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Faculty Resources: Plagiarism

What to do if you suspect a student has committed plagiarism

Situations indicating plagiarism:
  • The paper doesn't fit the requirements of the assignment.
  • The level of writing is lower or higher than expected of the student.
  • The sources cited are outdated. (Most of the papers available for free or purchase on the Internet have been out there for a few years.)
  • The use of language is not in character with the student's usual writing.
  • A bad use of the English language. Some of the papers available on the internet have deliberate misspellings.
  • When citing the class textbook, the page numbers do not correspond to the edition being used by the class.
  • Tenses may be off and sentences awkwardly put together. Sentence logic may not follow along properly.
  • There can be physical oddities in the paper such as odd line spacing, page numbers, even URLs at the top of the page.
  • Books or other sources cited as resources are not available from JCC's library.


Steps to take to confirm an act of plagiarism has occurred:

  • Ask a JCC librarian for help locating the sources
  • Consult the sources cited by the student.
  • Search a distinctive phrase on a search engine such as Google and also use  Article Search. Google will help you find a source from the World Wide Web.  Article Search will help you find a source from the JCC Databases.
  • Talk to the student about their experience researching and/or writing the paper.
  • Consult with a Department colleague about the other ways to confirm an act of plagiarism has occurred.


Once a faculty member has confirmed a case of plagiarism the following procedure is suggested:

  • Give the appropriate supervisor a heads up (the Department Chair) and discuss the situation.The department chair should contact the AVP.
  • Call the Vice President for Academic Affairs' office and find out if the student has any previous incidents of plagiarism on file.
  • Have a conversation with the student. Present the evidence indicating plagiarism and explain the consequences. The final decision on appropriate consequences might be affected by the content of this conversation. Generally speaking, consequences within the direct purview of the instructor to implement could include a lower grade or a zero on the assignment. Should the instructor determine that an immediate failure in the course is warranted, the faculty member should consult with the Vice President for Academic Affairs about authorizing the Registrar to post an F in the course; this last step is usually not needed if the plagiarism happens late enough in the semester to be after the withdrawal period. Suspension or dismissal could possibly result from the plagiarism but these options would involve action from the Vice President for Academic Affairs' office to be implemented.
  • The faculty member should inform the student that a report of this plagiarism will be forwarded to the Vice President for Academic Affairs' office for permanent filing.
  • The faculty member should also inform the student that if s/he wants to protest the charge of plagiarism, or the severity of the consequence, the student should follow the steps outlined in the College's policy on adjudication of academic issues, which appears in Section II, Part B, of the "Statement of the Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities of Jefferson Community College Students" in the College Catalog.
  • After this meeting with the student, the faculty member should then formally report the case of plagiarism to the Vice President for Academic Affairs' office.

Plagiarism Tutorial for your students

Plagiarism Guide for Students and Faculty

Tips to avoiding plagiarism before it happens

  • Include a statement on your policies towards plagiarism in your syllabus.
  • Show your students some websites offering free papers, letting them know what you know.
  • Assign one of the plagiarism tutorials in the box to the right

Learn your students' writing style. Have them write an in-class essay to get a sample of the tone of their writing.

Spend time with your students discussing direct quotes and paraphrasing. Allow them to practice.

Become familiar with the sources available in your content area.


Design your assignments to avoid plagiarism:

  • Assign several smaller papers rather than one large one.
  • Explain the purpose of the assignment.
  • Reduce the students' choices to one or two topics.
  • Avoid assigning broad topics.
  • Assign current topics.
  • Vary your assignments from one semester to the next.


Make your students' research a process:

  • Follow the traditional research steps. Have the students hand in a working bibliography, an outline, a draft and then a final paper.
  • Require personal reflection as part of the assignment.
  • Require an annotated bibliography.
  • Have students hand in copies of the sources they cite.
  • Have your students write an in-class essay on their research experience after they hand in the paper.


Schedule library research time for the class.

Give your students enough time to do an adequate job.