The students are back in class. So begins another year of fostering an ethical research climate in your library and school. Plagiarism is problem at all levels of the educational cycle. Barry Gilmore, in his useful book entitled Plagiarism: Why It Happens. How to Prevent It offers the following tips to encourage originality in writing (page 101-102):
1. Specify the sources: provide students guidance in determining what are appropriate types of sources for their projects.
2. Require source proof: this would include both the source document and the notes the student developed from the source. (Be sure to warn students to NOT rip source documents from library books and journals!)
3. Build collaboration into the process: have students work in teams to develop their resources and papers.
4. Color code sentences by type: as an exercise, have students highlight different portions of their paper, based on sections written by them, sections based on other sources, and direct quotes. (This is easily done in word processing packages such as Word.)
5. Specify an audience: have the student identify a target audience for their work and discuss how publications (newspapers, trade journals, research journals) target their audiences.
6. Readjust the stakes: break the writing process down into its component parts—thesis statement, outline, bibliography, etc… Base the grade on each part and not just on the finished product.
7. Require specific components: consider specifying the number of quotes allowed, the types of sentences to be included, etc…
8. Involve peer editing: allow students to share ideas and approaches by incorporating a peer-review process.
9. Break the process into pieces: research has consistently shown that breaking down the writing process into smaller pieces significantly reduces the likelihood of plagiarism.
10. Require current sources: existing essays on the web often contain dated material; requiring current sources insures the student must consult newer materials.
Librarians can play a vital role in building up the ethical and effective research habits of your students. Look for additional suggestions in the months to come—or share your own in the comments section!