Academic dishonesty is not a new problem, but the digital age has certainly complicated it and made plagiarism easier than ever. This guide will explore some of the attitudes and circumstances that lead students into plagiarizing sources as well as recommend actions to combat and prevent it.


Having a handle on the elements and attitudes that may lead to plagiarism can help us identify preventive measures.

Establish Clear Expectations

Let students know how you define academic integrity and what that looks like for your assignments in particular, using specific examples of the type of behaviors you hope to see. For students who are confused about what may constitute plagiarism, this can be a real eye opener.

Consider adding a statement about academic integrity or plagiarism to your syllabus. 

The time you take and the manner in which you talk about academic integrity sets a tone and lets students know that you value the scholarly process, their work, and academic integrity. You may even consider leading an open discussion on the topic so that you can rectify and misconceptions or questions that may linger.

View an example of a letter Bill Taylor, a political science professor, gives his students at the beginning of his courses.

Design Assignments with Plagiarism Prevention in Mind

Scaffold student literature searches by inviting a librarian to provide instruction. Depending on your preferences, instruction could be as easy as including an online tutorial about database searching or a full in-person session that includes how literature searches fit into the scholarly process and an introduction to citing.

Ask students to turn in a list or an annotated bibliography of their sources before the final written assignment is due.

Require students to turn in one or two drafts along the way. Drafts are a perfect opportunity to introduce peer editing. This worksheet from Harvard’s Derek Bok Center is a great tool you can use to help your students with this process.

Use Turn-It-In, the plagiarism detection application in D2L.  You can either recommend that students run their papers through themselves before submitting them, or professors can let students know they’ll be using it on all submitted work.


The disorganized student’s best friend, also not such a bad pal for the students who aren’t up to speed with the mechanics of citing. Encourage your students to learn and use it by inserting links and tutorials into your course in D2L or by inviting a librarian in for an in-class session.

Program/Department Changes

  • Ensure students are introduced to the Academic Integrity Policy early on, perhaps in orientation. Ideally the introduction would be accompanied by a discussion.
  • Include an academic integrity statement on every syllabus.
  • Examine program curricula to ensure a place for academic integrity and to pinpoint the courses where it will be discussed
  • Provide resources for students to help them avoid common traps like time mismanagement, disorganization, and ignorance. Then, more importantly, encourage them to exploit those resources.


Do you suspect one of your students of plagiarism? You’ll want to find evidence before confronting the student. Having samples of the students past writing can be helpful, but it is even better if you can find the plagiarised source.

Google - type a suspect phrase into Google. Since many students get their sources here, it’s often very revealing.

TurnItIn - try running the student’s paper through this online plagiarism detection application

Library Databases - some library databases allow you to search the full-text of articles.  Ask the Institute Librarian for assistance if you’d like.

Academic and Disciplinary Action

The Institute’s procedure for initiating disciplinary action in cases of academic dishonesty and other misconduct.

Further Reading

Hamilton, M., & Richardson, J. (2007). An academic integrity approach to learning and assessment design. Journal of Learning Design, 2(1), 37-51. Retrieved from

International Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University

See also: Assess Student Learning: Academic Integrity.


Burnett, S. (2002, July 8). Dishonor & distrust: Student plagiarism is now as easy as pointing and clicking. What's a professor to do? Community College Week, 14(24), 6-8.

Dawson, J. (2004). Plagiarism: What’s really going on. Proceedings of the 13th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. Retrieved from

Kraus, J. (2002). Rethinking plagiarism: What our students are telling us when they cheat. Issues in Writing, 13(1), 80-95.

Park, C. (2003). In other (people's) words: Plagiarism by university students--literature and lessons. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 28(5), 471-488.

Wang, Y. (2008). University student online plagiarism. International Journal on ELearning, 7(4), 743-758.

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