Avoiding Plagiarism

Strategies to Discourage Plagiarism

Principle: Many effective strategies for teaching writing are also effective deterrents to student plagiarism.

  • Discuss intellectual property and academic integrity with writers (some writing handbooks have chapters on these topics). Help them understand the intellectual/writing issues involved, not just “what not to do.”
  • Help writers understand how to use sources in their writing: practice summary, paraphrase, quotation.
  • Design specific, unique assignments (not the old research or position papers). (The Writing Center can help!)
  • Invite conversation and questions about the assignment; acknowledge difficulty and potential struggle.
  • Negotiate specific projects, informed by writers’ goals, within general guidelines.
  • Ask writers to collect specific artifacts or conduct their own observational research in addition to secondary research.
  • Have writers join local conversations (UNL, Lincoln, their home communities).
  • Encourage writers to use their own experiences and perspectives as sources of information and evidence in their projects.
  • Incorporate regular in-class writing.
  • Read multiple drafts throughout writers’ writing process (but don’t feel the need to respond to or grade everything; Blackboard could be helpful).
  • Ask for author’s notes in which writers explain their choices.
  • Incorporate frequent peer responses groups.
  • Have writers compose revision plans.

English Department Guidelines Regarding the Use of SafeAssignment (Adopted Spring 2007)

SafeAssignment raises a number of pedagogical and ethical issues for student writers and teachers who solicit that writing. As teachers committed to creating educational environments that treat students with respect, we are concerned that requiring all students to use SafeAssignment can contribute to a “culture of suspicion” in which students’ integrity is assumed to be suspect. Also, certain uses of this software violate the English Department’s commitment to student ownership over their intellectual work. We believe that forcing students to use SafeAssignment or doing so without their permission violates this commitment because student work is held by a third party and students are offered limited recourse for refusing to participate or for removing their already stored work. As well, we are concerned about issues of forced disclosure, given the sometimes personal nature of the writing our students do in our classes. Finally, we believe that our primary goal concerning plagiarism should be to teach students about intellectual property and integrity, including the ethical use and citation of sources. The adoption of SafeAssignment, or any other plagiarism detection software, is not sufficient for these tasks.

In light of these concerns, we offer the following guidelines for teachers in the English Department who choose to use SafeAssignment:

  • Students must be informed that their work will be subject to scrutiny through SafeAssignment.
  • Students must be informed of the distinction between the “Draft Review” portion of the program, which does not retain their writing in the database, and the regular submission process, which does.
  • Students must be allowed access to any results generated from SafeAssignment regarding their submitted writing.
  • Students may object without penalty at any time to having their writing retained in the SafeAssignment database.
  • Students must be made aware of the implications of this software: 1) that student writing is kept for six years following submission, 2) that according to University policy, students may refuse to submit a paper to SafeAssignment through the UNL Grade Appeals process, and 3) that a request to have writing removed from the SafeAssignment database earlier than the six year mark can also be processed through UNL Grade Appeals, but is by no means guaranteed.
  • Students must be made aware that their work can potentially be retained by a third party (the SafeAssignment database) and potentially used for in-house reporting of educational statistics.
  • Any disciplinary action that is sought based on a report generated from SafeAssignment must be accompanied by a detailed account by the instructor of the specific textual instances where plagiarism is alleged to have taken place to verify that plagiarism has actually occurred