Creating Plagiarism-Proof Assignments

Every semester, do you think, “I can never win the battle with plagiarism?” Well, here is some advice for making your writing assignments strong enough to stand up to even the most insidious of plagiarisms!

Before you give out your assignment:

  • Some students truly do not know what plagiarism is. Provide handouts explaining the concept and make sure they know the rules of citation and paraphrasing and/or dedicate a few minutes of class time to clarify.
  • Try to minimize contradictions in assignments. For example: “Develop a topic based on what has already been said and written BUT write something new and original; rely on experts’ and authorities’ opinions BUT Improve upon and/or disagree with those same opinions.”

While developing assignments:

  • Avoid open-ended topics. Rather, provide a clear list of potential topics that ask critical-thinking questions.
  • Change assignments from semester to semester. Give unique topics with a “twist”.
  • Emphasize the importance of the student’s own contribution to the topic, their ability to “improve on” or disagree with experts, to give their own contributions to the field.
  • Require Specific Components to the Paper. Some strong inhibitors to plagiarism include asking students to use: Up-to-date sources; Books or articles you have provided; Charts/ data you have given; Interviews
  • Scaffold your assignment into “steps”: Include summaries and response papers; Require an annotated bibliography.
  • Use exploratory writing like keeping a project log to document the research process.
  • Require oral reports of student papers. If students know at the beginning of the term that they will be giving a presentation on their research papers to the rest of the class, they will recognize the need to be very familiar with both the process and the content of the paper.
  • Require a postscript on the day the paper is due, also called a “meta-learning essay,” that asks students to describe what they learned from the assignment. This is effective in not only getting students to reflect on their writing and researching process, but allows for more insight into whether or not they accomplished that progress truthfully.


More on annotated bibliographies from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University.

You may also scaffold in a short ‘exploratory paper’ for your assignment. These papers are sort of a combination of research logs and annotated bibliographies, but in the form of a structured narrative. More on exploratory papers from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University.


Credits: Original post by Lindsey Albracht, Christina Nadler, and the students in the Macaulay Honors Program at Queens College; updated and remixed by Charlotte Thurston.

Featured image from The Pattern Library.

Last updated: July 13th, 2020.