encourage her to take an active role in the academic conversation. Students need to understand that acknowledging sources allows them to make the conversation visible in the pages of their writing.
The best warnings also indicate that the responsible use of sources is part of the writing process, not a separate legalistic requirement. When students build on the ideas of others at every stage in the writing process, they become more attached to their own ideas and feel more responsible to the community of which they are a part.
A strong warning should give a concise, clear definition of plagiarism, and provide links to an expanded definition with examples. Using Sources is a resource developed by the Yale College Writing Center that defines plagiarism, gives examples, and offers strategies for using sources well and responsibly. The warning should also explain or give a link to Yale's Academic Integrity Policy and the consequences of cheating.
Finally, an effective warning should match the tone of the rest of the syllabus. When a warning is overly punitive in tone, it may counteract other signals you send that your course is a chance for students to grow as thinkers.
Click here to see examples of plagiarism warnings from two different syllabi.
Provide expanded definitions and examples of plagiarism for students to refer to and study as part of the work of the course. You may want students to read these and report back to you, or you may want to use them as part of in-class work. For a general overview, we suggest having students read Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism from Using Sources. You may also want to find or create explanations of any particular concerns about scholarly integrity that arise in your discipline.
For the sciences: “Writing at Yale” explains how to quote prose sources, but does not address problems with quantitative data. For a good discussion of computer programming and plagiarism, see the Academic Integrity site at Princeton. Students also struggle with the concept of collaborative work; they often do not understand the rules and expectations regarding work produced by joint authors. We urge you to find or create materials that help students understand how collaboration should proceed. As a way to begin this process, look at the treatment of collaboration on the Academic Integrity site at Princeton.
Develop exercises for students that deepen their understanding of correct and incorrect uses of sources, usually in concert with a writing project. The following are just some examples of possible exercises.