On Plagiarism ~ Responsible Resource Use ~


We all know that:

using resources can spur students' thinking and substantiate their ideas.
attributing ideas to their various sources not only honours the sources, but also serves to strengthen the student's composition (by showing that a student is well read on the subject under discussion).
inappropriate resource use or improperly cited resources, however, constitutes plagiarism.
you, as their teacher, will support students in using and citing resources responsibly.

Here are some suggestions for supporting responsible use of resources in and outside of your classroom:

Make it clear to students that you value their ideas, and will support them in developing and refining their ideas and writing skills.
  • Place this in writing.


  • By promoting a classroom environment that honours the contributions of each student, you are also encouraging students to become curious about and appreciative of others' ideas--thus promoting a stance more likely to embrace intellectual honesty.


  • Early in the course, work with students to set writing goals, so they and you clearly know the types of skills that they will be developing.  (This not only shows them that you are supporting them individually, but also provides a set of guidelines that impact their work.)


Shape students' research/writing processes and explorations ahead of time.
  • Provide students with samples (e.g. a sample essay, lab report, or position paper written by a student) ahead of time so they can better understand what they are trying to do.


  • In prior class activities, model for students the actual research process with which they will be engaged.  When students work independently, provide support by discussing how to write, including stages of the writing process.


  • In prior class activities, model for students the actual research process with which they will be engaged:
    • examining existing knowledge, to constructing questions to guide inquiry
    • creating a plan for inquiry
    • gathering information from potential sources
    • making inferences from those sources
    • seeing connections among sources and one's own ideas
    • assimilating ideas to gain a broader perspective
    • drawing conclusions from the whole picture
    • developing new ideas and further questions as a result of reading, discussion, and reflection.


  • Provide them with a starter page, such as a 2Learn.ca 'NetSteps™ page to guide their research; in an assignment, you might require them to make reference to a specific number (let's say, three, for example) resources from this page in their work.


  • Compile curricular-focused 'NetSteps™ links of online resources for them ahead of time, modelling what to look for in determining a site's authenticity, quality, and usefulness.
Practice summarizing, paraphrasing, and citing resources ahead of time.


Practise recording notes about resources; once this process becomes more familiar to them, they'll be less tempted to copy resources directly.


Construct assignments that minimize plagiarism opportunities.  
  • Avoid generic topics in favor of topics "tweaked" to fit the context of your class discussions.


  • Involve students in creating topics collaboratively in class--which also provides students with a chance to synthesize ideas in class discussion before committing thoughts to paper.


Provide students with both resource and human support to help them with their writing.
  • Writing Centre handouts, links to websites examining types of writing, samples of well-integrated resources, sample bibliography, etc.


  • Support is human as well--keep the lines of communication open in your classroom:  let your students understand that you are ready and willing to answer their questions about the assignment.


  • Make use of other human resources in your school that can help you help your students, such as peer tutoring services.
Provide class time for students to complete their work.  
  • Here is just one example....
    • Provide three hour-long periods
    • Allow students to bring in a page of notes and bibliography on the first day. No other notes can be brought in on subsequent days.  
    • Collect student work at the end of each period.  
    • Ensure they don't bring in new materials by stamping their pages at the end of each period.
Familiarize yourself with your students' writing.
  • Involve students in goal-setting activities early in the course to know what specific skills are being focused upon in their developing writing.


  • Keep writing samples on hand, to provide indicators of students' developing abilities.


  • Ensure that students keep copies of all their work in process.  This is useful, of course, not just in case work becomes suspect, but, more importantly, so you can track and communicate student growth with assignments and over the course term.


Model that you are familiar with the 'Net - a very effective strategy .
  • In other situations, show how easy it can be to locate text strings on the 'Net by submitting them to reputable search engines.  Model how style can be authenticated online. Students become less likely to plagiarize when they sense your comfort with the technology.


  • A demonstration of 2Learn.ca's Plagiarism Sleuth can be effective.
Model how ethical and responsible 'Net use by everyone shapes a worthwhile online community.
  • Promote an awareness of the importance of honouring intellectual property:  Model and involve students in responsible citation of resources.  Discuss with students the emphasis upon intellectual honesty of academic scholarship at all levels.


  • When possible, communicate with the authors of web resources to gain permission to use their work.  Model for students how dialogue with authors of online resources can enrich learning.


  • Through creating online resources by, for and with students, demonstrate that by sharing our own ideas to the web we can all become part of this dynamic new community of the Internet.


  • Show students that as owners of our own work on the 'Net we can share it with others with the expectation that they also will honour our work as we honour theirs.
Inform students that plagiarism is a serious offense in your classroom.
  • Place this in writing in whatever form is most appropriate for your students' age level.