Plagiarism Prevention

Copyright Defined

The moment an original work is fixed in a tangible medium, it is copyrighted. Therefore poems, Web pages, paintings, photographs, novels, songs, videos, computer software, or architectural drawings are copyrighted the moment the "author" has expressed herself or himself in an original work. Using this logic, it is true that the following expressions are also copyrighted: texts of advertisements, choreographed dances, maps, statues, and stuffed animals.

For a summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), visit the U.S. Copyright Office's Web pages.

Text of the Copyright Law of the United States of America is available online.

General Copyright Guidelines for UW-Platteville.

Intellectual property and free speech are protected in a society where ideas and creativity are like a "currency". Access to the ideas of others may be "free", but once those ideas are fixed into a medium, they are protected by copyright. (Renaud)

Plagiarism Defined

Plagiarism is stealing or using the writing or ideas of others as though they are one's own. The word comes from Latin, plagium which means "kidnapping".

According to West's Encyclopedia of American Law, plagiarism is "the act of appropriating the literary composition of another author, or excerpts, ideas, or passages therefrom, and passing the material off as one's own creation. Plagiarism is theft of another person's writing or ideas.

"Courts recognize acts of plagiarism as violations of copyright law, specifically as the theft of another creator's intellectual property. It is not necessary to exactly duplicate another's work in order to infringe a copyright: it is sufficient to take a substantial portion of the copyrighted material.

"Thus, for example, plagiarism can include copying language or ideas from another novelist, basing a new song in large part on another's musical composition, or copying another artist's drawing or photograph."(Definition used with permission (Feb 29, 2000) from The West Group, West's Encyclopedia of American Law.)

Errors students make:

  1. Out and out copying.
  2. Paraphrasing without attribution (simply re-wording is not enough).
  3. Failing to attribute a quotation.
  4. Misquoting.
  5. Mixing the author's words with one's own.
  6. Footnoting a paragraph with no indication of what came from whom or where.
  7. Failing to document interviews. (Brownlee 27)
  8. Downloading an official document from the Web, altering the language or data, then submitting it with a research paper as supporting material. (Stebelman 3)
  9. Unauthorized collaboration on an assignment that is supposed to be an individual effort.

Why students cheat:

  1. Time pressures.
  2. Grade pressures.
  3. Leniency of professors (including allowing students to do independent work without supervision).
  4. Prevailing attitude that anything found on the Internet is "fair game" and in the public domain.
  5. Lack of awareness of some types of plagiarism.
  6. Lack of competence of student to do the work. (Love 5)
"...believe that, given enough time, resources, and motivation, all students are capable of original work." (Johnson 552)

Dissuading Plagiarism

Instructors can:

Talk to students about plagiarism. Explain why academic integrity matters. (Schevitz 2)

Define plagiarism and discuss with students that there are different levels of copying someone else's work, but it's still cheating.

Deal with issues around plagiarism early in the semester so that assessments and grading are easier at the end of the semester. (Renaud)

Discuss how instructors are responsible for the integrity of all the grades of all the students. (Renaud)

Explain that there is no difference between plagiarizing a printed essay and one that appears on the Web.(Stebelman 2)

Encourage students to trust their voices, to be original, to "own" their papers, and to recognize the difference between writing a report (listing facts) and writing a research paper. (Renaud)

Encourage students to realize they are a part of the exchange of intellectual ideas, and citing sources is an important part of this exchange. (Dunn)

Explain to students that instructors have experience with detecting plagiarism. (Ryan 22)

Discuss the existence of paper mills, and show familiarity with them. Download a typical paper from a paper mill and discuss its strengths and weaknesses with the class. (Clayton 3)

Talk with students about how the skills being refined in this class will be useful in the workplace. (Renaud)

Teach students how to properly use the Web for research, including how to evaluate Web pages and how to cite them.

Collaborate with librarians in teaching researching methods and in creating assignments. (Scribner 2)

Work with students during the process of writing papers. Review thesis statements for papers, require outlines and rough drafts to be handed in. (Clayton 3)

Work on research strategies together in classes.

Assign annotated bibliographies.

Require recent sources in bibliographies. (Many paper mill papers cite old sources.)

Give assignments which are closely tied to the individual course goals. (Clayton 3) For example, assigning a paper on AIDS is too broad. Students need to be taught how to narrow topics, and paper mills often offer papers on broad topics only. (Stebelman 3)

Help students avoid plagiarism or over use of secondary sources by making the writing process a multilayered one (turn in thesis statements and have a conference with students), require photocopies of the first page of each source, and requiring students to annotate their bibliographies - which are also graded. (Renaud)

Teach how to properly cite resources.

Discuss the consequences of plagiarizing and what has happened to former students who were caught plagiarizing.

Give students the "Plagiarism Knowledge Survey" (PKS) developed by Miguel Roig which assesses college student's understanding of plagiarism. (Roig 2)


"The only real solution to cyberplagiarism, then, is old-fashioned vigilance. Having spent millions of dollars wiring their students to the Internet, universities may have to invest in smaller classes and a better teacher-to-student ratio. A return to some good old analog, face-to-face teaching may be the only way to keep online plagiarism at the fringes, where it belongs."(Hickman 3)


"We as educators need to restructure those dull assignments in a unique and creative way that makes it less likely that students will be able to fulfill the requirements of the assignment by a cut and paste approach."(Cummings 2)

Factors which inhibit students from plagiarizing:

  • Student's desire to learn, to be fair to authors, to be honest and ethical in their work.
  • Students perceive a need to know information once they are employed, and plagiarizing would cheat them out of learning.
  • Student's fear of being caught includes their belief that instructors are knowledgeable about the literature in their fields.
  • Students don't like feeling guilty, and some view the time and energy it takes to make sure they aren't caught is just not worth the effort.
  • Students perceive that it is dangerous to skew data and thus misinform people. (Love 4)

"We need to provide students with tools that will help them see what they are doing is wrong before they give the final version of the research paper to the instructor." (Janowski 1)

Investigating and Identifying Plagiarism in Student Papers

When to suspect plagiarism:

The level of sophistication of the writing in the paper is above expectations for the course level.

The context changes within a student's paper. For example, a student quotes a statistic from Great Britain, and the sources in the bibliography are published in the United States. (Ryan 22)

Footnotes or parenthetical references are missing. Plagiarizing students, if confronted with missing footnotes or parenthetical references, may point to a bibliography and claim ignorance of the need for footnoting. When this happens, an instructor could schedule time to discuss the issues in the paper or in the sources in the bibliography. If the student doesn't have a working knowledge of the subject matter, he or she probably didn't write the paper. (Ryan 22)

References are proven to be false. Instructors can check to see if the sources listed in the student's bibliography are real. (Ryan 22) One hint might be whether or not the library holds or subscribes to the titles. Another hint might be whether or not the book is out of print.

Tools to help identify plagiarized papers or phrases:

Dogpile or Google and other search engines with exact phrase searching, such as Seeq, Lycos, Altavista, Metacrawler, and Netscape search engines.

Book dealers such as,,

If plagiarism detection includes uploading student papers into a database, be sure to remove the student's name. (Grugel)

Julie Ryan, in her article, "Student Plagiarism in an Online World", states, "The World Wide Web provides plagiarists with a rich library of material from which to gather information, but it also provides professors with a powerful tool to check sources and catch the word thieves." (Ryan 22)

Steve Gardiner, in his article, "Cybercheating", asks, "The World Wide Web is not the end of academic research as we've known it. The Web is one more tool for research and a wonderful one at that. But students need to learn how to use it in the right way and for the right reasons. They need to learn how to find legitimate sites and how to evaluate the information those sites contain. In short, they still need to learn good research skills. And isn't helping them do that what a teacher's job has always been?" (Gardiner 175)

Consequences of Plagiarism Established at UW-Platteville

For regulations within the University of Wisconsin System, see:

The Wisconsin Administrative Code, Chapter UWS 14, for the established "Student Academic Disciplinary Procedures".

The text of Chapter UWS 14 of the Code is also found in the UWP Employee Handbook.

Instructors need to be familiar with a student's rights and due process. (Grugel)

Remember, cheating is cheating, and ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Students who have not cheated deserve fairness.

Paper Mills

Term paper mills, or businesses that sell papers to customers, have been in existence for decades. Many term paper mills have printed and online searchable catalogs of the papers they offer for sale. (Anderson 371)

Because of the unethical nature of this process (students purchasing papers from mills and subsequently submitting them as their own work), the author of this webpage is choosing not to link to any of these term paper mill sites. Examples of the sites may be found by searching the Internet for "term paper mills".

Internet Resources for Fighting Plagiarism

Web sites have been developed to help detect plagiarism. Additionally, software has been developed which cross-references student papers with other papers to find structural similarities. (Mirsky 98)

Citation Guide

For help citing printed and electronic resources according to MLA and APA styles, use the style manuals.

For additional help and link to RefWorks citation software visit the library's Citaton Guides and Writer's Resources web page.

List of Works Cited

Anderson, Gregory L. "Cyberplagiarism: A Look at the Web Term Paper Sites." College & Research Libraries News 60.5 (1999): 371-3.

Atkins, Thomas. "Plagiarism and the Internet: Turning the Tables." English Journal 90.4 (2001): 101-104.

Boisvert, Ronald F., Irwin, Mary Jane. "Plagiarism on the Rise." Communications of the ACM 49.6 (June 2006): 23-4.

Brownlee, Bonnie J. "Coping with Plagiarism Requires Several Strategies." Educator 41.4 (1987): 25-29.

Clayton, Mark. "Term Papers at the Click of a Mouse." Christian Science Monitor October1997:1. Academic Search. EBSCO. U of Wisconsin-Platteville, Elton S. Karrmann Library. 31 October 2003.

Cummings, Kate. "Pushing Against Plagiarism through Creative Assignments." Library Media ConnectionMarch 2003: 22-25. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. U of Wisconsin-Platteville, Elton S. Karrmann Library. 21 May 2003 <>.

Committee on Intellectual Property Rights and the Emerging Information Infrastructure. "The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age." National Research Council. 17 April 2002.<>

Duggan, Fiona. "Plagiarism: Prevention, Practice and Policy." Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 31.2 (2006): 151-4.

Dunn, Karen. "Is Plagiarism Getting Worse?" Plagiarism in Wisconsin Colleges and Universities. WAICU Conference. Marquette University Raynor Library, Milwaukee. 18 Oct. 2004.

Fedler, Fred. "Plagiarism Persists in News Despite Changing Attitudes." Newspaper Research Journal27.2 (Spring 2006): 24-37.

Gardiner, Steve. "Cybercheating: A New Twist on an Old Problem." Phi Delta Kappan 83.2 (2001): 172-175.

Grugel, Christopher. "Detection." Plagiarism in Wisconsin Colleges and Universities. WAICU Conference. Marquette University Raynor Library, Milwaukee. 18 Oct. 2004.

Hickman, John N. "Cybercheats: Term-Paper Shopping Online." New Republic March 1998: 14-15.Academic Search. EBSCO. U of Wisconsin-Platteville, Elton S. Karrmann Library. 3 March 2000 <>.

Janowski, Adam. "Plagiarism: Prevention, Not Prosecution." Book Report Sept. 2002:26-28. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. U of Wisconsin-Platteville, Elton S. Karrmann Library. 11 October 2004. <>.

Johnson, Doug. "Plagiarism-Proofing Assignments." Phi Delta Kappan March 2004: 549-552. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. U of Wisconsin-Platteville, Elton S. Karrmann Library. 8 October 2004 <>.

Kopytoff, Verne G. "Brilliant or Plagiarized? Colleges Use Sites to Expose Cheaters." New York Times 20 Jan. 2000:G7

Landau, Joshua D. "Methods for Helping Students Avoid Plagiarism." Teaching of Psychology 29.2 (2002): 112-115.

Lester, Mindy C. and George M. Diekhoff. -A Comparison of Traditional and Internet Cheaters.- Journal of College Student Development 43.6 (2002): 906-911.

Love, Patrick G. "Factors Influencing Cheating and Plagiarism Among Graduate Students in a College of Education." College Student Journal December 1998: 539-50. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 3 Mar. 2000 <>.

McCabe, Donald L. and William J. Bowers. -Academic Dishonesty Among Males in College: A Thirty Year Perspective.- Journal of College Student Development 35.1 (1994): 5-10.

Minkel, Walter. "Web of Deceit." School Library Journal 48.4 (2002): 50-54.

Mirsky, Steve. "Copy That." Scientific American 286.4 (2002): 98.

"Plagiarism." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 1998 ed.

Renaud, Christine. "Prevention." Plagiarism in Wisconsin Colleges and Universities. WAICU Conference. Marquette University Raynor Library, Milwaukee. 18 Oct. 2004.

Roig, Miguel. "Can Undergraduate Students Determine Whether Text Has Been Plagiarized?"Psychological Record Winter 1997: 113-123. Academic Search. EBSCO. U of Wisconsin-Platteville, Elton S. Karrmann Library. 3 March 2000.

Roig, Miquel. "Commentary: Ethical Writing Should be Taught." BMJ: British Medical Journal 333.7568 (2006): 596-7.

Ryan, Julie. "Student Plagiarism in an Online World." ASEE Prism 8.4 (1998):20-24.

Scanlon, Patrick M. "Internet Plagiarism Among College Students." Journal of College Student Development 43.3 (2002): 374-385.

Schevitz, Tanya. "Colleges Study Cheating in Hopes of Reversing Growing Trend/Consortium Releases Policy Guidelines." San Francisco Chronicle 12 Oct. 1999:A5. ProQuest Newspapers. Proquest. U of Wisconsin-Platteville, Elton S. Karrmann Library. 3 March 2000.

Scribner, Mary Ellen. "An Ounce of Prevention: Defeating Plagiarism in the Information Age." Library Media Connection February 2003: 32-36. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. U of Wisconsin-Platteville, Elton S. Karrmann Library. 3 May 2004 <>.

Stebelman, Scott. "Cybercheating: Dishonesty Goes Digital." American Libraries Sept. 1998:48-51.Academic Search EBSCO. 18 Feb. 2000.

Talab, Rosemary. "A Student Online Plagiarism Guide: Detection and Prevention Resources." TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning 48.6 (2004): 15-8.

Vernon, Robert F. "Plagiarism and the Web." Journal of Social Work Education 37.1 (2001): 193-197.

Warn, James. "Plagiarism Software: No Magic Bullet!" Higher Education Research & Development 25.2 (2006): 195-208.

If you have any questions about the Plagiarism Prevention web page, please contact Kay Young at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Karrmann Library, 608.342.1134, or E-mail: .

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