Center for Teaching and Learning

Tips for Preventing Student Plagiarism

Student plagiarism is often a result of two issues:

  1. an incomplete understanding of what plagiarism is and isn’t.
  2. anxiety and stress (often from trying to complete an assignment right before a deadline).

To reduce plagiarism, it can therefore be very helpful to spend class time explicitly discussing what constitutes plagiarism and to share tips with them about how they can avoid committing plagiarism. Below are some more detailed approaches:

I. Clearly define what plagiarism means in your class.

  • At the beginning of the semester—verbally and in the syllabus—give students a clear definition of what constitutes plagiarism and what is considered appropriate collaboration in your course.
  • These definitions may differ from one course to another, so it is especially important to make our expectations clear to students in each course we teach.

II. Discuss with your students what plagiarism is (and isn’t).

  • Give your students some examples of work that appropriately cites its sources, along with examples of work that plagiarizes their sources, and ask your students to figure out which is which (and how that affects the trustworthiness of each work).
  • Give your students examples of student writing that you have previously flagged as plagiarism and show it side-by-side with the original source.
  • Ask students to participate in an online discussion forum about plagiarism and include issues like ethics and AI.
    • Some examples of discussion-board prompts you may want to ask your students are:
      1. Define plagiarism. Correctly cite the source of your definition.
      2. Find and cite an example from a reliable news source of someone getting caught plagiarizing.
        • What did they do?
        • How were they caught?
        • What was the result of them being caught?
      3. What can you do in your own work to ensure that you do not plagiarize the work of others?
  • Dedicate a class period to sourcing, citation, and plagiarism (particularly in a writing-intensive course).
    • Give students examples of how and when they should credit the work of others in their writing. This way, they will have concrete cases to which they can refer when questions arise.

III. Design assignments to avoid plagiarism.

  • Emphasize the process of a writing assignment and require rough drafts.
    • Adding milestones to a written assignment such that students have to submit preliminary drafts of their work can discourage plagiarizing by helping students spread their work over a longer period of time, across multiple deadlines.
    • Include the steps and habits of mind that are associated with deep learning and critical thinking in your discipline in their assignment. Have due dates for individual elements that precede the final submission. For example, ask students:
      1. First, write a bullet-pointed outline with a thesis statement
      2. Next, provide detailed notes on sources (research articles, literary critiques, original documents, etc.)
      3. Next, ask for a first draft or first best attempt.
      4. Next, have students provide each other with feedback via peer review.
      5. Then ask for a student to submit a final draft and a reflective paragraph or essay describing how their paper evolved throughout the process and made use of their peer’s feedback.
  • Assign more personalized writing; the more personalized, the better. For example, ask for short, personal response essays to weekly readings.

IV. Inform students about academic support services.

  • Mention the resources available to help students with their work and encourage them to take advantage of the support that is available. For example:
    • Academic Services help students be more effective in their academic work, but not all students know about these resources.
    • The Writing Center has experienced and supportive graduate-student consultants who are there to help students with their writing
    • The English Language Programs offer individual tutorial sessions in written and oral skills and serve both native and non-native speakers of English.

Finally, please also see Section 4 (Maintenance of Academic Integrity) of Brandeis’s Rights and Responsibilities and the DSRCS’s Academic Integrity page.

Many of the recommendations above are adapted from McMurtrie, B. (2024, February 8). Teaching: Professors share ideas for tackling plagiarism in the classroom. The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Eberly Center’s How can I prevent plagiarism?.