Plagiarism lesson plan and worksheet (college)

Plagiarism Powerpoint Presentation

You can download the powerpoint presentation by clicking this link.

You can access the worksheet here (including Word/PDF downloads)

NB: For KS3, there is a different version of the lesson available here.

Text of the powerpoint presentation with additional notes

1. How to Research for an Essay and Avoid Plagiarism

For university and college students using Cognitive Psychology as an example

Note: this presentation is written using cognitive psychology articles as examples, but the same text can be used in any topic, substituting the papers and search terms for the relevant topic.

2. Plan for today

  • Look at a paper (journal article)
  • Discuss researching for and writing essays
  • Practice citations
  • Discuss plagiaristic practices

3. Researching for Essay

  • Wikipedia NO
  • Other websites, blogs, newspapers, encyclopaedias, summary sites NO
  • Google Scholar YES

Why is google scholar different?

Because the articles presented by this database have already been published. After publication, a pdf file or other type of file is uploaded to a scholars’ database for use by searching. Google Scholar then searches all of the scholars’ databases.

Note: Students need to understand the difference between using the internet for academic research, using valid resources such as article databases and google scholar and using non-valid sources that are not evidence-based. If there is time, ask the students to discuss why they think Wikipedia is unacceptable. Possible reasons are that it is unreliable, with some famous hoaxes perpetrated, that some of the content may be plagiarised from other sources, and that it is not always written by experts in the field.

Note: In media studies it may be appropriate to use blogs and newspaper websites, so this could be mentioned if relevant.


Note: This slide is simply an image of the front page of google scholar, pointing out the similarities with google’s usual home page. It may also be worth noting that if an academic author and title is input into google’s home page, the top results are often scholarly articles with a suggestion to go and look on google scholar.

5. Screenshot of Google Scholar Search

Note: This screen has no text but is an image taking up the whole slide. On this screen, you can discuss how using a simple search term you have found three papers directly relevant to an essay title. Also, the menu is open as the top paper has been right-clicked, to highlight to students that it is a good idea to “open in a new window’ or tab, so that your original search remains on your desktop. The slide will need to be redone if you are presenting to students in a different subject not Cognitive Psychology, as the search term is “biological motion’.

6. Home vs College

  • For some articles you may only be able to access the abstract – this is still useful
  • On the college network you will be able to access more “full text’ articles, as they have paid a subscription
  • Use the college network as much as possible but use home networks or other libraries if necessary
  • Don’t pay for an article! Use the abstract instead, or get it via the college network

Note: Encouraging students to study while at home if possible, to get them into a good work ethic, but warn them that the college network may provide wider access. Emphasise the importance of not paying for articles, as they do cost if you are not a subscriber, but find other ways of obtaining the article. It may be that the same article appears in several places on the internet, for instance researchers often have websites themselves where they post articles they have authored or co-authored.

7. Advanced Search

  • You can perform an advanced search on Google Scholar to restrict the search by year and by author name
  • It is better to find more recent research especially in fast moving fields such as cognitive psychology
  • The advanced search helps if you have a very wide area to narrow down, or you know the name of an author

Note: Emphasise the importance of the advanced search. For instance, in a lot of subject areas, tutors prefer recent research to be cited, i.e. the last decade. However, there may be a particular seminal work from the 1960’s for instance, that would need to be cited as well. Therefore there may be several searches conducted, beginning more widely and narrowing down.

8. Advanced Search Screenshot

Note: this is a screen shot of the advanced search. Again, it will need to be redone if you are presenting to students in a different subject not Cognitive Psychology. You can click the arrow keys to go back and forth between this and the previous slide while discussing the points made about performing advanced searches.

9. Abstract Only

You may find an article in abstract but not “full text’, these are useful to increase your references

Note: The majority of this screen is taken up with a screenshot of an abstract. It will need to be redone if you are presenting to students in a different subject not Cognitive Psychology. This screen can be used to explain what an abstract is, and how it can be useful to writing an essay because it is a succinct summary of the article itself and contains all that is needed to write a reference and citation.

10. No need to reference URL

Format for references: name(s) date, title, journal, vol(no), pages

Mather, G. & Murdoch, L. (1994) Gender Discrimination in Biological Motion Displays Based on Dynamic Cues, Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 258(1353), pp.273-279

You can use an abstract if you can’t access the full article, and do not generally need to admit that you only used the abstract. However, if all of your citations come from abstracts then it will be obvious to the marker as you will only be able to make general points.

Note: The reference is for a Cognitive Psychology paper, so again will need to be changed if a different topic is being discussed. The reference style used here is Harvard. Emphasise to students that although abstracts are useful, they should not be relied upon entirely but the whole article should be accessed if possible and abstracts used as a fallback.

11. Full articles in pdf

Again, no need to reference the url as it is all there for you to format as a reference for your essay.

Look at this heading (handout) and tell me what the reference should be.

Remember: name(s) date, title, journal, vol(no), pages

Grèzes, J., Fonlupt,P., Bertenthal, B., Delon-Martin, C., Segebarth, C., & Decety, J. (2001). Does Perception of Biological Motion Rely on Specific Brain Regions? NeuroImage, 13, pp.775–785.

Note: Print just the first and last page of the article for students, as a whole article will be too overwhelming. The article referenced here is available in pdf at Choose another article if desired, but ensure that the whole abstract, a portion of the introduction and the reference list is available. Also choose an article that has a standard format for the information that goes into the reference. The reference on the slide will appear separately to the rest of the slide, to give students a chance to guess at it before they see it. Students who are not used to reading papers may have some difficulty in spotting the journal title etc. in the header, so may need prompting.

12. Grèzes et al 2001 paper

  • This paper is 11 pages long
  • I have printed the first page and the last page of the article which includes references
  • We will now look in detail at the paper
  • You have five minutes to scan these two pages

Note: Hand out copies of the first and last page of the article. Encourage students to underline sections or highlight them as they read. Five minutes may be considered too harsh so you can give longer if there is time, however do not allow students to dwell on details as you are trying to encourage them to skim and glean information.

13. Processing an article for your essay

  • What can you learn from only the abstract?
    • The investigators’ stance, their premise and brief outline of conclusion
    • What can you learn from the introduction on the first page?
      • An overview of the previous literature
      • Learn your own style from introductions like this, as these are basically essays
      • What does the reference list give you?
        • Information for your next search

Note: These Q&As will appear separately to give students a chance to think about the answers themselves. Emphasise the importance of the introduction as it is like a mini-essay and it would be ideal if the students could learn to write in this way, without just copying it! (see later re plagiarism)

14. When to read the whole paper

  • If the paper interests you then read the whole thing, it will enhance your understanding of the topic
  • If it is the only paper you have been able to access
  • If your essay is based specifically on this paper, e.g. you are replicating the study
  • In most other cases you should skim the paper and pick out the pertinent points.
  • If you read every paper meticulously, then you are spending too much time on it given the amount of time you have to write the essay.

Note: Students should understand that they are free to read as many articles in full as they like, and you are not advocating that they cut corners, however depending on the amount of time they have for writing their essay, it may be judicious to skim read some of the more minor articles they are using.

15. Reference List

  • Learn from the reference list you see in published articles
  • Learn the format of references
  • Notice how many of the references are books and how many are other papers
    • For your essays you won’t be expected to include this many – you should aim for one general textbook, one or two books specific to the topic, and 5-10 articles for a standard sized essay of 1500 – 3000 words
    • Use the references here for your own research (not just copying as this is plagiarism!)

Note: Regarding the number of references expected for an essay, your own institution might have guidelines so this slide can be adjusted accordingly. I have given a general expectation for a good quality essay. Emphasise the difference between using textbooks (secondary references) and using articles (primary references). Note the ratio of books to articles – chapters in edited books by different authors are also classed as articles here, and you might have time to dwell on the nuances of this.

16. Stealing References = Plagiarism

  • What you cannot do because it is plagiarism:
  • Take a reference directly from a paper to use in your own essay without accessing the original or citing the author you are copying as a secondary source
  • Copy a whole sentence including a reference from another paper without citing the author you are copying as a secondary source
  • Any other form of copying from a research paper when you do not cite the author.

Note: You cannot overemphasise enough the importance of getting referencing right. Many students don’t realise this as they think that the information they give in the essay shows their knowledge and will get them marks, without realising that if this information is not correctly cited they will actually lose marks. Make sure you explain the differences between quoting with a citation, paraphrasing and using secondary references, examples on next slide.

17. Borrowing References is not Plagiarism

  • Accessing the original: “The recognition of point lights occur early in visual processing (Johansson, 1973).” Johansson appears in your reference list because you have found and read the original paper.
  • Citing the source: “The recognition of point lights occur early in visual processing (Johansson, 1973, cited by Grèzes et al, 2001 ).” Johansson does not appear in your reference list, but Grèzes does.
  • Citing the source here is referred to as secondary referencing and you should minimise this in your essay – keep it for those points you want to make but cannot access the original.

Note: Again, these examples are used from the Cognitive Psychology paper so replace with different examples as appropriate. Ensure students know the difference between citing a primary and a secondary source, and understand that citing primary sources is always preferable.

18. Borrowing References

  • Copying a reference list from another paper is unacceptable. THIS IS PLAGIARISM
  • You can use legitimately use a reference list as a starting point for your own search, this is known as back-chaining.
  • Highlight the references you want, search google scholar for author and keywords.
  • You will find that paper plus any more recent papers which have referenced it, and will therefore also be relevant.
  • This is perfectly acceptable academic practice and is not plagiarism.

Note: Again, drumming home the problem of plagiarism; it applies to citations as well as for the information given with the citation. Emphasise the usefulness of using a reference list from a paper that is specifically relevant to the student’s essay title, and using it wisely without plagiarising, by searching for the authors and accessing the original papers and other relevant papers. This searching is done by academics regularly and many databases of scholarly articles facilitate it by having links to other articles that have cited a particular paper.

19. Academic Style

  • You should develop an academic style in your essays. Reading papers will give you a style.
  • Use impersonal statements, e.g. “It has been demonstrated that…” not personal e.g. “I think that…”
  • Every main point you make should be supported by a citation (author name & date in brackets).
  • Reading articles will give you experience of this style so that you begin to soak it up yourself.
  • It will become obvious to the tutor marking your essay that you read a lot of articles when you begin writing in an academic style.

Note: What is academic style? Many students already have an idea of it, because they have been told that they must write in a formal manner rather than as if they were chatting to a friend. Unfortunately this means that some essays can come across as quite pompous because the student is not used to writing formally. Encourage them to read articles, especially the introductions and discussions, as these are written in academic style and the student will begin to understand and reproduce it. There will be no need to plagiarise because if you read enough articles, your brain will unconsciously absorb the style and you will begin to reproduce it in your own work.

20. How Does a Tutor Spot Plagiarism?

  • Software that scans your essay and compares it to others and the internet.
  • If part of your essay is written in academic style and part of it is not, the academic parts will fall under suspicion.
  • If they notice their own lecture notes regurgitated back to them.

Note: Many students are surprised when their plagiarism has been detected, as they may think of their tricks as clever. They may be aware already of the software scanners, but they might not give the marking tutors a lot of credit as far as being able to spot plagiarism without software is concerned. When a tutor has forty essays to mark and all of these essays use the same reference list, it’s pretty obvious that this has simply been handed to them by a lecturer. As well as this, tutors might have read previous essays from the student and might see a sudden change in style, or might see a change in style in the middle of an essay. Regarding the regurgitated lecture notes, I kid you not; it’s incredible how often this happens.

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