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Educate Students

Educating your students about academic integrity and good writing, research, and study habits can be effective in reducing the likelihood of academic offences, especially in combination with solid detection practices. These proactive approaches can positively influence the students’ experience in your course and help them understand the importance of working with integrity.

Do not assume that, because your course is an upper-year course, students do not need to be reminded of this information! Approximately 50% of the plagiarism cases that OSAI resolves involve upper-year students.

In Class

Nothing can replace a class discussion for effectively conveying expectations. It shows students that the topic is important enough to you to devote time to it, and gives the class an opportunity to ask questions.

  • Explain why academic integrity is important to you, to them, and to the University.
    • Put the discussion in the context of protecting their hard work and the value of their degree.
    • Refer to current events where integrity-related issues have had serious consequences.
  • Remind students that taking “shortcuts” will prevent them from developing the knowledge and skills to succeed in upper-level courses and their future professional life.
  • Explain why acknowledging sources is necessary, taking into account that students may come from different educational traditions:
    • it strengthens their work;
    • it recognizes the hard work of someone else;
    • it allows readers to follow up on ideas that interest them.
  • Clarify what “common knowledge” is in your course, and provide examples of what would and would not require a reference.
  • Emphasize that internet sources require citations just like any other source. Remind them that just because something is on the internet does not mean that it is common knowledge or to be used without attribution.
  • Suggest that students make an appointment with their college writing centre as soon as they know the assignment deadline. If they leave it to the last minute, they risk not getting an appointment.
  • Discuss with students how to find appropriate sources in your field of study, including what characteristics make for a good source. A list of the most relevant journals/books on the subject may help focus your students’ research efforts. The U of T Library is a good starting point.
  • Encourage good research and note-taking practices: tell students to indicate immediately when they have copied something verbatim by using quotation marks and writing out the source (and page number, if appropriate), or by highlighting the text in a different colour, so that they can’t mistake what is copied and what is in their own words.
  • Suggest students record their sources immediately when they take notes.
  • Recommend that students use a citation manager system. RefWorks is software available free for all students, staff and faculty from the U of T Library.
  • Remind your class that students are regularly caught and sanctioned for offences, often resulting in a failure in the course and annotation on their transcript.
    • Use an anonymous example from your own teaching experience. Describe the sanction and the impact on the student. You can also direct students to the examples in the “Students” section of our website.

In the Course Syllabus

Writing Assignments

  • Explicitly define plagiarism in your syllabus:
    • taking an idea from a source and not acknowledging it with a full citation;
    • failing to use quotation marks when copying material word for word, even if a citation is provided;
    • changing a few words in a copied sentence without citing, or reversing the order of sentence clauses (this is not paraphrasing!);
    • including translated material from a source in another language without acknowledging the source.
  • Specify what students need to do to avoid plagiarism:
    • provide a reference (such as a footnote or parenthetical citation) to the source from which the fact, idea, or words were taken;
    • place quotation marks around any text that has been copied word-for-word;
    • include a complete entry in a bibliography or works cited list.
    • ensure paraphrased text is correctly paraphrased.
  • Advise students of which citation convention you expect them to use and provide an example, or a link to a resource with detailed instructions such as:
  • Remind students that they are not permitted to submit the same work for two courses. Many students think that because the work is their own, they are free to use it in whatever manner they please, not thinking that this gives them an unfair academic advantage over other students who are not taking similar short-cuts.
  • Be explicit about your expectations for individual vs. group work.
  • Clarify for students what degree of assistance is acceptable, and the difference between proof-reading and editing. Proof-reading help—reviewing and identifying errors, but not correcting them—is acceptable. Providing new material or making substantial changes in wording, language, or grammar is editing, is not permitted.
  • Remind students that selling their work to others may result in an allegation of academic misconduct.

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Course & Assignment Design:

  • Use Turnitin.com: when used properly it is an efficient tool for detecting and deterring plagiarism. The tool is now integrated with Blackboard for ease of use. For more information about Turnitin, please consult Ryan Green or Saira Mall at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation.
  • Assign “low-stakes” writing assignments that give students opportunities to practice writing and gain confidence finding their own voice. These can be done in-class.
  • Break down larger assignments into smaller components (e.g., outline, annotated bibliography, final essay) and evaluate students on the entire writing process. This encourages responsible work habits and time management, and makes it more difficult to submit a purchased essay or assignment from a previous year.
  • Hold a final test or exam in your course as one of several forms of evaluation. This provides students with an incentive to complete all course work without “shortcuts” because they know that they will be tested on their own knowledge of the course material.
  • Issue timely reminders (just before they write the paper) about citation conventions and avoiding plagiarism.
  • Consider incorporating structured group work into your course to encourage collaboration in an appropriate form.
    • Clearly define what contributions are expected from individual members in a group project.
    • Ask students to write a brief report outlining their contributions to a group project and/or the contributions of others in the group.
    • Require each individual member to submit his/her research materials and the draft(s) of his/her portion of the project. This also encourages groups to divide their work fairly.
    • Advise students of potential consequences to an individual and to the group, in the event of an allegation of an academic offence.
  • Change assignment, essay and lab report topics from year to year, and make topics specific rather than general. Topics that have been frequently recycled or that are too general keep the essay mills and “tutoring” services in business.
  • See Margaret Procter’s guides for more suggestions:
  • Ask students to submit an Academic Integrity Checklist with each assignment. This reminds students that it is their responsibility to know the rules and that the University expects all work to be completed in accordance with the Code. It also gives them one final chance to ask themselves “Is this work in compliance with the rules?” before submitting the assignment.

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