Strategies for Teaching with Online Tools
Bedford Workshops on Teaching Writing Online
Nick Carbone, New Media Consultant
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The argument put forth on this site and in this workshop is that visibility makes plagiarism hard to do. And more importantly, the things you can do to make writing visible and collectable in drafts and increments--including keeping a research portfolio--are crucial and necessary writing skills anyway. Consider just these two quotes on their effectiveness:
The only protection as a historian is to institute a process of research and writing that minimizes the possibility of error. And that I have tried to do, aided by modern technology, which enables me, having long since moved beyond longhand, to use a computer for both organizing and taking notes. I now rely on a scanner, which reproduces the passages I want to cite, and then I keep my own comments on those books in a separate file so that I will never confuse the two again. But the real miracle occurred when my college-age son taught me how to use the mysterious footnote key on the computer, which makes it possible to insert the citations directly into the text while the sources are still in front of me, instead of shuffling through hundreds of folders four or five years down the line, trying desperately to remember from where I derived a particular statistic or quote. Still, there is no guarantee against error. Should one occur, all I can do, as I did 14 years ago, is to correct it as soon as I possibly can, for my own sake and the sake of history. In the end, I am still the same fallible person I was before I made the transition to the computer, and the process of building a lengthy work of history remains a complicated but honorable task. 
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Time Magazine, January 27, 2002.

 Finally, offering the students an off-line alternative makes their consent absolutely clear. For instance, as an alternative, the student could be required to turn in a photocopy of the first page of all reference sources used, an annotated bibliography, and a one page paper reflecting on their research methodology. Such an option would be unlikely to be chosen by any students, but if they did choose it, the chances of plagiarism would also be vanishingly thin

Paul Wedlake Director of Sales
iParadigms, LLC., developers of
Last paragraph from's "standard statement regarding the Copyright Issue."

So look, even knows that if you require students to turn in a research portfolio -- photocopies of sources, drafts of all essays, annotated bibliograhies, a research log, and reflective essays on their writing and research process -- you will make the chances of plagiarism vanishingly thin. So thin, in fact, that you don't have to spend scarce dollars in an era of dropping educational revenues on their service. And unlike Wedlake's implication, requiring these things of students aren't punishments that make running papers through a search service attractive, but rather they are essential skills writers and researchers need to know. They are, I'd argue--and Doris Kearns Goodwin reminds us as much--part of the writing and research process. 

Helping students learn how to save and store drafts, handle and integrate sources accurately, reflect on their research methodology, budget their time, stay on track and meet deadlines, teaches them how to be better writers and researchers.  All good and necessary teaching; and at the same time, you'll practically eliminate plagiarism.  

What could better than this: -- good pedagogy, teaching useful skills, and no need to police students and play gotcha!? Well, what is better is this: if you're teaching online or using online tools to augment a brick and mortar class, it becomes easy to create portfolios and collect all the documents and drafts, notes, reflections, and logs students need to put in their portfolios. 

Other Plagiarism Resources

  • NEWReintroducing Students to Good Research by Barbara Fister, librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College's Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library , describes how well designed and carefully taught research projects can work towards the liberal arts mission to "give students the skills, the habits of mind, and the confidence to think for themselves in a rapidly-changing world," and suggests the kind of activities and processes that will help teachers design such assignments. Barbara Fister is contributing author to many Bedford/St. Martin's books, but most significantly to Diana Hacker's Research and Documentation in the Electronic Age.
  • NEW Avoiding Plagiarism with Research Portfolios describes how research portfolios can indeed make the chances of plagiarism "vanishingly thin." The second half of this piece offers brief reviews and recommendations of plagiarism search strategies and services, including, Plagiserve, EVE2, and my favorite tool, Google.
  • Google, perhaps the best free search engine on the web. Put words in quotes "like this to search for phrases". Run a Google search using key words from your writing assignments to see what's out there. In tests I ran, Google worked better than
  • Thinking About Plagiarism, a list of WWW sites that offer good advice on assignment design, plagiarism and teacher's rights, and a short review of a very good book for teachers on plagiarism.
  • Talking About Plagiarism--what I put in my course syllabi to lay the ground work for plagiarism discussions. Hint: It's not the usual legalese.