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Having trouble with copy-paste plagiarism? If your students are turning in copy-paste research projects and reports, you might want to consider a few of the following tips and strategies before assigning your next research project. “Research is creating new knowledge. -Neil Armstrong

Determine your definition of research.

Put yourself in your students’ shoes.

Main Entry: 1re·search 1 : careful or diligent search 2 : studious inquiry or examination; especially : investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws 3 : the collecting of information about a particular subject

Ask yourself these questions to gain insight into what your students will experience when completing your research assignment: 1. Can I find the answer to my research question/s in a single online source? 2. Am I being asked to collect existing information and ideas or am I being asked to generate new information and ideas?

Consider the word research as defined by the Merrian-Webster online dictionary. If your research project is asking students to complete a “careful or diligent search” or to “collect information about a particular subject”, is it necessary for students to reword the information once they find it? Students may struggle to understand the purpose and relevance of an assignment that asks them to locate existing information and then rewrite it in paragraph form. Some will struggle to understand why they are being asked to take information that already exists and has been written by an expert, and then re-write it using their inferior K-12 language skills? If the purpose of having your students gather information is to make sure they are exposed to specific information, that they understand how to find the information from reliable and diverse sources and to assess their ability to cite sources correctly, consider creating scavenger hunts and information hunts in which copy-paste is allowed and sources must be cited correctly in bibliography format. Then, assess their comprehension of the material using oral presentations, jeopardy games or posters.

3. Was I required to use a minimum of three different types of sources? 4. Am I able to present my research findings in a variety of formats or am I being required to present my research in a written report? 5. Is this assignment relevant to me and do I understand why I am being asked to complete the assignment? If you answer “yes” to Q1. and Q2. a student will be more likely to copy-paste from an online source. If you answered “yes” to Q3., Q4. and Q5. your students will be much less likely to copy-paste.

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” -Zora Neale Hurston

Strategy 1: Step-up to Research In a recent report titled “Finding Context: What Today’s College Students Say about Conducting Research in the Digital Age” published by Project Information Literacy, students were asked “What one word sums up how you feel at the moment you receive a course-related research assignment?” Responses included, “angst, tired, dread, fear, anxious, annoyed, stressed, disgusted, intrigued, excited, confused and overwhelmed.” If our college students experience such a diverse range of emotions, imagine how K-12 students feel! During the K-12 years, students are asked by teachers again and again to complete “research” assignments. Unfortunately, unless a school has adopted a specific school wide research process, than each new research project comes with a new set of expectations. Teachers assume that students arrive in their classrooms with adequate skills and experience to complete research assignments. This assumption can lead to frustration for both the teacher and student. Teachers are frustrated by the poor-quality of the projects and the highrate of plagiarism. Students are frustrated because yet again, they have been asked to complete an assignment they are not truly sure how to complete. To improve the quality of research in your classroom, consider stepping students through at least one guided research project at the beginning of each year. Here’s how: 1.Select a topic you would like to research in your classroom and prepare at least 3 great research questions you would like students to explore. A great question will require students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluated. (Think Bloom’s Taxonomy!)

“The o u make tcome of an two q uestio y serious re ns gro s w whe earch can only b re only et one g rew be o fore. -Thors tein Ve ” 2. Get your blen

students excited. Gather a variety of resources and set up a resource table or section in the classroom. Include at least 3-4 different resource types including books, online sources, videos, a personal interview with an expert, etc... Model an online search for information on the topic and practice keyword searching. Select some some online resources that are reliable and some that aren’t. Discuss why they are and are not reliable. Once students interests have been piqued, explain what makes a good research question. Have students generate research questions together. Add their questions to yours and post them where the entire class can see them. 3.Demonstrate how to gather information from sources and take notes. Model specifically how to paraphrase and how to “take notes in one’s own words”. Consider using online notecard software to manage notes. ( offers an excellent note management system and students do not need e-mail addresses to create free accounts. http:// is another excellent resource but requires subscription.)

An online bookmarking tool such as is also great for helping students keep track of sources, facts and references. Diigo let’s students highlight and capture relevant information, create groups for sharing resources, tag for easy recovery, and build lists for different projects.

Stepping up to research is not a quick process. It takes a significant amount of time and planning, but the payoff is a classroom where students are engaged in their research projects and able to research using ethical practices. Strategy 2: I-Search Papers

4. Build a class bibliography together. (There are a number of excellent resources on the web that can be used to build and store bibliographies such as or 5.Work together to try and answer your initial research questions with your class. If you plan to have students write papers during the year, model how to first organize information in an outline or graphic organizer. Then, show a model of a completed essay or paper. Point out specific uses of quotations and citations.

I-Search papers are less formal than traditional research papers in that they are usually written as first person narratives. The term "I-Search" was coined by Ken Macrorie in his book The I-Search Paper (Heinemann, 1988). The I-Search paper tells the story of a search for information. Students begin with a meaningful question. They search for answers to their question and lastly, they tell the story of their search. Because students are writing in the first person, it is more difficult to plagiarize.

If you do not plan to require that students present their research in the form of a paper, work together with your class to generate a master list of the many ways they can present their research. Be creative! PodCasts, SlideShows, Webpages, blogs, wikis, posters, photo essays, etc... can all be used by students to present their research. If fact, having students present research using Web 2.0 tools it is a great way to integrate technology in a meaningful manner in the classroom and it will greatly reduce the potential for plagiarism.

In an I-Search paper, students begin by explaining to readers what they already knew about a topic and what they wanted to know more about. They include a hypothesis and retrace research steps.

Once you have completed a guided research project, assign the next research project. This time, give students more flexibility in their topic and more independence in choosing sources, but stay extremely involved in the process. Require that students submit work along the way. Create mini-goals for students that will help them develop good habits in regards to pacing projects.

There are many resources and models of ISearch Papers online. Here are a few to explore:

In the body of the I-Search paper, students explain what they discovered from doing their research and support their findings with examples from sources. The I-Search paper is concluded by summarizing the significance of completing the I-Search project. The hypothesis is restated.

The EDC (Education Development Center) has a site called Literacy Matters with this resource on ISearch papers: content/isearch/intro.htm Holt, Rinehart, and Winston has this I-Search model and framework available online in a .pdf:

To eliminate copy-paste plagiarism try collaborative research methods with your students! Let’s use the “animal report” as an example. Young students are often asked to research an animal. They are asked to research the habitat, diet, and features of their animal. Students are instructed to consult multiple sources to gather facts and take notes in their own words. This assignment often ends with an “Animal Report” being written by each student. This information is usually easy to find with a simple search online. The likelihood for plagiarism on this “Animal Report” is HIGH. Watch how a simple adjustment in the project encourages collaboration and higher-level thinking while reducing the potential for plagiarism! Once students have collected information on their animal, right when they would normally write their “Animal Report”, flip the collaboration switch. Work together as a class to group and classify the animals that they have been studying based on their features, such as diets and habitats. Group them by similarities, then by differences. Create sub-groups within groups. Each time students create a group, write down observational statements. Ask questions and have students generate questions based on their observations. Do animals with similar habitats eat similar foods? Which of the animals live in the same part of the world? Use a Google Scribble Map to place markers in the region/s of the world where their animal can be found. As you sort information and begin to compare, keep a list of new questions. Go back to the sources and look for answers. Instead of an “Animal Report”, create a class website with illustrations, poems, paragraphs, and sound bytes to share the class’ research discoveries. By tweaking the project a bit, students are analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating! All it took was a little guidance.The added benefit is that students learn to collaborate when researching, an important skill that is relevant in the “real world”.

Cutting Out Copy and Paste in the Classroom.  

A few simple strategies to help prevent copy-paste plagiarism in the classroom and to encourage the development of good and ethical research...

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