Designing Essay & Research Assignments

Academic Integrity, Essays & Research Papers

Because internet sources have made plagiarism almost effortless, plagiarism has become a vital concern at colleges and universities around the nation.

According to a recent report from the Office of Student Conduct (Almanac, 4 April 2008), plagiarism is the most reported academic integrity charge. In 2006-2007 of 74 reported cases 33 involved plagiarism; in 2005-2006 of 59 reported cases 31 involved plagiarism.

The good news is that papers and research projects that make plagiarism difficult are often assignments that engage students with the subject matter more deeply and are intellectually challenging.

Three key steps to take are:

  1. Help students understand the value of citation and the way scholarship develops. Clarify any confusion students might have (including when to cite and what constitutes acceptable paraphrase) and address these issues throughout the course.
  2. Assign topics that are new rather than reassigning the same topics year after year and try to find topics that are innovative and original. If you avoid topics that are frequently assigned students will have difficulty finding papers to plagiarize and, better yet, will see themselves as creating new ideas.
  3. Have students turn in their work in stages so that you can see that they are researching and drafting their work on their own. Faculty often ask to see proposals, outlines, bibliographies, and drafts before the final version. Assigning these stages also prevents plagiarism that can arise from last minute panic.

Advice from Penn Faculty & Staff

Ann Moyer, History Department
Val Ross, Critical Writing
Penn’s library site on dealing with documentation issues
Penn’s library site on how to design a research paper

Tools that Penn Provides for Detecting Plagiarism

Penn now offers faculty the ability to use Turnitin through Blackboard or Canvas Course Sites.

Useful sites from outside Penn

Virtual Salt (a site by Robert Harris who wrote the book “The Plagiarism Handbook”)
American Library Association (provides links to plagiarism detection sites as well as a number of free and paid “paper mills”)

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