There are a variety of reasons why some students engage in plagiarism, cheating, or other types of academic misconduct. These reasons include: availability of opportunities for cheating; high stakes attached to an assignment; fear of failure; low expectation of success; weak research and writing skills; poor time-management; not adequately interested in and/or motivated by, the course; and focus on grades rather than learning as the primary motivation or goal.
The learning and teaching environment is key to reducing incentives as well as opportunities for academic dishonesty. Course instructors have important roles to play in creating a learning and teaching environment that develops and maintains a culture of academic integrity.
The following recommendations aim to prevent incentives and opportunities for student cheating, plagiarism, and other types of dishonest academic conduct. Some of these recommendations apply more to certain types of assignments than others, while some recommendations can be adopted and implemented by course instructors in all courses. These recommendations are intended to help create and maintain a culture of academic integrity.
- Include in your syllabus the most relevant section of the University’s Student Academic Conduct Policy (Academic Calendar) and go over the policy with your students on the first day of class.
- The Student Academic Conduct Policy allows course instructors some flexibility in some areas; e.g., whether to allow collaboration with other students; whether to use sources outside the course material; how to assign or evaluate group work. Your syllabus and/or assignment guidelines should clearly explain what your course-specific policy and expectations are. Make sure that your course-specific policy is in alignment with University policy.
- Provide students with resources or direct them to resources that teach how to avoid plagiarism and how to cite sources properly (e.g., the University library’s libguides http://uregina.libguides.com/sb.php?subject_id=116180). Make sure that you refer to these sources in class and in communications with students because simply including information about sources in your syllabus / guidelines will not be effective.
- It is also advisable that you review with your students what plagiarism is; when citation is required; and why citing sources properly is important. If you require a particular citation style (such as APA, MLA, or Chicago), you should clearly state it in your syllabus / assignment guidelines.
- It is also important to increase student awareness of other relevant services offered by the University, more particularly writing help and workshops available through the Student Success Centre (SSC).
- You may also invite SSC and Library staff to talk to your class about plagiarism, proper citation, successful essay writing strategies and similar relevant topics.
- Regularly remind your students about academic integrity, especially before each major assignment.
- You may ask your students to sign a pledge to observe the principles of academic honesty when completing their assignment.
- If you use a plagiarism detection software such as Turnitin, it is important to demonstrate to your students how you will use the software because students often do not know how to interpret the originality report produced by Turnitin. You should also clarify whether you will allow students to test their assignments using the software before final submission.
- Show examples in class of past papers that used sources appropriately or inappropriately or that were clearly plagiarized.
- High-stake assignments create incentives to cheat. The greater the weight assigned to an assignment in a course, the greater the incentive for cheating. Thus, a variety of assignments with low weight would help reduce incentives for cheating.
- Provide students with opportunities to practice on a particular type of assignment or assignment format before asking them to complete that type of assignment carrying a significant weight (e.g., multiple choice exams vs. long essay exams).
- Make sure that students have adequate opportunities for assessing their strengths and weaknesses in the course early in the semester.
- Design your assignments to be integral to how students learn in the course (rather than just as a mechanism for checking whether they have done an acceptable amount of homework)
- Use different essay / project topics or exam questions when you teach the class again.
- Design essay / project topics that incorporate aspects that are unique to your way of teaching the course. You may use foundational or classic topics in the discipline for in-class assignments.
- Require students to incorporate course material (assigned readings, lectures, class discussions etc.) into their papers or projects, rather than using sources outside the class material.
- Set assignment questions / topics that encourage students to formulate their own ideas and provide some original input rather than just to synthesize or summarize existing information.
- Require students to get your prior approval for their essay / project topics if you do not provide them with a list of topics to choose from.
- Consider restricting the range of acceptable sources (e.g., to published books and peer-reviewed journals); and assist students in finding appropriate materials (or at least in identifying materials that are inappropriate or an insufficient basis for writing a paper or completing a project)
- Structure your assignments so that students are incentivized to begin preparing early on in the course; for example, you may ask students to submit a proposal, and then, an annotated bibliography, which are worth a certain portion of the assignment grade.
- Allow students the opportunity to resubmit their essay / project assignments after getting feedback from you. The practice of submitting multiple times is usually time-consuming, but it provides students with an important opportunity to learn from mistakes and lowers the stakes attached to the assignment.
- Create multiple versions of an exam by changing the order of questions and distribute the different versions to students sitting next to each other. You may also use a seating plan in conjunction with the different versions of the exam.
- Escort students for washroom breaks. Record the name of the student, time in, time out, and only allow one student out of the classroom at a time.
- Make sure that you have enough exam invigilators especially for high stake exams and exams in large classes.
- Review University exam regulations with your students and observe all applicable ones during both midterm and final exams. (The University exam regulations are outlined in the Academic Calendars. The Registrar’s webpage also provides very helpful resources for course instructors and exam invigilators. It is recommended that you attend one of the exam invigilation workshops delivered annually by the Registrar. https://www.uregina.ca/student/registrar/faculty-staff/exam-resources.html).
- Develop and maintain a personal reputation that you uphold the principle of academic integrity and will not tolerate academic dishonesty. Make students aware that you are familiar with various ways of cheating on assignments and exams. In this vein, model the way by providing proper citations in your lectures and teaching materials.
Sources used / consulted:
James M. Lang Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty, Harvard University Press, 2013.
Margaret Procter, “Deterring Plagiarism: Some Strategies” https://writing.utoronto.ca/teaching-resources/deterring-plagiarism/
Associate Deans (Academic) Group, University of Regina