University Libraries

Plagiarism: Defining, Detecting, Preventing

This page is intended for instructors and faculty. It is designed to, first and foremost, help prevent academically dishonest acts such as plagiarism. Tips on how to verify sources from student research are also suggested.

BGSU's Definition of Academic Dishonesty and Related Penalties

According to pg. 26 of the Academic Honesty Policy in the BGSU Student Handbook, plagiarism is defined as "representing as one's own in any academic exercise the words or ideas of another including but not limited to quoting or paraphrasing without proper citation."

The minimum penalty for undergraduate students who cheat, fabricate or plagiarize on examinations or assignments is partial or no credit on assignment or examination or maximum penalty of withdrawal from course and assignment of penalty grade "WF" in course.

The minimum penalty for graduate students who cheat, fabricate or plagiarize on examinations or assignments is partial or no credit on assignment or examination or maximum penalty of expulsion.

The minimum penalty for students using a person or agency to prepare papers or other assignments in a course is suspension. The maximum penalty is dismissal for undergraduate students and expulsion for graduate students.

For complete details, consult the BGSU's Code of Academic Conduct (Academic Honesty Policy).

Detecting Academic Dishonesty

Here are some suggested tips to use when a student's work is suspect:

  • The writing may be inconsistent. There may be paragraphs that seem misplaced.
  • The paper may be slightly (or very) off topic.
  • The formatting of the paper is inconsistent (different font sizes, large gaps between paragraphs).
  • The sources cited may be dated or not owned by the BGSU library. Remember, articles may not be ordered through OhioLINK and are infrequently requested by undergraduate students since it can take a few weeks to order articles through the traditional interlibrary loan procedures.
  • Compare the research assignment with the tone from the writing sample you may have collected from a student in the beginning of the semester.

What Librarians can do to Help with Detection

We can determine if we own a book and when it was checked out/in. We cannot check to see who has checked out books.

Citations to materials may be verified in the BGSU Libraries Catalog and the OhioLINK Central Catalog to see if the book or journal is readily available in the state of Ohio. Stop by or call the reference desk at 372-6943 for assistance with searching either catalog.

Citations to articles may be verified in the Research Databases. Two of the most commonly used research databases are Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe and Academic Search Complete . The Electronic Journals can be searched for online full-text articles as well. Stop by or call the reference desk for instruction in the above-mentioned databases or any other database we offer.

Contact the instruction librarian liaison for your area and arrange an appointment to find out the specifics of searching the library databases, catalogs or the Internet search engines. Contact information for instruction librarians is available by subject .

Plagiarism Detection Sites

Several different for-pay and free plagiarism detection software packages are available. Some educators use these software options to help students learn to cite sources while other educators use these to detect instances of plagiarism. If you are thinking of utilizing this type of software, there are copyright considerations to be aware of. Details are outlined in the following article: Talab, R. (2004, November/December). A student online plagiarism guide: Detection and prevention resources. Tech Trends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning. Retrieved February 7, 2006, from Academic Search Premier.

Plagiarism Detection Software (For Pay)

Plagiarism Detection Software (Free)

For a detailed comparison of these detection tools, see the article Choosing the Best Plagiarism Detection Tool published August 6, 2007 on The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus web site.

Preventing Plagiarism and Other Acts of Academic Dishonesty

Below are a few suggestions for how to prevent acts of academic dishonesty:

  • Initiate discussions in the classroom addressing academic integrity. You could even devote a substantial amount of time to the issue by utilizing some of these scenarios of academic dishonesty based on real life situations. One suggestion is to break the class into small groups for discussion of each scenario and then discuss them in the larger forum.
  • At the beginning of the semester or in the course syllabus, consider including a statement of how BGSU defines acts of plagiarism, the penalties and a commitment to reporting such acts should they occur.
  • Consider having students submit an academic honesty contract (example) with each written/research assignment or at the beginning of the term.
  • Consider having students complete a writing assignment in class and refer to them as writing samples to get a sense of the student's written voice.
  • When constructing research assignments, consider having students submit photocopies of sources as a preliminary exercise. They could even write a narrative about how they found the source and provide a rationalization for why the source is useful to them.
  • Be specific about a style manual for students to use for citing sources.
  • University Libraries has also created a LibGuide that may be used with students to explore issues related to the academic honesty policy.  To view this resource, go to Academic Integrity at BGSU.


Resources and Readings

Guides to help educators prevent and detect plagiarism

  • Anderson, J. (1998). Plagiarism, copyright violation and other thefts of intellectual property: An annotated bibliography with a lengthy introduction. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc.
  • [Author Unknown]. (2004, May/June). Preventing plagiarism in research papers. Change. Retrieved February 7, 2006, from Academic Search Complete.
  • Buranen, L. and Roy A. (1999). Perspectives on plagiarism and intellectual property in a postmodern world. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.
  • Talab, R. (2004, November/December). A student online plagiarism guide: Detection and prevention resources. Tech Trends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning.. Retrieved February 7, 2006, from Academic Search Complete.

Guides for educators to give to students

  • Lipson, C. (2004). Doing honest work in college: How to prepare citations, avoid plagiarism, and achieve real academic success. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Online Writing Lab at Purdue University. (2004) Research and Documenting Sources. Retrieved February 7, 2006, from
  • Trivedi, L. and Williams, S. (2006) Using Sources. Retrieved February 7, 2006, from

Citation style guides (online)

Citation generators


Questions? Contact Colleen Boff, First Year Experience Librarian.