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How to Teach Freshman Students Avoid Plagiarism

How many times have you received student work that was quite suspicious? I mean, you look through them and they seem fine and well written, but you have this gut feeling that something isn’t quite right. Sometimes it’s obvious when a work has been copied, especially when it’s too perfect or highbrow for a freshman to have produced it. And sometimes you just suspect there’s something wrong with the work without any clear indications.

What is the problem?

The plagiarism issue worried me for a while. Students have always been cheating, and teachers for their part have tried various ways to mend this problem, but have failed. Cheating is flourishing among freshman students, and everyone seems to just accept it as a common fact. Now I am in the habit of using some online tools when checking student work. Do you know what made me start using them?

I was once grading a particular student assignment that was very good, and I gave it the highest grade possible. As it turned out, I later discovered it had been copied from an essay writing service, but it was too late to do anything about it. It doesn’t matter now, though, because I have found my own way to battle plagiarism.

What did I do?

I had firm intentions to stop cheating in my classes and tried different methods. I checked those websites, popular among students, where they download already written essays. I tried inserting parts of their works into the search bar of search engines. Every time I found coincidences and wrote “Plagiarized” with a red pencil on my student works. But the problem was that I was spending way too much time checking homework assignments than before – sometimes two to three times more. It wasn’t sustainable. That’s when I realized what I needed to do: I needed to automate checking.

What can I recommend?

I tried a number of different kinds of software and chose Unplag. It’s an online plagiarism checker that detects if the work in question has text similarities to documents out on the Internet or among the files uploaded to one’s Unplag account. There are lots of different features to like about this software.

For example, a huge plus is that you can check many works at once. You just upload essays of all your students and press “Check for Plagiarism.” That’s it! The check can be performed in a background mode while you, for example, check your email or social media accounts.

The other helpful tool was ThinkBinder. It’s great for brainstorming, organizing group discussions, asking and answering questions, and helping each other. Collaboration with students is possible in real time, and everyone has a chance to resolve one’s matter promptly. Students know that they can contact me and their classmates after school and receive a bit of advice or some feedback regarding their writing before they submit it. I guess it helps them be more unique and confident and, of course, avoid a number of mistakes.

Also, I’ve recommended that my freshman students use a range of reliable sources to make sure they write everything correctly.  I believe these online libraries are going to be of great assistance to students: OneLook (dictionary search), Planet eBook (classic literature), The Free Library, and Open Library.

What else can you do?

Additionally, I had a long conversation with my students about the plagiarism issue and explained why it’s wrong and how it can damage their reputation. Yes, I’ve destroyed their copy-and-paste plans and forced them to be original. Some time has passed, and now they understand there’s nothing left to do but put their effort into writing unique works. Now I give them high grades because they write amazing works where I hear their own voice, not a plagiarized one. It was worth the effort.

This is how I’ve knocked plagiarism out of my classroom. I’m happy to help you get rid of this parasite as well, so don’t hesitate to leave comments and ask me anything regarding the plagiarism issue and how to work with a plagiarism checker. It’s super easy and totally worth it.

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