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Curbing Plagiarism

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Tips from Carolyn Lieberg, Teaching Your First College Class

Lieberg, Carolyn. Teaching Your First College Class: A Practical Guide for New Faculty and Graduate Student Instructors. Stylus Publishing, May 2008.

"Concerns about plagiarized papers in college used to be connected to a filing cabinet at the fraternity house. Those days seem nearly quaint in light of how widespread the problem has become. Students learn how to use computer programs and the Internet at an early age. Many report they were not corrected in high school when they copied text from a website into a paper without citing the source. No wonder some of them come into college feeling puzzled about the fuss surrounding plagiarism.

An assignment such as, "Write a 15-page paper on Dante's Inferno" is unfortunately an invitation, especially for students who are short on time, to go to the web where papers that suit the requirement can be purchased from $40 to $70 on sites such as Schoolsucks and Termpapers. Sadly, these sites even offer papers on demand, written by freelancers to fulfill a specific assignment.

In some courses, instructors locate a free student paper from their discipline on the web and ask their students to read it and critique it as a small-group activity in class or as a threaded discussion on a class website. This exercise lets students know that you're aware of what is available, and it gives them a chance to be thoughtful about the actual quality of free papers.

Instructors can lessen the temptations of students to commit fraud by avoiding traditional assignments. The two chief methods for doing so are to use the activities and conversations in your own class as a basis for assignments or to use novel assignment structures." (156)