Plagiarism prevention and detection

Plagiarism prevention and detection image

Instructors play a pivotal role in addressing plagiarism and upholding academic honesty. To encourage a culture of academic integrity, faculty must first recognize the signs of plagiarism and provide effective strategies for the prevention of it. However, not all students intentionally mean to commit plagiarism and simply do not understand how to properly cite information.

Therefore, prevention is crucial, and being able to detect plagiarism is key for when it occurs. Recognizing potential issues and using plagiarism software like Turnitin can aid in the detection of plagiarism (Heckler, Rice, & Bryan, 2013), but when it comes to the recognition of Generative AI written text, it can be more challenging.

Understanding and preventing plagiarism

Plagiarism is a multifaceted issue, and it can encompass many different types of behaviors that include copying and pasting material and unintentional plagiarism caused by a lack of understanding for how to properly cite material. It is crucial for faculty members to have a clear understanding of what constitutes plagiarism so they can address it appropriately. The University of Missouri System defines the different types of plagiarism in the Standard of Conduct.

Early intervention is the first line of defense in preventing plagiarism (Hopp & Speil, 2021). It is critical for instructors to communicate to students clear guidelines for citing sources and proper formatting. Resources should also be offered to students, like the University of Missouri library or writing center, so they can receive support.

Expectations should also be outlined so students understand the seriousness and real-life consequences of committing plagiarism. The assignments themselves can discourage plagiarism by having students develop projects that are more challenging for them to plagiarize (Insley, 2011). Using detection software can also aid in preventing plagiarism, since students know their work will be cross-checked.

  • Educate students: Start by providing clear expectations and educating students about what constitutes plagiarism, including examples of various types of plagiarism, such as direct copying, paraphrasing without citation, and self-plagiarism.

  • Promote proper citation: Teach students how to properly cite sources in various citation styles (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). Offer resources and tutorials on citation and referencing.

  • Scaffold the written assignments: Complete larger written assignments through a series of steps to check progress and correct mistakes along the way. This can include completing an annotated bibliography prior to starting a research paper.

  • Low stakes assignments: Have some of the written assignments be lower stakes, which focus on the writing process to be sure students understand how to cite sources properly.

  • Peer review and group work: Encourage peer review and group work, which can promote collaboration and reduce the temptation to plagiarize. Ensure that students understand the importance of their contribution to group projects.

  • Regular communication: Maintain open communication with students throughout the course. Regular feedback and discussions can help deter plagiarism and address any questions that have been raised.

  • Promote a culture of academic integrity: Encourage a culture of academic integrity within the institution. This can include discussions, workshops, and awareness campaigns on the importance of honesty and encourage originality.

  • Randomized written assignments and unique projects: If possible, create randomized essay prompts and unique project ideas to reduce the likelihood of students finding and copying from existing materials.

  • Source verification: Ask students to provide copies or links to the sources they use in their work. This can help verify that the sources exist and match the citations.

Detecting and addressing plagiarism

It is important to address plagiarism in higher education to maintain academic integrity and teach ethical research and writing practices. When plagiarism is detected, a fair and consistent approach is recommended.

Recognizing potential issues: A student copies and pastes text that seems different from their writing style. This could include text written by AI.

Use plagiarism detection software: Using detection software like Turnitin can flag possible issues with plagiarism, but being able to spot AI generated text may be more challenging since it does not show up on many detection software applications yet. For those where it does, it is not reliable, so looking for red flags is key.

Reviewing citations: Check the citations to be sure they are legitimate sources. Students using fake sources may also plagiarize the content. AI generated sources may also not exist.

  • Discuss consequences: Be transparent about the consequences of plagiarism. Let students know that there will be penalties for academic dishonesty, which could include failing the assignment, the course, or even expulsion, depending on institutional policies.

  • Plagiarism detection: Turnitin identifies instances of plagiarism, and here is a resource for students to interpret their Turnitin results. The results can also be shared with the student to use as a starting point for discussions.

  • Encourage self-reporting: Create an environment where students feel comfortable confessing to unintentional plagiarism. Emphasize the importance of learning from their mistakes and growing as scholars.

  • Meet with students: When plagiarism is detected, meet with the students in Zoom to discuss the issue and use it as a teaching opportunity. They may have misunderstood how to properly cite sources. Let them explain their understanding of plagiarism. This can help you to address any misunderstandings.

  • Offer a learning opportunity: Instead of immediately resorting to punitive measures, consider offering students a chance to correct their work and learn from the mistake. For example, you can ask them to rewrite the plagiarized sections, emphasizing the University of Missouri System’s proper citations.

  • Document the incident: Keep records of the plagiarism incident, including any correspondence with the student, the evidence, and the actions taken. This documentation may be necessary if the issue escalates.


Addressing plagiarism is an opportunity for both education and prevention. It's important to strike a balance between providing a learning opportunity for students to correct their behavior and applying appropriate consequences when necessary. Always follow the University of Missouri System institution's policies and guidelines when dealing with plagiarism cases.

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Heckler, N. C., Rice, M., & Bryan, C. H. (2013). Turnitin Systems: A Deterrent to Plagiarism in College Classrooms. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 45(3), 229–248.

Hopp, C., & Speil, A. (2021). How prevalent is plagiarism among college students? Anonymity preserving evidence from Austrian undergraduates. Accountability in Research: Policies & Quality Assurance, 28(3), 133–148.

Insley, R. (2011). Managing Plagiarism: A Preventative Approach. Business Communication Quarterly, 74(2), 183–187.

Created on: April 8, 2024