Inspiring Your Students to Write, Cite, and Avoid Plagiarism

Students writing on notebook at desk

There may be no more serious issue for a student than facing an academic conduct hearing because of plagiarism. This certainly is not part of the expected college experience for students or parents. Faculty, however, often struggle with creating approaches that focus on why and how academic writing and the associated documenting guidelines enhance a student’s ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas.

Rather than focusing first on the negative impacts of not implementing citation guidelines, Moore (2019) confirms students with limited experiences in research writing at the college level will often make mistakes in documentation and attribution. She suggests four strategies to detect writing issues, avoid academic conduct issues, and help improve the student’s ability to avoid recurring mistakes by using “plagiarize-proof” assignments that: 1) evaluate your expectations for student research literacy, 2) include unique or individualized elements into assignments, 3) require an annotated bibliography before the assignment due date, and 4) collect stages in writing development.

Students may also lack confidence in attempting to implement the expected academic guidelines. Fernsten and Reda (2011) claim examining classroom practices that help challenge negative writer identity, especially in relation to formal academic discourses, may create greater student confidence to move through the multiple literacy tasks needed for academic research writing.

Research offered by Monceaux (2015) also supports a simpler strategy by: 1) engaging students in active research, 2) scaffolding the student’s accurate review of articles for pertinent source material, and 3) integrating that material into the student’s work to hone research and analysis skills, bolster writer confidence, and avoid plagiarism.

Too often a student’s first exposure to understanding and learning how to implement academic writing guidelines is associated with a complex research paper. Clearly, a much simpler approach is needed to avoid frustration, disengagement, or the inevitable forfeiture of the points associated with proper formatting on grading rubrics.

Considering the points presented and in conjunction with my previous article about creating environments that should focus on the ability of students to demonstrate their level of understanding for the topics posed rather than focusing on just the grades, I offer this simplistic but effective framework.

I ask students to consider an approach to research writing that demonstrates their level of knowledge for the topic, theory, or process posed or that they choose to undertake. The level of knowledge is directly related to their commitment to the depth in which they are willing to explore.

Step 1: Define

Define, using credible sources, the terminology within the discipline being offered or posed. Sometimes students do not understand the assignment instructions or the topics we ask them to explore. Skipping this step can lead the student to write too broadly and off topic. Using credible sources is key. Rather than using the dictionary or Wikipedia, we can guide students to use experts in the field of study who are equipped to offer viewpoints and discussions needed to fully understand the foundational elements.

Step 2: Discuss

Discuss what the experts think about these topics. Talk about this in class. Ask questions like: Why do you think that? Who said that? Where did that idea come from? Then, start to introduce citing articles, textbooks, associations, or credible website sources. Suggest the use of visual enhancements such as charts, graphs, tables, figures, pictures, and videos to support written responses. The use of data from an original source, especially numbers, demonstrates a higher depth of knowledge.

Step 3: Apply

Directly apply what credible experts say by quoting or paraphrasing and using in-text citations. Begin a reference list. Often students try to complete a reference list after they write, or only provide a list without in-text citations. As suggested in the research, this could be completed as an early assignment, offering a few paragraphs from what will be part of the completed research paper.

Step 4: Conclude

Create a conclusion to your discussion or argument that supports, rejects, or summarizes the main points the experts offer, and include your opinion [synthesis] of the need, value, or application of the topic to create, improve, or avoid the opposite or negative results. Often, students do not offer a conclusion if not asked to do so. Additionally, some students may not understand the connection between the introduction of a written assignment and its potential use as an effective method to begin a conclusion. You might offer questions for students to use as a guide in the conclusion especially if the research paper is assigned in sections for the purpose of interrelated topics.

Examples:
• What happens if the processes and theories from the area of study are not implemented?
• What happens if the processes and theories from the area of study are implemented extraordinarily well?

Learning, understanding, and useful implementation of real-world applications can be realized through the depth of exploration and reflection students and faculty are willing to undertake together.

The ability for students to accept academic writing guidelines is no different than any other concept faculty try to teach. Being able to prepare students for this task will take careful thought and is not a singular area of responsibility, but rather an institutional commitment. When working with students, consider progress versus perfection, especially with early submission attempts.


Matthew J. Samel holds a PhD in organization and management with a specialization in human resources. His focus of study is in organizational culture and person-organization fit (P-O fit). Samel teaches in the College of Hospitality Management’s Center for food & beverage management. Samel is an associate member of the Club Management Association of America (CMAA), Academy of Management, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and is a Certified Food Manager Professional (FMP – NRA), Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE- AHLEI), and a Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources® (SPHR®). In addition to teaching, he is the faculty advisor to the student CMAA chapter, where he assists students in obtaining scholarships, securing employment and internships, and attending the CMAA Student Education and World Conference on Club Management. He has lectured internationally at the Escola Superior de Hotelaria e Tourismo in Estoril, Portugal.

References
Alex Monceaux. Ending Plagiarism: Using Technology to Scaffold Article Review and Effective Source Material Integration into Student’s Work. American Journal of Educational Research. 2015; 3(6):736-741. doi: 10.12691/education-3-6-11.

Linda A. Fernsten & Mary Reda (2011) Helping students meet the challenges of academic writing, Teaching in Higher Education, 16:2, 171-182, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2010.507306.

Moore, C. (2019, July 17). Plagiarize-proof your writing assignments: Faculty focus. Faculty Focus Higher Ed Teaching & Learning. Retrieved November 19, 2022, from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/plagiarize-proof-writing-assignments/