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Pedagogical Development Office

Teaching Tip: Discouraging Plagiarism Through Structured Assignments

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ Freedigitalphotos.net

It’s that wonderful time of year, with snow falling outside your window, the holiday season fast approaching, the end of the semester around the corner, and student assignments that are suspiciously too good appearing on your desk. At the end of the semester we are always surprised by the number of students who try to get away with some kind of cheating. Now is a good time to look back on the semester and reflect on what we could have done to discourage students from taking that route,  and to consider how to build these strategies into course assignments in the semester ahead.

One way to discourage plagiarism on a term assignment is to include smaller structured assignments throughout the semester.  These would involve completing steps to build up to the final assignment.

When students are required to hand in materials as they go, it’s harder for them to just grab a paper off the internet and hand it in to you. This structured approach can also help those students who may struggle with putting together a larger assignment and discourage them from trying to tackle it the night before it’s due.

Examples of structured assignments


  • Annotated bibliography
  • Outline
  • Thesis statement or topic proposal
  • Other elements of the research cycle
  • Final paper

Peer-review assignments

  • Initial draft
  • Peer-review
  • Edited draft
  • Reflection assignment

Field Work or Volunteer Work Reports

  • Description of Initial contact, physical location, clientele, supervisors.
  • Journaling
  • Follow-up reports
  • Final report

Other resources on cheating and plagiarism

Teaching Tip: Your Cheatin’ Heart
Brown Bag Lunch Notes: Academic Integrity

Pedagogical Development Office
Vanier College