Why My Students Don't Plagiarise:

A Case Study

George MacDonald Ross


I teach the history of philosophy, and over the years I have evolved methods of teaching which mean that my students do not plagiarize. I verify that they do not plagiarize by use of Turnitin, anonymous questionnaires, and long experience of comparing my students’ work with that written for other teachers.

In the paper, I shall outline a range of techniques I have deliberately adopted to make plagiarism counter-productive. These include: explicitly rewarding students for independent thinking; assessing skills rather than factual knowledge; setting questions such that relevant answers are not in the public domain; fostering a culture of honesty in which my relations with students are as personalized as is practicable; discussing student’s work with them in short, individual tutorials; warning them that I use Turnitin.

These deliberate techniques are supplemented by the outcomes of a student questionnaire about why they don’t plagiarize. They are interestingly different from (though not inconsistent with) my own perspective, and they reinforce the importance of encouraging a healthy learning culture, and establishing a relationship of mutual respect between teacher and students.

Although my direct experience has been confined to the teaching of the history of philosophy at a Russell Group University, it is generalizable to most other disciplines and institutions.

This paper was submitted to the International Integrity & Plagiarism Conference which ran between 2004-2014. The paper was peer reviewed by an independent editorial board and features in the conference proceedings.