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For TAs » Marking and Detecting Plagiarism

Marking and Detecting Plagiarism

TAs play an important role in helping students avoid academic dishonesty. The smaller tutorial and lab settings can enable you to better able to connect with students on an individual level and set a positive climate for honest academic effort. Academic integrity can be promoted in a variety of ways:

  • Reinforcing the students' role as participants in the discourse of the academic community which carries with it the need to develop and practice appropriate academic work habits
  • Emphasizing the importance of academic honesty as part of your discussions about assignments and in meeting with students generally
  • Offering supportive advice and pointing to resources for students on how to keep track of sources, reading, note taking, and pre-writing strategies, time management, and other suggestions to improve their research and writing skills
  • Providing explicit instructions on proper referencing, discuss what would be considered common knowledge and what needs to be cited, including internet sources, offer examples of good citation practices specific to the assignment, and encourage them to seek out your advice or that of the course director's to clarify situations where they unsure how to proceed.
  • Serving as a positive role model for your students by referencing the sources you draw upon in your discussions

Despite these efforts you may still encounter situations that may lead you to suspect plagiarism in assignments. A subtle shift in formatting, changing fonts, paragraph styles or citation styles, or headers containing urls are possible clues that some dishonesty has occurred. Other possible situations that may lead you to suspect plagiarism in assignments are:

  • A sentence or segment of text may prompt you to look more closely at the student's work, especially if it differs in style, expression and sentence structure from the rest of the submitted work.
  • Sometimes a paper or a portion of the paper might remind you of something you have read previously on the Internet, newsgroups, library databases and CD-ROMs relevant to the assignment.
  • As students progress through the course, you are likely to become familiar with each student's writing abilities based on the work they produce in class, and will likely notice if there is a sudden, unexplained change in a student's writing style or quality of work.
  • As a TA, you should be aware with the ready availability of essay services, both online and local, that offer free and custom paper writing services (essay mills), and take a look at papers relevant to the assignment.
  • Some kinds of information are just too specific to be common knowledge, and you will know that the student must have read it somewhere, at some time, even if it is presented in his or her own words. A source must be provided for that information.

If you encounter a written assignment where you suspect plagiarism has occurred, you should report the matter to your course director in writing, along with the material under suspicion, in accordance with the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty [new window]—see section 3.3. In some of the more obvious cases, it might be helpful to do a brief search to locate the original source for material (e.g., via Google or cross checking with other TAs); however, any suspicious case should be turned over to the course director as soon as possible.