Plagiarism at Commencement

Graduates.jpgKansas community college leader accused of plagiarizing May commencement speech

In 2004, Hampton University valedictorian Tim Lee used the poem “The New ABC’s,” by Sherri ScottNovoa, in his commencement speech without attribution. In May, John D. Rios, chairman of Kansas City Kansas Community College, gave an eerily similar commencement speech, again without attribution.


How to Deter Plagiarism

  • Discuss with students standards of academic scholarship and conduct.
  • Make students aware of the importance of academic honesty.
  • Clearly state your policies and expectations for documenting sources and avoiding plagiarism.
  • Learn to recognize and act upon signs of stress in students.
  • Avoid using recycled or formulaic assignments that may invite stock or plagiarized responses.
  • Design assignments that require students to explore a subject in depth.
  • Ensure equal access to study materials.
  • Assure students they can succeed in your class without having to resort to dishonesty.
  • Confront students directly as soon as you suspect them of cheating or plagiarizing.
  • Clarify the distinctions between plagiarism, paraphrasing and direct citation.
  • Report possible cases of plagiarism to the institution.

Plagiarism-Proof Assignments

Designing Plagiarism-Proof Assignments

What is a "plagiarism-proof assignment"?

Bloom, L. Z. (2008). Insider writing: Plagiarism-proof assignments. In C. Eisner and M. Vicinus (Eds.), Originality, imitation, and plagiarism : teaching writing in the digital age (pp. 208-218). Retrieved from

DeSena, L. H. (2007). Preventing plagiarism: Tips and techniques. Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English.

Lathrop, A., & Foss, K. (2005). Guiding students from cheating and plagiarism to honesty and integrity: Strategies for change. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Designing Assignments to Discourage Plagiarism
Alice Robison - Writing Across the Curriculum at UW-Madison

"Teaching our students about proper use of sources and citation methods is an important part of discouraging plagiarism, and defining, discussing, and teaching proper use of sources and citation methods is a useful tactic. Experienced instructors concur that it is important to include information on plagiarism in their syllabi, perhaps confirming class discussions with “academic honesty contracts” or institutional “honor codes.” In addition, instructors can think carefully about course- and assignment-design."

Plagiarism-Proofing Assignments and Assessments
UW-Stout Online Professional Development

"Explore how to deter plagiarism through the careful design of learning activities and assessments. Successful educators share their strategies for creating projects, research papers, and exams that emphasize higher-order thinking."

Deterring Plagiarism
Margaret Procter, University of Toronto

"Knowing how to build personal ideas on past knowledge is a central goal of university study, but it sometimes seems that students hear about it mainly through warnings and threats. Here are some practical ways to lessen the risk of plagiarism in your classes while using writing as a way for students to explore ideas and learn ways of thinking."

Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers
Robert Harris, VirtualSalt

"The availability of textual material in electronic format has made plagiarism easier than ever. Copying and pasting of paragraphs or even entire essays now can be performed with just a few mouse clicks. The strategies discussed here can be used to combat what some believe is an increasing amount of plagiarism on research papers and other student writing. By employing these strategies, you can help encourage students to value the assignment and to do their own work."

How To Avoid Plagiarism

Plagiarism: To steal or pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; to use (a created production) without crediting the source

 -Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary


Plagiarism is often unintentional because students are not aware of all the ways they can accidentally plagiarize.

This tutorial is designed to educate you about plagiarism and provide you with important skills and knowledge to avoid committing plagiarism.

Learning Objectives

After completing this tutorial, you should be able to:

  • Recognize plagiarism in its various forms
  • Understand why avoiding plagiarism is important
  • Develop skills for avoiding plagiarism including citing sources, taking notes, quoting, and paraphrasing

Handout: Academic Honesty and Avoiding Plagiarism

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Adapted from the MU Libraries, University of Missouri


Ten Types of Plagiarism

Identifying plagiarism isn't as simple as "Yes it is" or "No it isn't" - according to Turnitin's research, there's a spectrum of plagiarism that encompasses everything from "submitting another's work, word-for-word, as one's own" to work that "includes proper citation, but relies too closely on the text's original wording and/or structure" (via).

The infographic Plagiarism Spectrum: Tagging 10 Types of Unoriginal Work shows which types of plagiarism are most problematic, which are most common and provides examples of what the plagiarism might look like in the wild.

To view or download the infographic (PDF), visit

SafeAssign for Teaching & Learning


  • Dow, G. T. (2015). Do cheaters never prosper? The impact of examples, expertise and cognitive load on cryptomnesia and inadvertent self-plagiarism of creative tasks. Creativity Research Journal, 27(1), 47-57.
  • Elander, J., Pittam, G., Lusher, J., Fox, P., & Payne, N. (2010). Evaluation of an intervention to help students avoid unintentional plagiarism by improving their authorial identity. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(2), 157-171.
  • Ferro, M. J., & Martins, H. F. (2016). Academic plagiarism: yielding to temptation. British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science,13(1), 1-11.
  • Hollins, T. J., Lange, N., Dennis, I., & Longmore, C. A. (2015). Social influences on unconscious plagiarism and anti-plagiarism. Memory, 1-19.
  • Keuskamp, D., & Sliuzas, R. (2007). Plagiarism prevention or detection? The contribution of text-matching software to education about academic integrity. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 1(1), A91-A99.
  • Reed, S. A. (2015). SafeAssign as a Tool for Student Identification of Potential Plagiarism in an Animal Science Writing Course. Natural Sciences Education, 44(1), 95-100.
  • Vanacker, B. (2011). Returning students’ right to access, choice and notice: a proposed code of ethics for instructors using Turnitin. Ethics and information technology, 13(4), 327-338.

Guidelines for Avoiding Plagiarism


  • Use your own words and ideas.
  • Takes notes as you go
  • Give credit to copied, adapted, or paraphrased materials
  • Avoid using others' work with minor "cosmetic" changes
  • There are no "freebies." Always cite words, information and ideas that you use
  • Beware of "common knowledge." You may not have to cite "common knowledge," but the fact must be commonly known.

When in doubt, cite. Better to be safe than sorry!

Thanks for completing the Plagiarism Tutorial!


Quoting, Paraphrasing, Summarizing & Patchwriting Quotations

You copy a sentence directly from an article you found. You cite the source, but you forget to use quotations marks = PLAGIARISM

When you quote the exact words of the original source in your own writing, you must:

  • cite the source
  • use quotation marks (or indent for passages longer than three lines)
  • Consult the style guide you are using for further instructions.

Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Paraphrasing and summarizing are very similar. Both involve taking ideas, words or phrases from a source and crafting them into new sentences. Paraphrasing is expressing an author's ideas in your own words, by changing both the language and the sentence structure.

Summarizing also involves putting the author's ideas into your own words, but summaries omit much of the detail. Whether paraphrasing or summarizing, credit is always given to the author. When writing a paper, you should not have too many quotations. It is much more common that you would paraphrase information from your sources. Paraphrasing is not easy. It is especially impossible to paraphrase something you do not really understand. If you don't understand it, you will be overly dependent on the words of your source. REMEMBER - when you paraphrase or summarize, you must cite the source. Even if you have not used the same words, you have borrowed ideas.

Below is a passage taken from Raymond S. Nickerson's "How We Know-and Sometimes Misjudge-What Others Know: Imputing One's Own Knowledge to Others." Psychological Bulletin 125.6 (1999): p737.

To communicate effectively with other people, one must have a reasonably accurate idea of what they do and do not know that is pertinent to the communication. Treating people as though they have knowledge that they do not have can result in miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment. On the other hand, a fundamental rule of conversation, at least according to a Gricean view, is that one generally does not convey to others information that one can assume they already have.

Here is an example of what would be considered PLAGIARISM of this passage:

For effective communication, it is necessary to have a fairly accurate idea of what our listeners know or do not know that is pertinent to the communication. If we assume that people know something they do not, then miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment may result (Nickerson, 1999).

The writer in this example has used too many of Nickerson's original words and phrases such as "effective communication," "accurate idea," "know or do not know," "pertinent," "miscommunication," and "embarrassment." Also note that the passage doesn't have an opening tag to indicate where use of the Nickerson's material begins. A citation at the end of a paragraph is not sufficient to indicate what is being credited to Nickerson

Here is an example, in APA style, that is considered ACCEPTABLE PARAPHRASING of this passage:

Nickerson (1999) suggests that effective communication depends on a generally accurate knowledge of what the audience knows. If a speaker assumes too much knowledge about the subject, the audience will either misunderstand or be bewildered; however, assuming too little knowledge among those in the audience may cause them to feel patronized (p.737).

Here the writer re-words Nickerson's idea about what determines effective communication. The writer re-phrases "generally accurate knowledge" into "reasonably accurate idea." In the second sentence, the writer re-words Nickerson's ideas about miscommunication and embarrassment using instead the words "misunderstand," "bewildered," and "patronized." Nickerson is given credit from the beginning as the originator of the ideas. This is an example of a successful paraphrase because the writer understands the ideas espoused by Nickerson, and is able to put them into her own words while being careful to give him credit

Here is an example, in APA style, that would be considered ACCEPTABLE SUMMARIZING of this passage:

Nickerson (1999) argues that clear communication hinges upon what an audience does and does not know. It is crucial to assume the audience has neither too much nor too little knowledge of the subject, or the communication may be inhibited by either confusion or offense (p. 737).

Notice that the writer both paraphrases Nickerson's ideas about effective communication and compresses them into two sentences. Like paraphrasing, summarizing passages is a tricky endeavor and takes lots of practice. If you're ever in doubt about whether your summary or paraphrase might be accidental plagiarism, ask your teacher.


You copy a short passage from an article you found. You change a couple of words, so that it's different from the original. You carefully cite the source. It is still PLAGIARISM because even though you have acknowledged the source of the ideas with a citation, your new passage is too close to the original text. This form of plagiarism is called patchwriting. In patchwriting, the writer may delete a few words, change the order, substitute synonyms and even change the grammatical structure, but the reliance on the original text is still visible when the two are compared.



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