Background, Policy, Detection,
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Definition: In an instructional
setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses
else’s language, ideas, or other original (not
common-knowledge) material without acknowledging
--"Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism:The WPA Statement on Best Practices"
Plagiarism has become much
easier with the rise of the World Wide Web, online databases, and word
processing. Studies of plagiarism are not consistent, but most show that
over 30 percent of students admit to having plagiarized. It's not even
clear that it has increased in recent years, although most faculty seem to
think so based on their own experiences. (The "In-depth
Information" section below goes into more detail on these issues.) But
what isn't in doubt is that it is a serious problem.
If the resources below don't
readily address your concerns, contact the librarians. We are glad to
assist you with general or specific questions, including helping search
for suspected plagiarism.
ACC Policy & Procedures
The general ACC Administrative
Guideline (1.04.006) on Student Standards of Conduct includes "academic misconduct."
The Student Handbook p.32 repeats
the Administrative Guideline.
In-depth Information on
Rather than reinvent the
wheel, we are providing links to a few other web sites designed to help
college faculty understand, prevent, and detect plagiarism. Besides, given
our topic, it seems apropos to "borrow" from someone else.
and Avoiding Plagiarism" - Excellent coverage of the issues and
strategies for prevention. (It does not cover methods of detection.)
Policy statement from the Council of Writing Program Administrators.
Strategies for Research Papers" - good overview of the how and why
students plagiarize and strategies for prevention and detection. Written
by an experienced college professor.
"Plagiarism in Colleges in USA"
- Extensive information specifically on legal aspects. Written by an
Paper Mills" - Lists over 250 web-based services that offer general
academic papers for sale. There is also a list of "Subject
Specific Paper Mills" with dozens more. From the library at Coastal
Cultural Aspects of Plagiarism
Clearly there is great danger
in stereotyping with this discussion, and it is paramount that each
suspected instance of plagiarism be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
However in reviewing the literature and discussing with faculty, the
tendency for some groups to commit plagiarism seems higher, based on a
cultural lack of understanding of the concept. The Western concept that
someone's ideas are treated as possessions simply doesn't seem rational to
these cultures. Given that outlook, plagiarism may be committed
"innocently." This emphasizes the need to clearly explain it to your
students, and perhaps to take it into account when confronting suspected
cases. This need for clarification may also necessitate plagiarism
handouts be translated into other languages, although that would be
There are, of course,
additional aspects that affect the issue, such as poor time management
skills, laziness, peer pressure ("Everybody else cheats." "Only suckers
work hard at school."), pressure from parents, increased availability of
content from the electronic resources, etc., but faculty usually already
have at least a basic understanding of these.
Quick Steps to Detecting Plagiarism
- Select a phrase from the
paper, no more than 10 words long -- because some search engines cannot
handle more than ten -- that contains somewhat unusual vocabulary.
- Go to the web search engine
Google (http://www.google.com) and search for these words. You
may want to enclose the words in quotation marks. The quotation marks
will search for that exact phrase. However if the plagiarist has changed
a word or two, the search will fail, so also try it without the quotation
marks. Try other phrases from the paper if the first one doesn't locate
anything. It's usually
a good idea to try words from the very beginning and very end because
some web sites that sell papers will include excerpts from these portions,
so a web search engine will find them even though the rest of the paper
Within Google, also try "Google Scholar" and "Google Book." These search the complete text of hundreds of thousands
of academic periodical articles and books. (Use the "more" link at the top of the basic Google screen to get to these.) Often
you will not get to see the complete article or book without paying, but it can let you identify a possible
source the student took material from. Talk to a librarian if you need help with these.
- If that fails, try at
least one other search engine, such as Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com) or Bing. (http://www.bing.com).
Remember: Web search
engines do not search within the "paper mill" web sites that
sell research papers. They also do not search the databases that
libraries subscribe to. The latter can be searched for the suspect
phrases, but it is laborious. Ask the librarians for assistance. They may
have a better chance of guessing which database something might have come
preventing plagiarism are covered in the "In-depth
Information" section above, but here are three basic things to
- We suggest you consider
including some message such as the following on your syllabus to assure
that students have been informed:
Plagiarism is the
use of others' words or ideas without acknowledgement. Passing off
the work of others as your own constitutes academic dishonesty and
can lead to punishments ranging up to dismissal from ACC. These policies
are given in ACC Administrative Rule 1.04.006. (http://www.austincc.edu/admrule/1.04.006.pdf). If you
are unsure what constitutes plagiarism, speak with your instructor.
Faculty are, ironically,
welcome to copy this exactly without attribution. Note the URL for the
Student Handbook may change every year, so be sure you have the current
You may also want to
include a paper copy of or a link to the library's guide for students "Citing Sources and
Plagiarism." (http://researchguides.austincc.edu/documen/), which
briefly covers the topic, and to our various guides on the
details of documentation, such as MLA, APA, etc. (http://library.austincc.edu/help/documentation.php).
Include a link to our interactive tutorial on Academic Honesty.
- Talk to your students
about it. Do not assume they understand what plagiarism is. Let them
know you that you look for it, you take it seriously, and what
punishments they may receive if plagiarism is found.
- Design assignments so
they make plagiarism more difficult. Some examples:
- Have fewer "choose any
topic" assignments and instead provide a list of
acceptable/recommended topics. Also have topics that are
- Use different formats
other than traditional research papers, such as annotated
- Require students turn in
an outline first, then require the paper follow the outline.
- Require copies of
sources cited in the paper be turned in.
- Consider using SafeAssign through Blackboard.
Consider having each student sign an "honor code" statement when he/she turns in the paper (probably having warned them they will be doing this) that the paper does not contain plagiarism.
Instructors can create SafeAssignments in Blackboard, so that student papers are automatically checked upon submission, or you can upload papers directly, without student involvement.
Studies show that the closer in time to a test or turning in a paper such a statement is done, the less cheating there is.
The ACC librarians are glad
to assist you with questions on plagiarism, especially with trying to
track down specific instances.
Also the Counseling staff have a role to play, since they handle disciplinary
hearings related to such accusations.
or questions about this page?
Contact Red Wassenich, RGC Library,
Terry Arzola, ACC Instructional Design
27 April 2015 rw
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