Only you can prevent plagiarism

We often warn our students about the ramifications of plagiarizing: a zero in the gradebook, expulsion from college, or legal action. By the time students get to high school, we assume they have received instruction about how to avoid plagiarism. However, in the face of such severe consequences, we cannot afford to assume. 

It wasn’t until I became a librarian that I reflected on the lack of instruction I provided my sophomores in English class when it came to avoiding plagiarism. Like many of us, I assumed that including the statement, “don’t plagiarize,” on my assignment sheets would suffice. But, I wish I would have more clearly defined the term to them and taught them how to avoid plagiarism, even if they already had learned about it in middle school. After all, a little repetition never hurts.

Barb and I continue to develop resources designed to support you and your students when it comes to instruction on information literacy topics, such as avoiding plagiarism. The latest piece is this “3 Simple Ways to Avoid Plagiarism” infographic that you can include as an image on your assignment sheets or hang as a poster in your classroom. (Talk to Barb and me if you’re interested in a poster copy. We also have our source evaluation poster available.)


As the infographic explains, students can avoid plagiarism in three ways: by summarizing a source, paraphrasing a source, or quoting a source. In each case, they are required to cite the source. When summarizing or paraphrasing, students are expected to use their own words.

As always, Barb and I are willing to help you design a lesson for your classes during which students can practice these skills. Another resource is the Purdue Online Writing Lab, which offers lesson plans for preventing plagiarism in these three ways. Of course, you can turn to the District 117 Information Literacy LibGuide, too. You could use the plagiarism tab on the LibGuide, for example, to ask your students to read over the guide as homework (a 10-15 minute assignment) in preparation for a short quiz at the beginning of class the next day.

Instruction about plagiarism does not have to be time consuming, but it is necessary.


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