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TL v56n2 Avoiding Plagiarism: Success Strategies in Tennessee
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Tennessee Libraries

Volume 56 Number 2



Avoiding Plagiarism:

Success Strategies in Tennessee


Nancy Snyder
Instructional Technology Librarian

Gina Garber
Digital Services Librarian

Aaron Dobbs
Network Services Librarian

Austin Peay State University


Conference Program Abstract: Learn how librarians at Austin Peay are educating students on preventing plagiarism utilizing multiple modes of delivery, including our adaptation of the Plagiarism: The Crime of Intellectual Kidnapping tutorial and leading in-class activities. Hear the results of our Tennessee plagiarism survey and learn how other Tennessee institutions address plagiarism.

Before we begin the presentation, we need to thank those of you who took the time to complete our plagiarism survey. We had 118 librarians complete the survey and are pleased to announce that almost all of the southeastern states were represented. In addition, we have received a lot of interest in our presentation, we believe, due to the survey.

As some of you may recall, we did a presentation last year at the TLA Conference called Information Literacy in the First Year: Collaborating, Planning and Assessing at Austin Peay (See TL Volume 55 Number 2 p. 29) . Since we received positive feedback and many questions about our presentation, we decided to take that presentation a step further and focus on a specific area. We thought that the topic of plagiarism is one where we could share what we are doing at Austin Peay with you, and in turn we could learn what you and the other southeastern librarians are doing to assist students in avoiding plagiarism.

Background in Broad (Brush) Strokes

Figure 1.

For those of you who were not at our presentation last year, we want to provide a brief background of the First-Year Experience program at Austin Peay. Liberal Arts in University Life or LART 1000 was the pilot course that was originally developed as part of the SACS accreditation Quality Enhancement Plan. The library was involved in the process from the beginning. A librarian was appointed to a committee to develop the pilot first-year experience course. This librarian also served on a sub-committee that developed a syllabus for the course.

LART 1000 began as a three credit hour course to assist students in the transition from high school to college, but focusing on the Liberal Arts. Librarians were paired with faculty members from around the campus to team teach LART 1000. The course was then redesigned into a one credit hour course and renamed APSU 1000. It became a mandatory course for all incoming first-year students with 12 or less college credits.

The library component of the course did not change, nor did the overarching goal. That goal was to integrate information literacy into the first year students experience course. We achieved the goal through the use of the Library Information Literacy Tutorial (LILT), where students are required to complete six modules. Librarians also taught one or two class sessions in which students learned information literacy concepts that enabled them to complete a career research assignment. The career research assignment required students to provide at least one direct quotation, one paraphrase, and a works cited/reference page.

Plagiarism was one information literacy concept that received special attention due to the amount of plagiarism that occurred in the pilot course. A mandatory Academic Honesty Day was built into the ASPU 1000 course. Librarians developed several approaches that they and APSU 1000 instructors used to help students learn about plagiarism.

Librarian Developed Approaches

Figure 2.

We took a number of approaches to addressing plagiarism in the APSU 1000 course, including using a variety of learning assignments and multimedia tools.

Plagiarism: It's a Crime DVD

During the APSU 1000 Orientation, students were required to attend four mandatory workshops. One of the workshops was called Conduct Expected of APSU Students. We provided four workshops through which 1,200 students rotated. During this workshop we addressed plagiarism and showed this 20 minute video. The APSU 1000 planning committee thought we should introduce the topic of plagiarism early, before classes actually begin and then revisit plagiarism during Academic Honesty Day.

Academic Honesty Presentation

Librarians are also invited to teach the Academic Honesty portion of the course. Gina Garber's presentation included cartoons throughout, in order to break up the serious subject of plagiarism by using humor to introduce another focused academic honesty area. As you can imagine, it was difficult to find cartoons on the topic of plagiarism. The presentation also demonstrates that everyone needs to cite sources when they have used ideas or images in a presentation. This is demonstrated with the cartoon citations and the citations at the end of the presentation. The presentation usually takes 20 to 30 minutes. At the end of the presentation Gina gives a fun pop quiz, and provides rewards for correct answers.

Caught Cheating: The Cheating Crisis in America's Schools DVD

This DVD is another resource for APSU Instructors. It addresses plagiarism and more on the problem of cheating. I showed parts of this DVD to a class and was surprised that the APSU 1000 Instructor was actually learning along with her students. The instructor was in a panic because she perceived the video as a way to teach students how to cheat. I explained that students are already aware of the technology to enable students to cheat such as cell phones, text messaging, etc. We keep this resource and other resources relating to the First Year Experience program on reserve in the library for instructors to check out.

A web page “How to Avoid Plagiarism

Our colleague Lori Buchanan developed this web page for our students. It is simple, to the point and easy to read. We have had positive feedback from our students. You can see the page at:

Plagiarism 101 exercise

This is an active learning exercise (Plagiarism 101, that we added to our textbook last year as another option for our APSU 1000 instructors. This group exercise focuses on in-text citations for students. The exercise provides a few paragraphs from Mark Twain's, Roughing It . Students are provided with five in-text citations. Together they must decide if the citations are guilty or not guilty of plagiarism. Each group reports on one of the five citations and provides evidence. The exercise takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

LILT Module 6 covering plagiarism

The Library Information Literacy Tutorial (LILT) Module 6 ( is an interactive module called Citing Sources. Once students complete this module they should be able to recognize different parts of a citation, describe when to cite sources used in their work, list ways to avoid plagiarism, and understand the reasons for copyright. All APSU 1000 students are required to complete this module.

Plagiarism: the Crime of Intellectual Kidnapping

This tutorial ( is an adaptation of San Jose State University's (SJSU) Plagiarism Tutorial. The tutorial takes approximately 20 minutes for students to complete and provides information about plagiarism, paraphrasing, and citing sources. A little later we will share in detail with you how we adapted this tutorial for our students. Before we do that, the last area we want to cover is assessment.


Figure 3.

We assess students' success with this work in a number of ways. Three practical assessment practices that we use are:

  1. We look at the LILT plagiarism module quiz results over time to see if there are discrepancies or major changes in the reports page. If students are missing the same questions over and over, we might modify that question. If they continue to miss the question, we know we need to focus on this area more.
  2. We look at sources used in the mini career research assignment paper. We suggest sources for our students to use in this assignment. We look at the citations, both in-text and in the bibliography, to make assessments.
  3. Finally, we look at quiz results from the adapted SJSU Tutorial. We compare the Prequiz to Quiz questions that measure same plagiarism concepts. However, be aware that we are not yet sure how successful we have been in gathering this data. The main reason is that this tutorial is not mandatory like LILT; only some of the APSU 1000 Instructors make the tutorial a requirement.

Plagiarism: The Crime of Intellectual Kidnapping

Next, we're going to summarize the technical side of adapting, implementing, and launching our version of the San Jose State University (SJSU) “Plagiarism: the Crime of Intellectual Kidnapping” tutorial. You can find the tutorial at and information on its open source license at

Behind the Curtain

Figure 4.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, a definition of terms is in order. Apache is an open-source HTTP server and the most popular web server on the Internet since April 1996 ( PHP is a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for Web development ( MySQL is the world's most popular open source database (

Every web server on the internet can be configured differently; not every website is based upon the exact same technologies. SJSU originally developed and configured the “Plagiarism: the Crime of Intellectual Kidnapping” tutorial for their website, which is based on the Apache web server which also runs PHP and MySQL. The Austin Peay State University Library (APSU) website is based on Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) which means file access permissions schema in the original SJSU implementation would not work for us. Similarly, the APSU configuration for PHP and MySQL were a little bit different.

The specific modifications made to the tutorial were as follow:

  • MySQL
    • MySQL updated to current version on APSU web server
    • Database creation script tweaked to reflect data collection changes
  • PHP
    • Current version of PHP installed and configured
    • Reports pages modified and tested for accuracy
  • Reports
    • Original reports queries modified to capture semester and section data
    • New queries and reports pages written to display data by section and students' last names for professors' ease of scoring
  • Reporting security
    • Apache .htaccess files were dropped
    • IIS and integrated Active Directory permissions configured

There are large support communities on the internet for both MySQL and PHP. These communities are very helpful and offer example code which enable the MySQL and PHP newcomers to pick up the syntax and write effective, if not always pretty, working code. The installers for these packages are readily available and easy to install and configure on a Windows-based server.

Public Face

Figure 5.

The original version and our version of the tutorial give the option of using Flash animation or static images in the user interface. With the help of a university graphic designer, we customized the page headers and changed the color palette for a look more specific to APSU. SJSU-specific information was replaced with APSU specific information and the copyright statement updated to reflect SJSU's original content and our modifications.

The tutorial has been available, but not required, for 2 semesters. Statistics on completion and scores for those semesters were:

  • 192 students in Fall 2005 took the PreQuiz (average score: 80%)
  • 181 students in Fall 2005 took the Quiz (average score: 73%)
  • 58 students in Spring 2006 took the PreQuiz (average score: 80%)
  • 57 students in Spring 2006 took the Quiz (average score: 71%)

Note the interesting pattern in the results: the scores consistently drop from the PreQuiz to the Quiz. We have done some preliminary brainstorming for reasons why this occurs, and we have a few theories, including 1) different wording between PreQuiz and Quiz; 2) introduction of confusion through the tutorial or questions; or, perhaps, 3) bugs in the code for recording the scores (storing the PreQuiz results in the QuizScores table and Quiz results in the PreQuizScores table).

We plan to do a more comprehensive assessment of the tutorial over the summer to determine which questions were missed most, identify ambiguous wording, and evaluate the difficulty of the questions. Once the assessment is completed, we will retool the tutorial over the summer, reassess results after the fall and spring semesters, and revisit again as needed.

Plagiarism Survey Results

We received one hundred eighteen responses from the survey about plagiarism that we sent to state and regional library listservs in the southeast. Nearly every state responded!

We have over sixty printed pages of survey results, but this article will highlight only some of the responses. The handout provides additional comments, and the full results of the survey are on our website at

Figure 6 shows the number of responses from each state. As you might expect, we received the most responses from our home state of Tennessee.

Figure 6.

Libraries Representation

Figure 7.


Figure 7 illustrates the percentage of library types that were represented in the survey. We received twenty-five percent of our responses from librarians working in school libraries ranging from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade. Forty-six percent of respondents work in academic or postsecondary libraries, while about twenty-six percent work in public libraries.

First Introduction

Figure 8.

We found that the first introduction to the concept of plagiarism and avoiding it by teachers and librarians occurs as early as first grade, where students are required to cite sources.

However, basic instruction on preventing plagiarism most often occurs at the third or fourth grade level. Gina's shared with us that her daughter, who is in the third grade, was recently required to write a report and include three sources. Gina says that she teases our first year students that if her daughter can include three sources in a report, surely college students can do at least that much.

Early middle school, grades six and seven, is another common time for instruction on avoiding plagiarism. Likewise, ninth grade students are introduced or reintroduced to preventing plagiarism, either during orientation or in literature classes.

For colleges and universities, most students in the first year receive information on avoiding plagiarism during registration or orientation (two responses), sometime during the year in a first year seminar (thirteen responses), or in English courses (seven responses).

Figure 9.

Forty-five percent of our respondents provide both information and instruction about avoiding plagiarism. Eight percent said they would like to provide both and four percent would like to provide at least one or the other. Thus many libraries provide both, particularly school and university libraries.

Teaching about Preventing Plagiarism

Figure 10.

Figure 10 above shows some common themes about what students are taught about preventing plagiarism. As I was reading through the responses, I was really struck by the quotation: "not threatening, just placing the issue in context of research. Why it's a problem--how to avoid it." To me it seemed to get to the heart of the issue in a way that would not make students defensive.

Another way to address the issue without making students defensive is to ask how students would feel if someone else had copied their work and not given them credit. Likewise, how would they feel if their doctor had cheated in medical school and gave them information that could result in harm to them or loved ones? Or how would they feel if their accountant, who cheated in school, was not knowledgeable about current tax law and filed an erroneous return that cost more money than the student actually owed?


Figure 11.

Regarding successes in delivering preventing plagiarism instruction, one librarian wrote that “face-to-face, with examplesworks at their library. I am guessing that what was meant was questions are answered in a reference question type situation.

Another librarian commented that they had success with having students practice in a computer lab session, where students had an opportunity to engage with the material through using the computer as an agent.

One person commented that their school has had success in getting the majority of the teachers to use MLA, for which a packet was put together and distributed. A few teachers used APA. Using a web-based bibliographic management service product, such as Refworks, works well for students at another respondent's institution.

Greatest Challenges

Figure 12.

One of the greatest challenges in delivering plagiarism prevention instruction is laziness, greatly intensified by the ease of "copy and paste" on computers.

To paraphrase one respondent, copying (such as copying CDs and DVDs) is socially acceptable among peers. Thus, students have trouble distinguishing between copying CDs and copying someone's ideas and words.

Other respondents mentioned students don't believe there are consequences. Some say that students don't feel they have original ideas. One librarian commented students at his/her institution would go on the defensive and debate the concept of ‘original idea'.

Another respondent pointed out that “attaining consistency across our faculty and the various disciplines” is a big challenge. Another challenge is timing , “as with most [of] our instruction, it is separate from the research process. We talk about it as they begin their research, not when they need it while writing the paper.

Motivating Students

Figure 13.

As far as motivating students, many librarians said that telling students about the consequences, including its impact on grades, seemed to work. Some gave local examples of former students from the school who had been caught plagiarizing in college.

Some respondents said they discussed national cases of plagiarism with their students, such as Jayson Blair and the New York Times or James Frey's A Million Little Pieces .


Regarding consequences, a common theme among respondents was a two strikes policy. First strike, a student gets a failing grade on the assignment and/or the course. The second occurrence of plagiarism results in expulsion from the school. Others said there was a range of cumulative consequences from the first occurrence to the final occurrence, often resulting in the student being expelled.

Figure 14.

  Figure 15.

Thirty-eight percent of the respondents say the consequences of plagiarism are enforced on a systematic basis a majority of the time. You'll find more statistics broken down by level of schooling on the handout.


Forty librarians from ten states say they give workshops. More information on the distribution of these results is in the handout.

Figure 16.

We were curious if there was a correlation between those who gave workshops and those attended workshops. What we discovered was that one in three both attend workshops and give workshops, while one in four of those who do not currently attend workshops, give workshops. Based on our own experience, we are guessing that information on teaching plagiarism prevention is passed informally to colleagues or some people have become experts through experience at their school and are sharing that with others.

Where do we go from here?

So, what does this all mean? How can we help each other in educating students and others about preventing plagiarism and its consequences for scholarship at any level?

Currently, there is a new information literacy listserv, INFOLIT, for librarians working for pre-kindergarten to doctoral level institutions. The listserv is a joint venture between the American Association of School Librarian s (AASL) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).

Would it be helpful to have a place to share and store resources? Maybe a wiki? A roundtable with a resources website?

As far as resources, there is a new online peer-reviewed plagiarism journal, Plagiary. I heard about Plagiary when I attended a workshop on plagiarism at ALA Midwinter this past January. There is a link included on the references in the handout.

A good place to look for data and readings related to the first year college experience is The National Resource Center for the First Year Experience. An annotated bibliography compiled by Scott Walter is available on this site and the link is included below.


Fain, M. 2006, April. Cheating 101: Internet Paper Mills. (accessed April 4, 2006).

Gardner, J. & Hardesty, L. 2004, May. The reform movement for the first year experience.  What is the role of the librarians? Library Issues 24. (accessed April 4, 2006).

LILT Library Information Literacy Tutorial. 2004.

Plagiarism: The Crime of Intellectual Kidnapping. 2005.

Resources for Avoiding Plagiarism: Success Strategies in Tennessee. 2006, April.

Schutz, G., Buchanan, L., Mahapatra, A. & Martinez-Rassi, L. 2004, August. Measuring student experiential and academic assimilation in a first-year seminar course. Paper presented at the Tennessee Association for Institutional Research Fall Conference.

Walter, S. 2004. The First-Year Experience and Academic Libraries: A Select Annotated Bibliography. National Resource Center Resources. (accessed April 4, 2006).


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