Teach your students how to plagiarize

It can be difficult for students to understand that plagiarism can come in forms other than deliberately copying someone else’s work. Jack Dougherty suggests a clever technique for introducing students to the various forms of plagiarism: give them an assignment where they must plagiarize.

Give your students a paragraph or two from a published text, along with the passage’s citation details. For each of the following instructions, the students must write 1-2 sentences.

“1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.”  -DG


Source: Jack Dougherty. “Avoiding Plagiarism Exercise.” Educ 300: Education Reform, Past and Present. Trinity College. 18 February 2013. Web. 20 August 2013. http://commons.trincoll.edu/edreform/assignments/avoiding-plagiarism-exercise/

After the assignment, a meta-assignment

James Clements, American University of Dubai 

When teaching Creative Non-Fiction, one of the challenges is helping students understand the difficulties of "telling the truth" in narrative prose. As the "truth" behind another author's writing is not accessible to the reader, it can be difficult for a student to really understand the craft involved in shaping a personal experience into a work of non-fiction. To help with this, I often give a two-part assignment: First, I ask the students to write a piece of creative non-fiction themselves, usually on a general but significant topic, such as "The Day That Changed My Life Forever." Once I've collected this assignment, I tell them that the piece will not be marked, as the second part is the "real" assignment. In this second part, I ask them to write an essay in which they should reflect on the decisions they made while writing the first part. I include the following list of questions they might consider:

• Why did you choose to tell the story in this way? Could you have told it in a different way?

• Did you know the “meaning” of the story before you started writing, or did it only become clear during the process? 

• Did you change, exaggerate, or remove anything to make it fit your narrative? If so, why? And what are the larger consequences of these changes?

• If other people appear in your narrative, how do you think they would feel about the way they’ve been depicted? How do you feel about their depiction? In what ways are they distorted or under-represented, and what was the reason for this?

• Do you feel that the narrative truthfully communicates your experience? If so, what is it about the form that communicates the essence of the experience? If not, what feels false about the narrative?

• Do you feel you were honest in writing your narrative? If not, why do you think this is?

• How did it feel to write the story down? Did it make you uncomfortable? Did it feel satisfying? Did it help you “make sense” of the event?

• Did you have any issues with your memory? If so, what did you do about the gaps in your memory when writing?

Students usually respond very positively to this assignment, and it gives them a new way to approach the remainder of the readings on the syllabus.


Use Bloom's taxonomy to set assignment objectives

David Royse points his readers to a potentially useful set of guidelines for thinking about what you want to accomplish with your assignments. He quotes from Benjamin Bloom, whose "widely heralded set of educational objectives [...] may provide you with a useful starting place to begin thinking about the assignments you require." 

"Bloom's Cognitive Taxonomy

(Arranged from concrete to abstract and simple to complex levels)

Knowledge  (remembering factual materials): Students must remember, memorize, recognize, describe, and recall. Sample verbs that would be used: define, describe, list, name, cite, recall, state, identify.

Comprehension  (grasping the meaning of materials): Students must interpret, describe, and explain knowledge. Sample verbs that would be used: discuss, explain, interpret, extrapolate, arrange, sort, classify.

Application  (problem solving):   Students must apply facts, rules, and principles to produce some result. Sample verbs that would be used: apply, illustrate, sketch, solve, demonstrate, use.

Analysis  (an understanding of the structure and components of knowledge): Students must be able to break down knowledge and show relationships among the parts. Sample verbs that would be used: analyze, appraise, categorize, contrast, criticize, distinguish, examine, differentiate, compare.

Synthesis  (creating a unique, original product; combining ideas to form a new whole): Students must bring together parts and components of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for new situations. Sample verbs that would be used: compose, create, construct, formulate, propose, plan, design, organize, prescribe.

Evaluation  (making value decisions about issues; resolving controversies): Students must make judgments about the value of materials for given purposes. Sample verbs that would be used: appraise, argue, assess, attack, compare, evaluate, predict, support, defend, recommend."  -DG

Source: David Royse. Teaching Tips for College and University Instructors: A Practical Guide. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2001. 42-43. Benjamin Bloom. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Vol. 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay, 1956.