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Identifying and Dealing with Plagiarism

Ways to identify plagiarism in student writing.

Be suspicious if…

1. A student's writing on a particular assignment is vastly improved over his or her previous work in the class (The Miracle Cure).

2. A student's writing style on a particular essay seems more typical of a professional writer or a graduate student than of a community college student.

3. A student deals with issues or aspects of an issue that you did not discuss in class or that were not part of assigned in-class readings.

4. A student's rough draft contains no cross outs or corrections.

Remember, don't be fooled by a few grammar errors.  Everyone makes a few careless mistakes when copying something.  Also, many essays available on the Internet are student essays that contain some errors.


If you suspect plagiarism, you have several options…

1. You can write a comment on the essay stating that you suspect the student of plagiarizing and see if the student confronts you about it.

2. You can try to find what source the student used.  Attaching a photocopy or printout of the essay that was plagiarized can be very effective in avoiding any false protestations of innocence on the part of the student.


Where are students most likely to find information, essays, articles, etc. to plagiarize?

1. The library.  Upside:  There is much professionally written information, and it takes extra work for the teacher to investigate the suspected plagiarism.  Downside:  Since the information is professionally written, information plagiarized from library sources is usually quite obvious.  Also, it takes work for the student to search for information on the topic.

2. The Internet.  Upside:  There are many web sites full of essays written by both professionals and students, and many offer these essays for free.  One is able to download or cut-and-paste these essays without leaving the comfort of home.  Downside:  Many of the essays are only available for a hefty fee ($9.95 a page in some cases).  There is no guarantee about the quality or accuracy of information in these essays.  Also, if the student is able to find an essay easily, so is the teacher. 

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