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Online Teaching Library > For ALL Instructors > Pedagogy & Best Practices > Deterring and Discussing Plagiarism


Why is this important?

Toward the end of the semester, in particular, as workloads and stress mount, students get tired, desperate, and sometimes lazy. Plagiarism and cheating can become attractive options for getting the job done, yet they have far-reaching effects.

Plagiarism and cheating aren't just limited to copying papers and taking tests; teachers of the visual arts are finding it increasingly difficult to draw the line between students seeking inspiration, paying homage, and stealing.

In this digital age, information and images are easier to copy than ever before, and our students' critical thinking skills are being compromised. Academically dishonest behaviors are rampant, and technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, and online paper mills are facilitating their spread.

  • Education Week published results from a study that concluded 54% of students admitted to plagiarizing off the Internet.
  • At Plagiarism.org a study revealed that 47% of students believed teachers "sometimes choose to ignore students who are cheating.”

This page offers some tips to help deter students from plagiarizing — and to discuss it if they have.

The Academy’s policy on plagiarism

“All art and design work, and all written work, must be the original work of the student. Any quotations, paraphrases, or direct appropriation of imagery or ideas from source material must be properly cited according to university, departmental, and/or instructor policy. Any student who plagiarizes will receive a grade of “F” for that assignment, with no opportunity to do the assignment again. All plagiarism offenses will be reported to the department director and the Education Office. Plagiarism is a violation of the Academy’s Academic Honesty Policy and may be grounds for suspension or dismissal from the Academy. This policy constitutes an official warning to each student.” (Learn more: Student Code of Conduct)

Strategies for reducing the likelihood of academic dishonesty

Talk about plagiarism with your students.
  • Take time to go over The Academy’s plagiarism policy and talk with your students about the seriousness of plagiarism. Discuss grading consequences of plagiarizing work. 
  • Frame intellectual dishonesty in a professional context. Talk about how dishonest behavior has been treated in your field. Are there famous cases that have ruined someone's reputation? Many students aren’t aware of their responsibilities and rights as creatives. Model how to cite sources and inspiration in your field. Make the case that cheating leads to lost clients and respect for cheating-like behavior once you're in the field. Ask students how they would feel if someone used their work without acknowledging it.
  • Direct students to the Academy's Online Language Support site. It has good tips for students on how to avoid plagiarizing.
Design assignments that discourage plagiarism.
  • Clearly communicate project goals and grading criteria.
  • Change a few details within your assignments from semester to semester. This prevents students from merely copying and sharing with peers.
  • Engineer a unique or personal component into your assignments, e.g., "What's one application you could envision for this skill set we’ve just learned?" or "If you could make this software program do one thing differently, what would it be?" The requirement of a personal "voice" demands critical thinking and prevents students from looking for an easy answer on the Web. This is good practice for real-world assignments that require solutions be tailored to a specific client or circumstance.
  • Review work-in-progress:
    • Set up assignments so that you can see the students' process of creation and check in on their progress at several stages. Require multiple iterations of big projects and have students show their process through outlines, drafts, sketches and evidence of research in notes or sketchbooks. "Staging" big assignments, by breaking large tasks into smaller ones, teaches time management and demonstrates individual progress. Be sure to see something concrete in advance, especially if the project is big or particularly complex.
    • Require students to submit drafts, thumbnails, sketches, reflective process journals (i.e. a short reflective piece of writing detailing their creative process), digital photos of their work at various stages, or other evidence of their process with their final projects. Don’t allow students to change their topic late in the semester.
    • Use some class time to work on projects so you can see original student work.

Tips for discussing plagiarism with a student

Once you have received students' work and you suspect plagiarism, it's your responsibility to talk with the student. Here are strategies to help prepare for your discussion:

  • Familiarize yourself with The Academy’s policy on plagiarism.
  • Do your research to confirm, as best as you can, that the work is plagiarized.
  • Inform your Director that you suspect plagiarism and that you are contacting the student.
  • Take time to predict how the student might react when confronted. Be prepared for a variety of reactions.
  • Meet with the student in private and begin your conversation with these phrases:

“I'm confused about why some parts of this project are done so well while others aren't. Can you explain?”

“This final submission is very different from previous versions I've seen. Can you explain why there is such a great difference?”

“I was surprised by your final project, so I did some investigation. Before I tell you what I found out, is there anything you'd like to tell me?”

  • If it becomes clear in the course of discussion that the student has plagiarized, the student should fail the assignment, but not necessarily the class.
  • Follow up with a general announcement to the class that plagiarism will not be tolerated. If a student is caught plagiarizing multiple times in a course, he will fail the course. If a student is caught plagiarizing in more than one course, he/she may be expelled from school.
  • Sometimes the student will adamantly deny plagiarizing. Despite your strong suspicions, you cannot fail him based on your suspicions only. However, let your director be aware of the situation so that should it occur again or in another class, there will be a history of the issue.

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