Detecting And Deterring Plagiarism In Secondary Schools

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The materials are free to use and adapt for educational use, but credits to Netskills and Eduserv must be included, with the exception of the exercises "Differentiating Cheating Behaviour" and "Designing Out Plagiarism" which are based on exercises in exercises in Carroll, J (2002), A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, Oxford Brookes University (available from,

Image credits and references are given in the slide notes (in select View > Notes Page).

A suggested workshop outline is included below, giving approximate timings for each activity. The materials are designed to be tailored to suit your intended use, whether for a full day session or short 1-2 hour sessions.

Workshop Outline & Timetable

The sessions can be combined in the following way to form a full day workshop (timings are approximate):

Session 1

Presentation: What is Plagiarism? (20-25 minutes)

Group exercise: Where do you draw the line? (20-30 minutes)

Group exercise: Differentiating Cheating Behaviours (15 minutes)

Session 2

Presentation: Plagiarism, the Web and Schools (30 minutes)

Hands-on: Exploring Plagiarism and the Web (1 hour)

Session 3

Presentation: Deterring and Dealing with Plagiarism in Schools (20 minutes)

Group exercise: Designing Out Plagiarism (30 minutes)

Guidance for Running the Sessions

Specific notes for running each of the above sessions are given below.

Session One: What is Plagiarism?

Files used: WhatIsPlagiarism.ppt



This session comprises a presentation "What is Plagiarism?" (20-25 minutes, speaker's notes are given in the PowerPoint file, select View > Notes Page), followed by two group activities, Where do you draw the line? (20-30 minutes) and Differentiating Cheating Behaviours (15 minutes). The exercises can be used either with staff or students to explore issues of what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

Where Do You Draw The Line?

There are two versions of this activity - one suitable for use in England & Wales (this would need to be adapted for Northern Irish school years) and one for Scotland.

This activity is designed to get individuals to consider plagiarism issues and discuss what is and is not acceptable. The notes below outline issues that may come up in discussion. You may find that staff want easy answers and a set of rules to follow when dealing with occurrences of plagiarism, but unfortunately it is not that straightforward and each case must be evaluated individually. The activity also highlights the issues that if staff find it difficult to decide what is and is not acceptable, this must be even harder for students. Clear guidance must be given to students about plagiarism and learning about referencing is often the best starting point.

The discussion that arises as part of this exercise is likely to be complex - the notes before provide some guidance but it must be emphasised that every case of suspected plagiarism should be dealt with individually.

The Activity (with notes)

In the list below, try and decide within your group which of these activities is plagiarism and which is not. What action would you take in each case?

A Year 8 pupil copies a paragraph verbatim from a book without any acknowledgement and hands it in as part of a school Religious Education assignment.

This is a definite case of plagiarism, but the action take depends on the age and intention of the student and also on whether plagiarism issues have been addressed by Year 8 at your school. If the student can be expected to know this is wrong, then some kind of penalty could be given or the student asked to re-submit. If the student genuinely did not know this is wrong, then it is an opportunity to provide education and guidance.

For a project about World War 2, a Year 10 pupil does a Google search, copies the text of a web site, but makes small changes - e.g. replacing a few words, changing the order around. He includes the source in a reference list at the end of the project.

Paraphrasing is acceptable as long as it is referenced in the text - it is not enough to reference at the end of the project. However, this example may show a blatant intention to cheat as it demonstrates a rather lazy research method with token gestures to disguise the text, rather than paraphrasing to demonstrate understanding. In this case, knowledge of the student and their attitude to school work may help to assess whether some kind of penalty should be introduced. As this is not a project contributing to exam coursework, addressing this with an educational approach introducing better research methods and referencing skills would be a suggested approach.

A Year 10 pupil drafts an English Literature assignment and asks her mother (an English Literature university lecturer) to read through it. The parent corrects a number of spelling mistakes, improves the language in a few places and adds other observations about the book being studied. The pupil hands in the work.

The issue of parental help can be difficult to identify and deal with. The parent is obviously knowledgeable and in a position to help with the child's education, which is to be encouraged, but the line is drawn at the parent actually writing the pupil's work. The QCA guidelines for parents states: "You can encourage your child to do well and provide them with access to resource materials. You must not put pen to paper - you must not write the coursework. You can discuss the project with them but you must not give direct advice on what they should or should not write." [Coursework: a guide for parents,]

A group of three pupils decide to work together on an (individual) GCSE Geography assignment about traffic surveys. One pupil collects the data, the other writes up the methodology, and the third one, who is good with computers, turns the data into graphs and pie charts. The pupils hand in very similar pieces of work.

This is a definite case of collusion as it is clearly an individual assignment. As this is for a formally assessed piece of work this is likely to be a case which needs to be investigated further. Some may argue that if the students are writing up their own reports and interpretations that this is acceptable, but this would need to be clarified with the exam board and further investigations made into the extent of the similarity.

A pupil designing some jewellery for her GSCE Design coursework is a big fan of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. She incorporates some of his designs into her ear-ring and bracelet designs. She attaches a short essay explaining how she has been influenced by Mackintosh.

This is a good example of how plagiarism may be considered differently in different subject areas. Artists have a tradition of being influenced by the styles of others and this contributes to the development of art. This student has explained her influences clearly, however again the work would need to be judged on its merit, as it is unclear as to the extent of the designs that have been incorporated. And does 'incorporated' mean simply copied? When assessing this case a decision would need to be made as to the level of original work as compared to copied material.

An A level Politics teacher dictates model answers to his class in advance of their exams, based on questions which have come up in recent years, and advises them to learn them off by heart.

The intention of the teacher here seems to be to encourage his students to plagiarise by repeating the memorised answers. This is unacceptable and some action should be taken against the teacher.

Differentiating Cheating Behaviours

This activity helps to clarify the difference between plagiarism, collusion and 'only' cheating. It can be used with staff and students.

This task is based on an exercise in Carroll, J (2002), A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, Oxford Brookes University (available from, and is based on Franklyn-Stokes, A and Newstead, SE (1995), Undergraduate cheating, who does what and why? Studies in Higher Education, 20(2), 159-172). The exercise has been included in these materials with full permission of the author and publisher.

The Activity (with notes)

In your group, read through the list of cheating behaviours below, and put each one into one of the following categories:

A. An activity which is "only" cheating

B. An activity which is a particular kind of cheating called plagiarism

C. An activity which is a particular kind of plagiarism called collusion

1. Allowing your coursework to be copied by another student

C - this is collusion as both parties are involved.

2. Taking unauthorised material into an exam

A - taking the material into the exam is cheating as it is unauthorised, however if the student actually copied from the materials this would be B.

3. Copying another student's coursework with their knowledge

C - again both parties are involved. It would be B if the student copied another without their knowledge.

4. Buying coursework online from an essay bank or ghostwriter

B - assuming that the student actually passes the essay off as their own.

5. Taking an exam for someone else or vice versa

C - this is collusion as both parties would have to be involved.

6. Illicitly gaining information about the contents of an exam

A - cheating

7. Not contributing a fair share to group work that is assessed for a group mark

C - collusion, although there may be some discussion as to whether the other students were complicit in letting the individual get away with it. This would be something to take into account when dealing with this situation.

8. Paraphrasing material from a source without acknowledging the original author

B - paraphrased material should be acknowledged.

9. Copying from a neighbour during an exam

B - but this would be C if the neighbour knew.

10. Submitting jointly written coursework as if it was an individual piece of work

C - collusion.

Session 2: Plagiarism, the Web and Schools

Files used: PlagiarismWebSchools.ppt


This session comprises a presentation "Plagiarism, the Web and Schools" (30 minutes, speaker's notes are in the PowerPoint file, select View > Notes Page) and a set of hands-on exercises "Exploring Plagiarism and the Web" (1 hour).

The presentation covers some general issues relating to plagiarism and schools, such as statistics and issues with coursework. It also highlights concerns relating to the web, for example essay banks, but covers 'anti-plagiarism' resources such as tutorial sites. It also covers detection services and their pros and cons. You may wish to deliver the whole presentation or focus on one of these areas.

The hands-on exercises are designed for individuals to work through at their own pace at a computer. You may wish to use these in a group training session or give them out as independent study materials. The materials cover three main areas (essay banks, plagiarism tutorials and plagiarism detection services) so this session could be split into shorter sessions if desired. The materials could also be used with students to raise awareness of the poor quality of essay banks.

Session 3: Deterring and Dealing with Plagiarism

Files used: DeterringPlagiarism.ppt


This session comprises a presentation "Deterring and Dealing with Plagiarism" (20-25 minutes, speaker's notes are given in the PowerPoint file, select View > Notes Page), followed by a group activity "Designing Out Plagiarism" (30 minutes).

Designing Out Plagiarism

This activity explores how opportunities for plagiarism are often present in assessments and the activity involves identifying these opportunities and designing them out.

This task is based on an exercise in Carroll, J (2002), A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, Oxford Brookes University, available from

The Activity (with notes)

The following fictitious assignments have been set for pupils on an A Level or Higher Environmental Science course. Read through them, and in your group, make a list of all the opportunities for plagiarism that the assignments present.

For each plagiarism opportunity, make recommendations as to how you could remove or reduce it by re-designing the assessment.

Building Bridges in Hot Countries.

Learning outcomes for the module:

As a result of this course, students will be able to:

The first two outcomes are very low level asking for information reproduction

describe how to build long and short bridges

list the factors affecting bridge construction in hot climates

solve problems in building construction in hot countries

Letting students choose their own essay title may lead to them choosing a title from an essay bank


Assessment for this module comprises two elements:

Again asking for information reproduction, no analysis or evaluation. Could the format be changed eg a technical report?

1. A 1,000 word essay to be submitted on the last day of term on one of the following topics:

Bridges in India

A history of bridge building in Nigeria

How to build a bridge when the river floods a lot

A relevant title of your own choice.

This is not secure and other students may steal it

Please leave your essay in the box outside my room.

Purpose is unclear, with no reflection or evaluation

Note: This essay will contribute 50% of the final mark for this module.

Too many to easily collaborate and assess individual contribution

2. A group project. The project will require a group of ten pupils to produce a model of a bridge that would be capable of spanning a 50 metre chasm. The model must be able to fit on a phone book, and must be made with the materials provided i.e. matchsticks, string and card. Each group will be issued with the same materials.

Note: This project will contribute 50% of the final mark for this module. All members of the group will receive the same mark, and all marks are awarded to the final project only.

Instead, ask for individual log of activities to assess contribution or use peer assessment

Mr. C.O. Pycat.

Some additional information about the module:

Previous years' work may well be available to be copied - ensure assessment is changed

The module has run for the last five years in this format. Essays and student projects are handed back at the end of term

If assessment is not changed from year to year, projects could be copied

Additional notes:

All work is done out of sight of the tutor - perhaps drafts could be submitted

There is a heavy weighting towards the group project, where all group members receive the same mark. Groupwork is highly prone to collusion, unless clear guidelines are given and methods to record individual contribution are included.