Discouraging & Detecting Plagiarism

The Illinois Student Code defines plagiarism as “representing the words or ideas of another as one's own in any academic endeavor” (§1-402d). We offer a number of resources and suggestions to help you deter, detect, and deal with plagiarism.

Strategies for preventing plagiarism

Prepare yourself

  • Become familiar with the different types of academic integrity infractions defined in §1-402 of the Student Code.
  • Become familiar with the procedures instructors and students must follow in cases of suspected academic integrity infractions. These procedures are found in §1-404 of the Student Code.

Prepare students

  • Explain to students the concepts of plagiarism, intellectual property, copyright, collaboration, and fair dealing. Teach students how to quote, paraphrase, and cite correctly.
  • Encourage students by describing the benefits of writing a research paper beyond learning new content, such as developing research skills, analyzing and synthesizing various viewpoints, and attention to detail by following citation guidelines.
  • Remind students of available resources, such as consulting with the faculty member, TAs, librarians, and the writing center.
  • Exemplify academic integrity in class by citing sources on handouts and during lectures.
  • Inform students that you will randomly check their citations.

Prepare assignments

  • Assign unique, specific topics and/or change topics each semester.
  • Require a minimum number of references of different types, such as Internet sources, journal articles, books, magazines, etc., or require the use of a couple of specific sources. Additionally, you may want to limit the age of sources to some appropriate amount, such as the last five or ten years.
  • Require students to submit material related to the research process before the papers are due. Some examples of materials you might require include: topic, preliminary bibliography, abstract, annotated photocopies of some articles, outline, rough draft, final annotated bibliography, and final draft (Harris 2009).
  • Assign oral reports on the research papers.
  • On the day the research papers are due, ask students to write a five-minute reflective essay on what problems they encountered, the research strategy they used, what were the most useful resources, and in general, what they learned from the process. This way you are provided with a writing sample to compare to the research paper. However, it may be best to refrain from reading these essays until after the papers are due, in order to ensure your objectivity.

Possible signs of plagiarism - from Harris 2009

  • Writing style changes throughout sections of the paper.
  • An off-topic paper.
  • Lack of references or quotations.
  • Reference to articles that are not readily available.
  • An out-of-date paper may be indicated by an old topic that is treated as a current event, or when all the sources are old.
  • Unusual formatting, such as inconsistent margins, skewed tables, lines broken in half, mixed subheading styles (these clues may suggest a quick cut-and-paste paper).
  • Unmistakable clues, such as the name of the paper mill, the name of a different author, URLs at the bottom of the page, and strange phrases such as “click here” and “graphic”.
  • Mixed citation styles, such as ALA, APA, CBE, and Chicago.

Campus Information


  • Harris, R. (2009). Anti-plagiarism strategies for research papers. Retrieved June 24, 2010, from http://www.virtualsalt.com/antiplag.htm
  • Harris, R. (2001). The Plagiarism handbook: Strategies for preventing, detecting, and dealing with plagiarism. Los Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.
  • Lathrop, A., & Foss, K. (2000). Student cheating and plagiarism in the Internet era: A wake-up call. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
  • Ury, C. (2004). Policing: Discouraging and detecting plagiarism. The National Teaching & Learning Forum, 13(2).
  • Whitley, B. E., & Keith-Spiegel, P. (2002). Academic dishonesty: An educator's guide. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.