Tips for Instructors

Recommendations for instructors

NOTE: We also encourage instructors and administrators to read the Tips for Students section of this site, to be familiar with the strategies and suggestions we are recommending to students.

“Learning a skill requires, in addition to input, opportunities to practice, feedback on performance, and fresh opportunities to practice in the light of the feedback” (Pecorari, 2013, p. 77)

This section follows a philosophy that assumes teachers want to take an active role in helping students develop as academic writers and scholars, that taking a pedagogical approach to dealing with plagiarism and incorporation of sources can be liberating for both teachers and students, and that taking a pedagogical approach will provide teachers with a deeper understanding of students as apprentice scholars and how to more effectively support their academic development.

It also emphasizes that students’ development as academic scholars is an ongoing evolution, and thus, no single course can turn students into expert writers. However, each course where it is pedagogically addressed can add to students’ awareness and development as apprenticing scholars.

A pedagogical approach recognizes that every course has a packed syllabus with a lot of content to cover, and it can be tempting (and easy) merely to tell students we expect them to incorporate and cite their sources correctly. While this forewarns the students that we take plagiarism seriously, it doesn’t provide them with guidance and help in their development as scholars and academic writers. Deeper learning of what it means to be a scholar can best be supported when projects are broken down into steps that provide students with a window into the processes involved in scholarly writing, as well as feedback and support as students tackle each of these steps. (See for an excellent overview of scaffolding assignments and projects.)

Even if your course syllabus doesn’t allow much class time to take a detailed process approach to helping students work on their academic writing, it still may be possible to incorporate some of the tips into your project design and the kinds of feedback you provide to students. And perhaps even more importantly, the tips on how to take a pedagogical approach to addressing instances of plagiarism can be helpful if and when they occur.

Here’s how the tips for teachers are organized:

A. Tips for designing projects that reduce the likelihood of plagiarism and raise students’ awareness of scholarly writing

B & C are Tips for supporting students’ growth as academic writers

B. Tips for helping students to read source texts, understand what they are reading, and take notes in ways that support citation (i.e., avoiding plagiarism)

C. Tips for raising students’ awareness about incorporating sources into their academic writing and about plagiarism, and providing contextualized practice with incorporating source materials into their own writing

D. Tips for taking (and maintaining) a pedagogical approach/focus when addressing instances of plagiarism (both patchwriting and other forms of plagiarized work)

E. Tips for how to do all this and still protect your own time

A. Tips for Designing Projects that Reduce the Likelihood of Plagiarism and Raise Students’ Awareness of Scholarly Writing

A1.      Allow (or even require) students to find artifacts or ideas that were originated by someone else, but require tweaking and/or combining ideas from sources to fit specific purposes or situations that are relevant in the field (Freedman, 2004). For example, Freedman mentions an assignment where his students (future public school teachers in an Education program) find an existing lesson plan, and then revise it to an inquiry-based approach, or change a teacher-centered plan to one that is more student-centered, add an assessment component, etc.

A2.      Divide a project into steps that are part of the scholarly writing process, which can include brainstorming topics of interest; developing and revising research questions; creating annotated bibliographies with a written project in mind (not just a summary of each source, but also student responses and notes about what ideas from the source might be relevant for writing their paper); and providing peer feedback guided by prompts from the teacher (Ortega, personal communication; Carrick, 2006). (Note that this can work very well when combined with sharing your own experiences and processes as an experienced scholar.)

A3.      Assign collaborative projects (Angelil-Carter, 2000) that encourage students to take an informed approach to negotiating understanding of source materials, double-checking that their note-taking practices don’t involve accidental plagiarism (and thus, promote good citation practices), discussing how to incorporate ideas from sources into their paper, working together to paraphrase, summarize, or quote sources, and working together to do their own “plagiarism check” before turning in the final paper.

A4.      Design projects where students personalize the topic, and take ownership of the research they are doing. When students personalize their topic, they typically have far less difficulty in expressing themselves clearly and with fluency. In contrast, when the assignment is stringently dictated, allowing little or no student control over content, and is distant from what the student may find meaningful, there is little ownership and it is much more likely that students will feel that the only way they can complete the assignment is to copy and regurgitate back what they think the teacher wants to see.

A5.      Johnson (2004) lists qualities of “Low Probability of Plagiarism” (LPP) projects (some of which blend into the tips mentioned above):

  • LPP projects have clarity of purpose and expectations.
  • LPP projects give choices to students.
  • LPP projects are relevant to students’ lives.
  • LPP projects stress higher-level thinking skills and creativity.
  • LPP projects answer real questions.
  • LPP projects involve a variety of information-gathering activities.
  • LPP projects tend to be hands-on.
  • LPP projects use technology to spur creativity.
  • LPP projects use formats that engage multiple senses.
  • LPP projects can be complex but can also be broken down into manageable steps.
  • LPP projects are often collaborative and can produce better results than individual work.
  • LPP projects share results with people who care and respond.
  • LPP projects are authentically assessed.
  • LPP projects allow learners to reflect, revisit, revise, and improve their final projects.
  • LPP projects are encouraged by adults who believe that, given enough time, resources, and motivation, all students are capable of original work.

(Johnson, 2004, pp. 550-552)

A6.      It’s not unusual for teachers to assign a projecgt where a question is posed and students are expected to research relevant sources and write a paper.     Johnson (2004) provides a helpful “Research Question Rubric” (p. 552), with four graduated levels of focus and personalization, where Level One has overly general questions that can be very difficult for students to personalize and Level Four has contextualized questions within one of the general themes from Level One that focus on a specific topic that may have value to people in that context.

B & C. Tips for supporting students’ growth as academic writers

These tips recognize that students are “apprentices” in academic writing (Angelil-Carter, 2000). The activity ideas are designed to help build students’ awareness about citation, plagiarism, and scholarly work. These ideas can be done as one-off activities in classes, or can be integrated into projects, to the extent that each teacher’s course allows.

B. Tips for helping students to read source texts, understand what they are reading, and take notes in ways that support citation (i.e., avoiding plagiarism)

B1.      Highlight that most scholars take notes by author (as opposed to by topic), to make sure that each source’s ideas stay connected to the specific source (Angelil-Carter, 2000). Show students examples of an annotated bibliography so they can see how this tool can be used to organize ideas learned from (and a scholar’s own responses to) sources.

B2.      Together with students, brainstorm ideas for organizing notes and clearly differentiating which ideas come from the authors and which are the student’s own. One useful strategy is to use one color of highlight for the source author’s ideas and a different color to highlight the student’s own responses and ideas (Aya Watanabe, personal communication). Another is to use a 2-column organizer for each source, with a summary and notes on the author’s points in the first column and the student’s comments and reflections in the second column (Betsy Gilliland, personal communication).

B3.      For texts that are important but a bit challenging to read, have students follow the following steps (Howard, 1999): (a) skim and take notes, (b) read the whole text quickly and revise your notes, (c) read carefully and revise your notes, (d) submit 3rd-round notes to the teacher, who reviews the notes of a few select students with the whole class, identifying and reviewing sections that were omitted (which were probably hard for students to comprehend). Additionally, while reading the text, students also keep track of vocabulary that they didn’t know, and each student shares with the class what they think are the 5 most important words. (NOTE: This could be combined with working collaboratively.)

B4.      Pecorari (2013[1] pp. 82-92) has a set of ten tasks that help students with various hurdles involved in understanding and citing sources. (Not only are these tasks helpful for many students, but they also help to enlighten teachers about the range of struggles that novice academic writers have.) Tasks 1-4 are related to helping students understand and organize what they have read so that they can incorporate it into their own writing.

  • Task 1: Extracting content from a source with accuracy
  • Task 2: Relating content accurately
  • Task 3: Signalling orientations to content
  • Task 4: Identifying the author of a work (Pecorari, 2013, pp. 84-88[2])

C. Tips for raising students’ awareness about plagiarism and incorporating sources into their academic writing, and providing contextualized practice with incorporating source materials into their own writing

C1.      Provide students with learning objectives or student learning outcomes for specific writing assignments or projects. Pecorari (2013) offers an excellent set of learning objectives to select from (pp. 78-79[3]). One important point is to keep the objectives manageable, for both the students and the teacher, so it may be prudent to focus on just a few objectives for each assignment and project. These can also be part of the grading rubric for the assignment or project.

C2.      Talk about (and model) your own experiences as a writer, giving students a window into a more experienced scholar’s processes and strategies (e.g., What is your process for brainstorming and narrowing research questions? What are your thought processes when you paraphrase or quote?)

C3.      Work as a whole class with one student’s work, to model how to work through that step of the process. One option is for the teacher to take the lead and walk the students through aspects of citation that they want to highlight. Another option (Pecorari, 2013) is for students to show how they incorporated the ideas of their sources.

C4.      Brainstorm and narrow down research questions or problems to solve, combining individual work, pair or small-group work, and whole-class work (as well as the teacher modeling their own processes).

C5.      Assign the same article or chapter to the entire class, and then analyze how the author works with sources: who said what things, how the author shows which ideas they approve of, prefer, or reject, how the author adds additional ideas to those of a source author, and how they cite. Analyze how authors maintain control over multiple voices that emerge in source materials, how they keep them straight, and how they bring in their own authorial voice when writing about them (Angelil-Carter, 2000).

C6.      Re-read as a writer. Have students re-read an article or chapter that is especially well-written, highlighting one specific aspect of writing (examples include verbs other than “said”, adjectives used, ways the author makes transitions between paragraphs, and use of common academic phrases). Then have the students go back to their own writing and try to incorporate what they learned. A similar task is described in Barks & Watts (2001). (Note that this can be done as individual work, pair or small group work, or as a whole class).

C7.      Assign students the role of ethnographers, having them research the discourse conventions and expectations of their own field of study (Barks & Watts, 2001). Students find out the major journals of their field, how research papers are organized, vocabulary for citation that is common in the field, and more. (At the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s English Language Institute, the syllabus for ELI 83 (Advanced Academic Writing for Graduate Students) is designed with a set of projects that does this.)

C8.      Analyze a variety of genres in the field, focusing on how they are similar and different, who the audience is and what their expectations are, the purpose served, how the genre is structured, and expectations for citation for the genre (Angelil-Carter, 2000).

C9.      Discuss the sentence, “Intention to deceive . . . is different from intention to imitate” (Angelil-Carter, 2000, pp. 118) Include in the discussion that imitating is an excellent strategy for learning a second language (including the language of academic discourse, for which there are no native speakers), but in academic writing it cannot be part of a final product – rather, it is a step that helps with understanding what was read and how to incorporate the ideas of sources into one’s own statements and arguments.

C10.   Practice paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting (which can be done in pairs or small groups), including not just the source’s view, but also integrating the student-writer’s viewpoints, and providing students with regularly used phrases that serve an academic purpose within the referencing process[4] (Angelil-Carter, 2000):

  • Paraphrasing a single source.
  • Paraphrasing involving a synthesis of 2 or more sources

C11.   Provide students with models of well-done citations (paraphrases, summaries, and quotes), as well as models of inadequately done citations (i.e., containing plagiarism), and then try to reconstruct how each was done, looking at the original sources, then talking through what processes were followed that resulted in good citation vs. plagiarized work) (Note that most composition textbooks contain activities where students look at an original sentence or paragraph and a few example paraphrases and then discuss which are done well and which contain plagiarism. This is, of course, useful, but much deeper understanding is reached via the next step of recreating the processes that may have led the authors to their final paraphrases.)

C12.   As mentioned above, Pecorari provides ten tasks (2013 pp. 82-92) that can help raise students’ awareness about citation conventions and also provide practice incorporating those conventions. Tasks 5-10 are related to the processes involved in culling ideas from sources, deciding whether to quote or paraphrase, and gaining skill on how to effectively integrate sources into their own writing.

  • Task 5: Gathering and reporting bibliographic information
  • Task 6: Relationships among sources
  • Task 7: Choosing to quote or paraphrase
  • Task 8: Producing quotations and paraphrases
  • Task 9: A paraphrase process
  • Task 10: Integrating source-use skills (Pecorari, 2013, pp. 89-92[5])

C13.   Use pair or small group work to have students review each other’s papers, analyzing where citations, quotations, better paraphrases, etc. might be needed. (Note: this could be called a “plagiarism assessment”.)

C14.   Use pair or small group work for students to help one another come up with good paraphrases of their sources’ ideas and words (Howard, 1999).

C15.   Spend time looking at synonyms and antonyms that are commonly used in academic writing. Discuss nuances. Discuss why some words are not typically accepted in academic writing (e.g., conversational or colloquial words)

C16.   Model and provide practice with “informed patchwriting”. Novice writers (especially those for whom English is a second language, but also many native speakers who are not very familiar or comfortable with academic discourse) may find it really helpful to use patchwriting as part of their learning and writing processes. They need to be made aware that patchwritten papers typically contain plagiarized parts, and thus, would not be acceptable as final products. However, students can be taught that using patchwriting in an informed way can be a time-efficient tool that helps them to develop their ability as academic writers.

Step 1 is to freely copy and paste segments of their sources while they are writing a draft (putting these segments in quotation marks and citing the source and page number to flag that these segments are patchwritten). This allows them to keep writing without losing their train of thought (for many writers, stopping to paraphrase each segment, and making sure their paraphrase was done well, takes them out of the flow of writing).

After they finish a draft, Step 2 is to switch to “paraphrasing mode”, where students return to each patchwritten piece and work on their paraphrases. (To download a more detailed lesson plan, including modeling of the process, see Harsch, 2019.)

C17.   Allow students to use “I” in a draft, and later work in pairs/small groups to work on changing it to an indirect author’s voice (Angeliil-Carter, 2000). (Again, it may be helpful if the teachers models how to do this.)

C18.   Show students a list of characteristics of a good paraphrase and have them use it as a checklist for their own paraphrases.

  • It is rewritten using your own words (but it is usually not advisable to paraphrase technical vocabulary).
  • The original author’s meaning has not been changed.
  • It is easy to read and understand.
  • If it seems impossible to paraphrase, you may want to use a direct quotation.

(Based on characteristics of an effective summary, from Swales & Feak, 2012, pp. 208)

C19.   Use one class period (or part of a class period) as a “paraphrasing workshop”, where students work in pairs or small groups to help each other with developing good paraphrases in the papers they are writing (using the list of characteristics of a good paraphrase mentioned above).

D. Tips for taking (and maintaining) a pedagogical approach/focus when addressing instances of plagiarism

D1.      Dweck (TEDxTalks, 2014) highlights the value of a “not yet” approach. She recommends highlighting how errors can be used as part of learning processes rather than as one-time evaluations of a student’s “final” knowledge and ability. That is, instead of suggesting that a student failed if their work contained several errors, if students were told that they were “not there yet”, it could result in greater long-term development. This approach can easily be applied to instances of plagiarism in student writing: if a student is told that their paper is “not done yet”, and they are provided with help on how to redo the plagiarized parts so that they incorporate correct citation practices, they have the opportunity to advance their understanding and ability to do scholarly work.

D2.      Be careful how you frame your response to students whose writing included plagiarized parts, to emphasize that you are not “accusing” them of academic dishonesty but rather recognize that they are developing their ability to write academically but, for this assignment, they’re not there yet, and that you want to help them to work through the plagiarized parts so that their entire paper is acceptable (and through the process, they will add to their understanding of how to be a more effective academic writer).

D3.      Role-play teacher-student conferences where plagiarism needs to be discussed. Alternatively (and perhaps better), role-play teacher-student conferences where the student proactively asks for help with parts of their papers where they have concerns about accidental plagiarism.

D4.      Pecorari (2013) emphasizes the importance of providing feedback, stating that “feedback should specifically address successful and unsuccessful source use” (p. 159), combined with opportunities for the students to revise. Obviously, this helps the student to turn in a higher quality final paper, but as Pecorari points out, it also “permits students to refine their skills” (p. 159).

D5.      Work with students individually on a small portion of their papers (e.g., one paragraph, or one page), and walk them through the process of identifying the plagiarized parts, identifying the source author (and adding the source to their references if it’s not already there), coming up with a good paraphrase (then using your good-paraphrase checklist to make sure it’s done well), checking that they are weaving in their own ideas with those of source authors (as opposed to just stringing together a set of authors’ ideas without any analysis, commentary, or ideas of their own), and/or anything else you notice. Then assign the students the task of working on their own to do the same things throughout the rest of the paper. (Note that some students will need more support than others, and may need additional office-hour appointments involving scaffolding that, little by little, shifts more of the responsibility to the student.)

D6.      For final papers or other writing projects, follow a process approach of assigning drafts and providing feedback. One round of feedback could focus specifically on citation practices. (Although this involves a commitment of time and focus on the part of the teacher, it can be noticeably rewarding, in terms of students’ step-by-step development as academic writers, their awareness of that development, and a resulting improved rapport with the students in your classes.)

D7.      Consider taking the approach of being a “plagiarism scholar”. When a student’s work has plagiarism (or even if the entire paper was downloaded, or copied and pasted), find out why – what is it that led the student to do what they did — not with the purpose of accusing them, but with an approach of helping them develop as academic writers. Is there something about their writing process that needs help? Did they have too many assignments due around the same time (and were all the teachers strict about not accepting late work)? Taking a “plagiarism scholar” approach helps you to fully understand the complexities underlying instances of plagiarism, which can help you to design assignments and activities that help raise students’ awareness and help them avoid similar incidents in the future.

D8.      If your course involves a syllabus, and your syllabus always has a section about plagiarism, consider including an extra paragraph about taking a pedagogical approach, so that students realize, from the first day of class, that you want to help them become better writers. Here is one example:

However, please note that I take a pedagogical approach to plagiarism. Although my policy is that any final product that contains plagiarized work is not acceptable in an academic setting, my goal is to help students learn how to incorporate sources effectively in their writing. If you are drawing upon ideas from other sources, and have doubts about your ability to paraphrase and cite without plagiarizing, do not hesitate to see me for advice or help. (Harsch, 2021)

D9.      Once a week, or perhaps every two weeks, hold a 10-minute workshop on scholarly writing, with a different focus each time and a bit of time for Q&A at the end. Although this takes a bit of time away from other course content, it may save a great deal of time later. Note that you may need to be firm about limiting these workshops to 10 minutes; at the same time, you may find that extending the Q&A to answer additional questions for the whole class saves you time in the long run.

D10.   Consider assigning “writer support groups”: pairs or small groups who work together throughout the semester to help each other with academic writing. From time to time, spend a bit of class time to provide tips about aspects of academic writing, and have the students work together in their support groups to apply these pointers to their own papers. Whenever groups have questions about how to help one of their peers, they can ask as a group, and these questions can lead to additional tips.

E. Tips for how to do all this and still protect your own time

E1.      Use short blocks of time during your office hours to train students how to detect and revise plagiarized pieces of their own texts (dee Tip D5 for more details).

E2.      When you come across a problem with academic writing that is fairly common among students, spend a bit of class time to work through an example (see Tip D9 for more details). While this does take up some of your class time, it may save hours of time where you would be addressing it again and again with individual students.

E3.      Create “writers’ groups” for the whole semester. As citation issues come up, have the writers’ groups tackle them first. You may find that the groups can often figure out solutions on their own. Have groups share relevant solutions or questions that arose in their discussion, and address them as a whole class.

If you have any additional useful tips for teachers to add to these lists, please send them to kenton[at] Please allow up to a month for suggestions to be added.


[1] For members of the University of Hawai`i community, Pecorari’s book is available as an e-book through the library:

[2] Direct link to these tasks (for those in the UH community):

[3] Direct link for those in the UH community:

[4] They Say, I Say (Graff, G., Birkenstein, C. & Durst, R., 2012) is a great source of useful phrases, sorted by the purpose they serve. Alternatively, students could explore phrases in texts they are reading.

[5] Direct link for those in the UH community:

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