Help students understand ethical authorship practices

October 1, 2019 | Claudia Stanny

Help students understand ethical authorship practices

Although students know that they must avoid plagiarism, they are often confused about ethical authorship practices. Conventions for when and how to cite sources vary across disciplines, which can add to students’ confusion.

Faculty should spend some time explaining their expectations for ethical authorship practices. Admonishing students to not plagiarize or suffer dire consequences will not deter plagiarism if students don’t understand what is and is not considered plagiarism. Provide guidance about ethical authorship and define transgressions in class, on the course syllabus, and/or in assignment handouts. Direct students to resources that will clarify expectations about when and how to cite sources, what “counts” as common knowledge, and how to fairly paraphrase technical content from a source. Use these resources as part of a reading assignment in classes that require students to use and properly cite sources.

The Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning hosts an excellent tutorial, Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism. The tutorial includes the following modules:

  • Defining plagiarism.
  • When to cite. The module includes common scenarios that describe conditions under which students should cite a source.
  • How to paraphrase source material. The module includes examples of original passages and examples of paraphrases of each passage.
  • Common knowledge. Students frequently do not understand when a fact must be supported by a cited source and when it is considered common knowledge and does not require a cited source. This module defines common knowledge and discusses how to determine when information is considered common knowledge.
  • Risky situations that create opportunities for plagiarism. Advice for students about situations that increase the risk that a student will engage in inadvertent plagiarism. Describes several high-risk situations: procrastination, over-reliance on secondary sources, relying too heavily on a single source, challenges associated with student collaborations or relying on other’s notes, inadequate notes taken while reading, pressures to write “academic” prose, and challenges with language (poor reading comprehension or writing in a second language).
  • A 10-item plagiarism quiz. The quiz is a learning tool that provides correct answers for each question and explanations for each answer.

The UWF Libraries offer several library guides on authorship and avoiding plagiarism.

Avoiding Plagiarism (APA citation)

Avoiding Plagiarism (general advice)

Using Turnitin

Avoiding plagiarism in Communication

LibGuide for Composition courses

Where and When to Cite

The CUTLA website hosts a recording of a workshop, Professional Authorship Practices. The workshop begins with a general discussion of authorship and why citation is valued in academic writing, then discusses common knowledge and when authors should cite sources of ideas. The last half of the workshop describes how to interpret originality reports generated by Turnitin and iThenticate.



Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning (nd). Understanding and avoiding plagiarism. Yale University.

Stanny, C. (2017, February). Professional Authorship Practices. Workshop presented to students in the College of Education and Professional Studies, University of West Florida.

Recording available at: 
Handouts and resources: 

10/01/2019 ajc