Mark your calendars ... February 19 is Plagiarism Prevention Day! Promoting behaviors that can help to prevent plagiarism through both pedagogy and student support are cornerstones of academic integrity. But defining plagiarism and its importance can be a challenge.

Plagiarism has many formal definitions. Almost every institutional academic integrity and research misconduct policy contain separate definitions that range in length and specificity. At its core, plagiarism is a failure to provide credit to the creator of a piece of work. What many definitions lack, however, is an understanding about why attribution truly matters. Curtis Newbold (2016), the Visual Communication Guy, provides a wonderful illustration of the many ways students, faculty, and researchers can plagiarize. His explanations for why each category listed counts as plagiarism often point out the dishonesty behind plagiarizing materials – because a plagiarist is pretending that the words, ideas, theories, artwork, etc. belong to them, rather than the person that created the initial work. Further, it prohibits a reader from being able to follow or trust any argument made due to a lack of evidentiary support.

As we look to prevent plagiarism in our classrooms, pedagogical practices regarding plagiarism must go beyond telling students to “cite their sources” and “not to copy”. Stop expecting students to know why it matters. Tell them why. Help them to see how plagiarism can ruin their future careers. Explain that integrity now, in the classroom, sets the foundation for ethical leadership in their futures. Set them up for success.

Faculty and staff must also stop expecting that students to have the social and cultural capital from their high schools to understand plagiarism. Locquaio and Ives (2020) found that “Students typically had beginner knowledge of citations/references … they could describe what a citation looked like, but not the purpose of citations.”  In every course, teach them what it means to plagiarize. Provide your students with resources and be a positive example by citing your own sources. The Retraction Watch Database shows that nearly 40 articles have been retracted since January 1, 2022, for plagiarism or plagiarism related issues. Forty articles retracted because we have failed as faculty and researchers to hold ourselves to the standards we set for students.

If you are looking for specific practices to help with plagiarism in your courses, scaffolding is one approach that may work for you. You may also wish to help your students develop agency in their writing.

There are many ways to address plagiarism. Tell us how you talk about plagiarism with your students @TweetCAI.