The Academy requires all students to complete an Academic Integrity reading and self-certification process. We therefore assume that they understand what constitutes plagiarism, and if they commit plagiarism, it must have been intentional.
Academic integrity is taken very seriously, and there are serious consequences for violations, ranging from a Dean’s reprimand to mandatory withdrawal. No one is happy when this occurs.
At a faculty meeting last year Vic Henningsen of the History and Social Science Department explained how his colleagues support the research process and help their students avoid plagiarism. He explained that the teachers assess the process, not just the product. Many history teachers require many products to be turned in, including working bibliography, note cards, outlines, etc. These products are turned in according to a schedule that supports the student in working steadily rather than in working frantically at the last minute. Some teachers require bibliographies to be annotated, to assure that the student has actually used the source. Others require oral reports of written work, so the student is required to demonstrate mastery.
The OWHL has an essential role to play in this process too. From what we have seen over the years, we are convinced that the main reason that kids plagiarize intentionally is that they procrastinate to the point that they become desperate. We have also averted a lot of unintentional plagiarism by helping rookie researchers understand paraphrasing and keep their sources straight. Here are six ways that the instructional librarians routinely help keep kids from plagiarizing.
1. We emphasize the importance of topic selection, so that students choose a topic that really interests them. Most students come to the Help Desk with a “subject” not a topic. We interview them to make sure that they are invested in the subject, and then help them to narrow it to a topic, phrased as a question.
2. We expose them to a universe of possible sources, and help them learn to match their information need to a source type. The web is definitely not the best place to get all of the information that students need for research. We make them aware of alternatives.
3. We make using good resources as easy as using Google, by building assignment-specific OWHLGuides to bring selected resources to them. Here is an example of a guide that Sara Ciaburri built for the History 200 Commodities project.
4. We help them prevent inadvertent plagiarism due to sloppy research by teaching them to use NoodleBib to take notes, make an outline, keep a working bibliography and develop a final bibliography in the selected citation style. NoodleBib is free to all of our students, and despite its name it is a sophisticated and powerful research tool.
5. We show them how to avoid getting caught short at the last minute by planning their time. We offer an online“Planning Assignments” tool that prompts the user to enter today’s date and the date that the research product is due, and then prescribes the steps of the research process that need to be accomplished each day in order to stay on track. It even sends email reminders!
6. We do endless “Bibliotherapy.” Instruction librarians are available to help kids in “individual Research Consultations” every hour that the OWHL is open. Many students return several times over the course of a research project, getting feedback on what they have accomplished, and help and direction on their next steps.