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Preventing Plagiarism and Cheating

Do not do what you would undo if caught.

—Leah Arendt

Towards the end of the semester as workloads and stress mount, students get tired, desperate, and sometimes lazy. Plagiarism and cheating can become attractive options for getting the job done, yet they have far-reaching effects. This week we will address how to deter these behaviors; next week we will discuss how to detect and handle them if they happen. Academically dishonest behaviors are rampant, and technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, and online paper mills are facilitating their spread. Consider this:

  • In a 2008 survey at Cambridge University, 49% of the students admitted to plagiarizing.
     
  • A Rutgers University study recently found that 47% of graduate students (in fields other than business) acknowledged having cheated at least once.

Plagiarism and cheating aren't just limited to copying papers and taking tests; teachers of the visual arts are finding it increasingly difficult to draw the line between students seeking inspiration, paying homage, and stealing. So how do you address this?

  1. Require multiple iterations of big projects and have students show their process through outlines, drafts, sketches and evidence of research in notes or sketchbooks. "Staging" big assignments, by breaking large tasks into smaller ones, teaches time management and demonstrates individual progress.
     
  2. Frame intellectual dishonesty in a professional context. Talk about how dishonest behavior has been treated in your field. Are there famous cases that have ruined someone's reputation? Many students aren’t aware of their responsibilities and rights as creatives. Model how to cite sources and inspiration in your field. Make the case that cheating leads to lost clients and respect for cheating-like behavior once you're in the field. Ask students how they would feel if someone used their work without acknowledging it.
     
  3. Engineer a unique or personal component into your assignments, e.g., "What's one application you could envision for this skill set we’ve just learned?" or "If you could make this software program do one thing differently, what would it be?" The requirement of a personal "voice" demands critical thinking and prevents students from looking for an easy answer on the Web. This is good practice for real-world assignments that require solutions be tailored to a specific client or circumstance.
     
  4. Change a few details within your assignments from semester to semester. This prevents students from merely copying and sharing with peers.

Resources

Tips on Preventing Cheating on an Exam

Academy Tip on Deterring & Detecting Plagiarism

Plagiarism tutorial from Rutgers

Visual Directions: A Resources for Developing Sketchbooks and Reflective Writing Practices