Academic Integrity

Deterring Plagiarism

Design your course and assessment tasks to promote learning and to make plagiarism difficult and less rewarding for students

Students may plagiarise deliberately or inadvertently and strategies to deter plagiarism depend on the underlying causes. Click for tips on:

Tips on avoiding inadvertent plagiarism:

  • Educate your students about plagiarism. This means informing students repeatedly. Relying on notes in a course handbook is generally insufficient for students who may be overwhelmed by the amount of new information they are expected to absorb at the start of a new course
  • Provide a hands-on practice session on defining, identifying, and avoiding plagiarism
  • Provide information on essay writing, particularly for students early in their academic careers, emphasising when and how to reference
  • Emphasise the importance of good note-taking e.g.
    • head each page with the full bibliographical details of the source
    • Clearly separate or identify your own summary from the original text
    • use a different coloured type (or underlining) for exact words taken from the source
    • update your reference list regularly while writing.

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Tips on course design (adapted from JISCPAS, 2001, Plagiarism: A Good Practice Guide, Designing out opportunities for plagiarism):

  • Rewrite your assessment tasks for each time the course is taught
  • Include ‘process’ in the assessment as well as analysis, evaluation and synthesis. Avoid information gathering tasks
  • Individualise tasks and create tasks which may have multiple solutions
  • Integrate tasks so that student build on previous achievements
  • Check the steps in the assessment process i.e. check drafts or interim work (but not assess this).

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Tips on assessment design (adapted from McDowell and Brown 2004 Assessing students: cheating and plagiarism):

  • Use ‘open’ rather than closed book exams: If students are allowed to take material into exams you can more easily design questions that test their ability to apply, synthesise and evaluate knowledge
  • Use vivas and orals: Searching questions can be put to students to verify that the work they have submitted is their own. Vivas can be done on a random basis. If all students are informed at the start of a module that they may be asked to sit a viva this may discourage students from plagiarizing. This is currently done on philosophy courses at Kent
  • Individualised assignments: Allow students, under supervision, to choose their own essay title or research topic
  • Design engaging assessment tasks: Students may become demotivated by assessment tasks which are purely routine. Students value assessments which appear to have some meaning or relevance outside of academia. (University of Kent, Students’ Views of Assessment. 2005)
  • Assignments which are authenticated by a third party: For example, an employer or work place supervisor
  • Submission of sources: Students can be asked to submit photocopied extracts of key sources that they used and indicate how they have used them
  • Peer assessment: Students who are involved in their own assessment are intolerant of other students’ cheating or plagiarising.

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See also:

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Content adapted from a range of sources (see Useful References).


Academic Integrity, UELT, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NQ

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Last Updated: 29/10/2012