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Teach Referencing and Quoting to Avoid Plagiarism in the Classroom

written by: Peter Boysen • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/20/2014

Recognizing plagiarism is often a lot easier for teachers than it is for students. These tips will cut down on the instances of academic dishonesty in your classroom.

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    Teaching Citation Sheets

    In elementary school, the idea of the research paper has very little to do with citations and footnotes. As students transition into middle English Language Arts school, however, the ability to reference not only quotations and paraphrasing in the body of the paper but also to list those sources at the end of that paper is a key element of instruction. You can start by giving students a worksheet that breaks down each piece of information required in a bibliography, such as the author's name, the year of publication, the name of the title, and any URL for a web-based site.

    Students can now go through one of each type of source, recording the necessary information on the worksheet provided. At the end of this process, you can send students to a website like the Son of Citation Machine. The Son of Citation Machine has the perfect rationale against plagiarizing on the front page of the website. Use it to introduce your lessons on plagiarism.

    On the site, students can choose MLA or APA format, although MLA is much more common in middle schools and high schools. The website will take all of that information and put it in the correct format.

    Once your students have found their sources for this paper, have them begin to turn in the citation worksheet. Check the information in each field to ensure that students have the right idea and are recording the correct information. Remind students that every book, magazine article, newspaper article and website that contains information that they used in their research must appear on this page.

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    Teaching In-Paper Citations

    First of all, if your student's paper has another person's words, verbatim, and your student has not put quotation marks around the speech, we're looking at an instance of plagiarism. It's possible to write a paper in your own words and still commit plagiarism.

    Here's a good rule of thumb: Every fact that your student does not know must have come from somewhere, and so it's important to document the source. A quality paper will not simply regurgitate one source, paragraph after paragraph. Instead, student writers should weave in facts from several different sources. This means that, every few sentences at least; you'll need a parenthetical citation. In MLA format, this takes the form of (Author's Last Name, Page Number).

    If the citation is related to a word-for-word quotation from your source, the student should put quotation marks around that direct use of text. For example, the student might write: Larry thought that Moe was an "incredibly creative bully" during their years playing the Three Stooges (Barnard, 221). If the student uses an entire sentence as a quotation, the ending quotation mark should come before the page number in parentheses, and the period should come after the parentheses.

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    Your Last Resort: Catching Them in the Act

    After you've presented your unit on plagiarism and proper referencing, you're still going to have kids who break the rules--or at least bend them. Some of them won't have listened to you, while others just won't have wanted to do the work required and will have resorted to a shortcut the night before (or even the next morning) the paper is due.

    The slow way to track proper use of references is to run a check on one or more of the citations your student places in his or her essay. If it's an Internet source, you'll just need to click on the URL provided in the reference list and see if it takes you to a page that has the information that your student says is there. If it's a book or magazine, your legwork will be a little more laborious, but if you've restricted your students' research to the school library, the print source for the information should be close at hand. Your librarian may have placed all of the relevant materials on a rolling cart for your students to pursue as they conduct research; if that's the case, reviewing one footnote for each paper won't be too burdensome.

    There is a quicker way that catches copying and pasting. There are several different websites where you can run through text through a scanner that will check for plagiarism. If you come across a sentence or two in a paper from one of your students that have the flair of a graduate student's style, you can copy and paste that sentence into your search engine window, put quotation marks around it, and search. If your student has plagiarized from a website, you'll get some search results with the text you input--and the text around your highlighted quote may also appear there as well.

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    Our Resources for Teachers

    Here you will find articles on our site related to plagiarism for you to use.

    About Turnitin.com by Trent Lorcher

    Types of Plagiarism by Robin Broyles

    A Guide that Students Can Understand on Plagiarism by "StudyExpert"