15 September 2012

Mission Impossible - Avoiding Plagiarism

My academic year has begun, and while the dust settles as I  learn about my new workplace, my new environment and the changes of teaching approach, I think about learning and my students. Learning is not a straight-forward process. It's non-linear, almost murky, haphazard and intangible. All kinds of events and factors may contribute or even block one's learning. Right now I too am learning; as my students now have iPads to use as their main learning resource, I am quickly learning how best to use Apps in the classroom. Hence, learning issues cross my mind quite often at the moment. 

As a language teacher, I have often found that writing is the most challenging skill for students. It is through writing that organisation skills, grammar, vocabulary and all other linguistic and cultural characteristics come into play.  It is also the skill that one most easily plagiarizes - to which I regularly say, if you were able to plagiarize, you are able to write. 

When I think back to my own language learning experiences, it was by reading that slowly I managed to express myself through writing. No simple task, yet the more I read, the easier it became to write. 

Plagiarism was alien to me and never crossed my mind. Having grown up in parts of the world where academic honesty and ethics were strictly drilled into young minds, I perceived  plagiarism as a useless and futile act. Nevertheless, this perception is not shared in many places. 

Getting students to write honestly, to avoid plagiarism is no mission impossible and here are some suggestions you may like to introduce in class or to students. 

Common Craft offers a wealth of resources to educators and learners, including a whole page with videos to use in class. Among the video list, there is a short video on plagiarism, accompanied by the transcript. 

You Quote It, You Note It, created by the Acadia University Library is a fun way to review why quotation is important in writing and how to avoid plagiarism. 

Three other sites worth looking into, and sharing with students are the following:


Copyscape which actually tracks writers' blogs.

OER for Digital Scholars also has an interesting compilation of suggestions for referencing and avoiding plagiarism , including tutorials, handouts and a game for learners, The Information Literacy Game. 

Mission impossible? Not in the least. As all else, writing and freeing students from plagiarism is a learning process, as well as an educator's responsibility.  In my mind, it is as necessary as the many other skills that are focused on when talking about 21st Century Learning skills. 

Speaking of missions, have you considered using Edmodo this academic year? Having been nominated an Edmodo Ambassador (though I haven't yet put badge on blog),  let me leave you with a new, fun, adventurous mission for your academic year: 

What other suggestions do you have for students to avoid plagiarism?


  1. Like your post. When I write my blog posts, I tried to completely involve myself in the "art of writing" - based on "flow". I don't see plagiarism would come into play in my writing if I quoted properly, though at times, I realized that it is hard to re-write all in my own words. Instead, I see remixing and curating of posts and ideas as an art that I could also refine, in my learning process. It is sad that some students still rely on plagiarising others' work without citation, even in MOOCs. As you said, it is not impossible to avoid plagiarism, if people realized that it is not necessary to copy the full posts of others. Instead, through reading and writing, we could always express ourselves without the need of copying from others. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi John,

    Thank you for your time to visit and share your thoughts. Avoiding plagiarism and learning how to re-phrase sources, quote sources is an important part of learning - whether for anyone learning a language or a native speaker of a language. I have, at times encountered students who think that by submitting a piece of work with no mistakes will make me "happy" and for as much as I respect all cultures, that is something I need to instill in learners, i.e. their "mistakes" are more important to me than any perfection in writing.

    On another note, I am aware of the high degree of plagiarism which exists among post-graduate students today; not out of linguistic need but perhaps because of job market pressure. In those cases, I am not quite sure. Like yourself, I find pleasure in remixing and curating, using digital tools to express myself. Nevertheless, giving credit when it is due, is still part of today's teaching and learning.

    Thank you again for your thoughts!

  3. I shared a link of this post with my students in my blog. Thank you for the post :) :) :)

  4. Hi Selga,

    Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts. You're most welcome - plagiarism is something all educators have to deal with at one point or another and teach learners how to avoid it.

    Would love to hear more about your students - and thank you for sharing :-)

    Lots of success to your and your students!

    1. I work in a secondary school with 16-18 years olds and 1st year university business students and it always amazes me when a student boldly copies someone else's work and thinks he or she can get away with it. Usually one such case in a group is enough to discuss and agree on not ever doing it again :)

      I came across your blog thanks to Baiba Svenca who is your follower and I also read your guest post in her blog. It is becoming a really small world :)

      Keep posting!

  5. You may find these inserting--
    Prevent vs. Catch -- Technology Ethics: Plagiarism in the Digital Age -- http://www.searchfindknow.com/uploads/9/3/8/4/9384145/plag.pdf &

  6. Thanks a lot for wonderful software! It is simple and usable. I have not used it for plagiarism detection, but also have find highly similar constructions from fifferent docs for making my life easier. I want to recommend a good site for checking for plagiarism - unplag

  7. I an Doctorate program plagiarism is the important thing affects the academics grade of the student. Thanks for sharing an useful post.
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