How to Fight Plagiarism in the Digital Age

By Huntington Learning Center

Plagiarism isn’t a new problem, but it has become a more obvious issue in today’s digital age, where a world of information is at every student’s fingertips, and it’s too easy to copy, paste, and save. How can you teach your students not to plagiarize and deter this unethical behavior? Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Educate them about it. Your students have grown up using technology, but don’t assume that they know what it means to plagiarize. Explain that stealing others’ work, intentionally or not, is cheating and will get them in big trouble. Give examples of work that has been improperly cited or copied verbatim (or close). Create a handout so that there is no confusion.
  • Give clear guidance. Articulate your expectations of students. Clearly, you don’t want them stealing paragraphs from the internet, but when and how should they cite sources? Are there situations where it is acceptable to incorporate ideas shared by others into one’s own work without crediting the source?
  • Discuss the consequences of plagiarism. Your school and/or district probably have guidelines in place regarding the punishment for academic dishonesty and plagiarism. Go over these rules as well as your own with students.
  • Use plagiarism checkers when grading. There are plenty of software tools and websites out there that will help you check that your students are not copying work from any published sources. Ask your school technology department if they have a recommendation or if your school already has a subscription to a tool.
  • Talk about the importance of not copying other students’ work, too. With social media and photo text messaging, it’s easy for students to help each other out with a quick snapshot of homework or notes. Let students know that you are watching for writing assignments and written responses that look identical or very similar and that the consequences of copying each other’s work are the same as plagiarizing published work. 

Ultimately, it’s important that you remind students that those who plagiarize are only cheating themselves. Establish rules, educate your students on best writing practices, and use tools to help you keep your students honest.