It is best to deal with plagiarism before it occurs rather than after the fact. Many experts recommend the following in preventing plagiarism:
- Educate yourself on the issue. Read on the topic, learn to surf the Web, visit Web sites that offer detection services, become aware of the various term paper mills on the Internet.
- Be upfront with your students about plagiarism. Help them understand what it is and what your expectations are. Instruct them in the appropriate use of information found on the Internet. Teach them the proper way to document sources and why it is important to do so. Tell them you are aware of the paper mills and the ways the Internet is being used to plagiarize and that you will be checking. Let them know the penalties for deliberate plagiarism.
- Make written assignments that are unique and draw on the specifics of the class. General term paper topics ("Write a paper on abortion.") lend themselves to easy plagiarism. Papers that draw on class activities or personal experiences are much more difficult to plagiarize. Have in-class written assignments that will give you samples of student writing to compare with more formal term papers.
If you think someone has plagiarized, there are several steps you can take to check:
- Use a general Internet search engine, such as Google or others, to search keywords or phrases from the suspect paper. Oftentimes a student who plagiarizes makes little, if any, change to the content, so keyword or phrase searching might lead you to the source that was plagiarized.
- Require the student to turn in copies of his sources.
- Use a plagiarism detection service such as Turnitin to check on a suspect paper.