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This past semester has seen an unusually high number of students plagiarizing in one of the subjects I teach. To be specific, it was five times the previous maximum I had seen. This has lead me down the path of digging into ways to reduce plagiarism from my students.

I read this question which was great and had several good answers but it was broadly focused. I would like to dig a bit deeper into one specific area: How can assessment design be used to minimize plagiarism?

I realize that exams are less likely to have plagiarism but I want to avoid those because they are timed and I don't want my students to be assessed in non-real-world situations like that. So, I want the assessments to be take-home but I don't want to put more constraints on this question.

I really want to know what research has been done showing the effect of different assessment design and how it has impacted student-plagiarism (with a focus on what minimizes plagiarism)?

  • What concerns research on interventions on plagiarism, ERIC lists quite some empirical studies which look at the effect of different lectures, assignment or other kind of educational interventions on plagiarism behaviour or knowledge about plagiarism. – non-numeric_argument Jan 19 '15 at 15:48
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According to your profile, you teach management. So we are looking at writing, rather than equations?

This review article discusses steps taken at a university in Australia, and provides some lit review. It is open-source. In regards to research on assessment design, it recommends:

  1. Regularly change the questions/prompts
  2. Projects should require original analysis rather than be summaries or definitions.
  3. More marks should be associated with the process of project creation, rather than the final draft. Examples of intermediate assignments are research journals, annotated bibliographies, and first drafts.
  4. Change product from text-only to something else - a poster, an oral presentation.

Above is the "answer" to your question. You may also want to consider why your plagiarism is suddenly increasing. The linked article points out that many students plagiarize because of lack of training in how to effectively write without copying a source. If you have a cohort of students from a background of poorer preparation, I would recommend a module on how to write without plagiarism.

Best of luck.

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  • Thanks for your answer. I look forward to reading the article you linked. By the way, the problem is not understanding how to cite. They actually copy-and-paste from other students changing every 3rd word - clearly trying to "trick" the plagiarism software. – earthling Jan 24 '15 at 12:20
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Dee and Jacob (2013) (preprint) conducted

a field experiment that evaluated the effects of a web-based educational tutorial in reducing plagiarism. We found that assignment to the treatment group substantially reduced the likelihood of plagiarism, particularly among student with lower SAT scores who had the highest rates of plagiarism. A followup survey suggests that the intervention reduced plagiarism by increasing student knowledge rather than by increasing the perceived probabilities of detection and punishment.

Potentially including an educational tutorial in your assignment design would reduce plagiarism.

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  • While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. – jakebeal Jan 21 '15 at 16:33
  • I have heavily edited the answer to try and make it free-standing. If you think I changed the meaning of your answer, please feel free to roll it back (or improve it). – StrongBad Jan 21 '15 at 16:35
  • @jakebeal I edited the answer, what do you think? – StrongBad Jan 21 '15 at 16:35
  • @StrongBad Much better. – jakebeal Jan 21 '15 at 16:37
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I don't know the answer from any direct experience (could point you to pages like http://drexel.edu/dcae/assessment/assessment-plans/) but two things I can think of off the top of my head without knowing what subject you teach or at what level: 1) Have students have some input into their own assignments built around objective criteria that you specify and 2) have the students take some part in grading one another.

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  • The OP has asked for an answer supported by reference to research. This seems to be a guess, not supported by research or even experience. – ff524 Jan 18 '15 at 18:23
  • Oh no, if only I'd said that in my comments! The horror! No one should ever try to be helpful! – Dave Kanter Jan 21 '15 at 18:56

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