Detecting and Preventing Plagiarism


Students must understand that work that originates from other sources may be used if it is properly acknowledged and referenced. An instructor who assigns a paper to be submitted for assessment can reinforce this idea by providing guidelines for referencing. Students might also be referred to A Guide to Good Referencing Skills, which includes a brief section on avoiding plagiarism.

Useful suggestions for preventing plagiarism in assignments include the following:

  • Rewrite or modify the assessment task each time the course is taught
  • Increase the role in assessments of tasks that require analysis, evaluation and synthesis
  • Include information gathering as an assessed task
  • Design assessment tasks with multiple solutions or that capture individual effort

For example, to implement the second suggestion for an assigned paper, require students to find several sources (in print or on the web) that deal with the topic, identify the sources, and analyze or contrast their approaches. This encourages students to do useful research, not look for something to copy, and rewards them for proper referencing. It also requires them to demonstrate analytical and critical thinking in their analysis.

This kind of tasks makes it much harder to find tailor-made solutions on the web. When plagiarism is just as difficult as doing original work, students are less likely to consider it.


Turnitin is an originality checking and anti-plagiarism software that is globally used by millions of students and faculty. It helps instructors check students' work for improper citation or potential plagiarism. HKUST has subscribed to the service of Turnitin and instructors can find more details about Turnitin by joining regular workshops organized by the Center for Education and Innovation.