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How to Teach Research Papers - Avoiding Plagiarism

Updated on January 17, 2013

What is Plagiarism?

In a day when information is copied and forwarded regularly, plagiarism may seem to some like a foreign concept. We need to stress to our students that it is a very real thing and the act of plagiarizing carries heavy consequences.

On all of the papers I pass out regarding the research paper,I make sure to include


so that my students know that it is a big deal to me and should be to them. It must be explained to them over and over and over that any use of another person's thoughts, ideas and writing without properly citing the source is plagiarism. I also make sure I explain the consequences, that plagiarism in my class means a 0 on the assignment, a parental notification, and a referral to the principal. In college it could mean your degree is revoked or you are expelled. In life, plagiarism could ruin your reputation and your finances. It's a big deal to cite where you get your information from.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

After I am done scaring my students about the consequences of plagiarism, I make sure to arm them with the tools to make sure that they will not plagiarize their work. There are a few simple steps that can help one to avoid plagiarizing their research paper.

  1. Always use Bibliography (Source) Cards - Being meticulous about copying down citations as you take notes helps to ensure that each note is connected to its source. This can even be done digitally in a Word document as long as note cards are somehow systematically connected.
  2. Cite as you Write - Remind students to include citations immediately after they use a source. If they wait until the end to try to go back and insert their sources, the opportunity for error increases.
  3. Understand Audience - Knowing what to cite means that you know your audience. Have students consider commonalities among their intended audience to determine what might be considered common knowledge and what might not be. Anything that isn't considered common knowledge needs to be cited.
  4. Take Care with Paraphrasing - So often I see students rewriting the information from their resource, changing a word here and there, inserting new transitions, playing with punctuation and coming out with an almost exact replica of the original text. This is plagiarism. Students need to take the information, the main points and the details presented and put it into their own words.


The Best Way to Teach Students to Avoid Plagiarism

When it comes down to it, the very best way to teach students how to avoid plagiarism is to model for them the proper way to execute each step in the research process. Showing them how to document citations from the note-taking stage to mini lessons on parenthetical citation to practice with paraphrasing and summarizing will all help to give students the tools they need to avoid plagiarizing their writing.

After schooling students on plagiarism, the next step in the process is Selecting a Topic.


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