Friday, April 3, 2009

A Lesson Plan for Teaching about Plagiarism

I purchased a copy of the book "Student Plagiarism in an Online World - Problems and Solutions", IGI Global, 2008 by Tim S. Roberts (Ed.) for my research group despite the outrageous price (180$).

I have previously blogged my opinion that IGI Global is a write-only publisher, and when I hold the book in my hands, it becomes even clearer. The book is hard-cover, in an impossibly large format, and very badly bound. At that price, I want a book that is well-bound and lies flat for use. There is no trace of the promised "free" online access to the text, which is a shame, as I could have used it today.

Many of the chapters are long-winded or repetitive, that is, they could have used some tighter editing. But there are quite a number of good ideas to be found here and the references sections are quite extensive.

The chapter by Frankie Wilson and Kate Ippolito, supposedly of Brunel University in the UK, although I find no home page or email for them there, contains an excellent lesson plan for a seminar about plagiarism.

I decided at short notice to ditch my normal slideshow about plagiarism that I give to our first semester students and gave it a try, although the materials promised to be at a particular school page are not available (they return a 404).

Our session is 90 minutes, and since we had not had an introductiory session yet, I spent 30 minutes with introductions of me and the students among themselves. This helped break the ice - everyone had already had to stand up and say something.

We began by collecting definitions on index cards from the students on what their definition of plagiarism is. I made this into an individual exercise, in the plan given this is to be group work. I read them aloud and collected the high points on the board. About a quarter of the 32 people participating could not come up with a definition, and many focussed their definition on product plagiarism only.

We then began to discuss "where to draw the line". We did this in plenum instead of in small groups, and this ended up being a lively discussion with excellent questions being voiced from the students. A major concern was: but how do I know what the source is, I just "know" something, I don't remember where I read it. We had a good conversation about note-taking and finding confirming evidence for that which one thinks one knows.

The last section dealt with plagiarism avoidance - how a paper gets developed (and I got some words in on that ancient thing called a l-i-b-r-a-r-y) and the different kinds of references: direct quotation, indirect quotation, secondary source.

I then distributed 10 magazines and books to groups and have them find how references are used in these. I chose a selection of magazines and books that have different reference structures. They were very quick to identify these, and spent a few minutes glancing through the material that they had.

We needed just 60 minutes, although the discussions were going so well that I am sure that we could have made it much longer.

I would have liked to have had the worksheet promised in the chapter, but the lesson plan is well enough done that it can easily be adapted. I will post an update if I manage to find the material, I have written to the school asking for current emails of the authors and/or a current URL for the material.


  1. I found one of the authors. Both are no longer at Brunel, but Frankie Wilson's home page there with an instructor's crib sheet and slides is still alive, if not findable through the search facilities of the site:

  2. Great work, teach! I'm glad your lesson plan worked out great.


Please note that I moderate comments. Any comments that I consider unscientific will not be published.