Ways to prevent plagiarism in class

The classroom is the first place where instructors can help their students act with integrity.

Talk about plagiarism in class

Students’ knowledge of plagiarism is inconsistent and they are frequently misinformed. Students’ understanding of what constitutes plagiarism varies, as do their reasons for doing it. Do not assume that your students understand how to summarize, paraphrase and cite properly.  Provide explicit instruction on quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing, as well as citation and referencing. Even senior students may not understand how to paraphrase or reference correctly.

To help instructors prepare for these discussions, you may use and modify the Academic Integrity – Classroom Resource consisting of slides with questions, definitions and examples of types of academic misconduct (e.g., plagiarism), and a list of University of Manitoba resources for students.

Give clear guidelines for format and style

Explain that using an established formatting and documentation style provides uniformity within a document, making it easier to read and allowing the reader to identify and locate the cited work.

Acknowledge the skills of integrating research and proper citation require practice

Instructors must also acknowledge there are often discipline-specific ways of writing and documenting sources. Writing in the humanities, for example, uses quotations frequently and fewer secondary sources. Social science research papers, on the other hand, rely on summarizing and paraphrasing.

The Academic Learning Centre also offers free tutoring services to support students as they complete assignments.

Indicate clearly that all sources including lectures, presentations and print (e.g., the textbook) and electronic texts must be cited

Encourage students to cite while they write using citation management software (e.g., Zotero, Mendeley, Endnote) and to track their reference information even if the source is not an ideal source. For example, although citing the Wikipedia source is not ideal, not citing the Wikipedia source is plagiarism.

Provide bibliography and citation resources

Give students a list of websites, texts and/or handouts to help them learn the documentation style most appropriate for your assignments. You may also want to arrange for a specialist from the UM Libraries to speak on plagiarism and documentation styles.

Communicate your expectations about group work and collaboration clearly

If you want students to engage in appropriate collaboration as part of their assignments or learning activities, think about what you consider to be acceptable collaboration. Acceptable collaboration may vary from one assignment or course to the next, so indicating what you deem acceptable is important.

Take some time to think about what is acceptable in each of the following areas:

  • Joint research
  • Brainstorming
  • Peer editing
  • Collaborating on the entire assignment
  • Having each student complete a section of assignment

Require the reading and signing of academic integrity acknowledgement contracts that are assignment-specific

Faculty of Science honesty declaration.

Design plagiarism-proof assignments

Design assignments that are specific to your course and are timely in nature. This ensures the assignments are more difficult to copy from previous students or from the internet.

Do not reuse the same assignment topics.

Completely change the topics every term. If it is inappropriate to change the topic of the assignment, modify it so the response is not easily replicable. For example, insist students include the current data or other types of information in their paper. Where possible, connect the topics to students’ experience and use Canadian or even Manitoban sources.

Require students to turn in smaller elements of a whole paper.

Elements like a prospectus, question, thesis summary or an abstract of their draft require students to demonstrate familiarity with their paper and will help the instructor diagnose problems early (Bean, 2011).

Assign papers in stages

  1. Outline and explain why the topic was chosen
  2. Annotated bibliography
  3. Rough draft
  4. Final paper

Due dates for each stage are then distributed over the term (Bean, 2011). In so doing, you also emphasize the value of starting on the assignment early and support students’ development of time-management skills.

Assign an oral report on their paper

Students who can explain the concepts described in their papers and discuss the sources they used are less likely to plagiarize.

Design dialogic or dialectic assignments

In these types of assignments, students summarize an article or issue (usually one that is controversial) and then respond critically by presenting several viewpoints (Bean, 2011). This type of assignment may help to avoid the “data dump” type of paper, which can lead to plagiarism and bad paraphrasing.

Use in-class writing assignments that can serve as a bench marker

In-class writing demonstrates knowledge with certain topics, which could be valuable in assessing students’ learning and later writings.


Bean, J. C. (2011). Engaging ideas: The professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom (2nd Editio). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Imprint.

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