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Designing essays and research assignments that make plagiarism difficult often allow students to do better work and engage more with their projects.

Creating assignments that encourage integrity

  • Show students the value of citation and how and what to cite sources (including what constitutes acceptable paraphrase and what is common knowledge.) Address these issues throughout the course. Penn's library offers a guide on proper citation.
  • Change topics and readings regularly. If you avoid topics that are frequently assigned students will have difficulty finding papers to plagiarize and will see themselves as creating new ideas.
  • When appropriate for the assignment, make it clear which readings or specific topics students should address, so it is difficult to find generic papers to meet the assignment.
  • Emphasize the process of the paper: have students turn in their work in stages (proposals, outlines, bibliographies, and drafts) before the final version. Assigning these stages allows you to give students feedback throughout, check when students are having trouble, and also prevent plagiarism that can arise from last minute panic.
  • Give students a variety of assignments throughout the semester, so that their whole grade does not rest on one paper, raising the stakes of that assignment.
  • Make your assignment clear and specific so students have a sense of what you expect and how to meet those expectations. Make those expectations realistic for your students.
  • For your graduate and professional students, consider adding the Citation Practices Module to your Canvas site. When students are preparing to submit their work, you can encourage them to reference this module to ensure they are following practices that align with Penn’s academic integrity policies. 

Detecting Plagiarism

Penn instructors have access to the plagiarism detection software Turnitin through Canvas.  Some instructors have all student papers run through this program and others use the program only occasionally. Turnitin can also be an effective way to help students assess the integrity of their own work.

Some Possible Signs of Plagiarism

Advice from Penn's Critical Writing Program:

  • Outdated allusions, sources or bibliographies.
  • Odd formatting; changes in formatting.
  • Notable disparity between writing from one assignment to the next.
  • Assignments that are off the topic or only loosely related to the assignment.
  • Papers with outside research when you haven't asked for any.