Skip to main content

How do I improve my students' research skills?

A library guide highlighting common pitfalls in student research & how instructors can help overcome them

Supplementary Material

Preventing plagiarism

A majority of plagiarism cases occur when students try in good faith to acknowledge others’ work but fail to do so accurately or fully. These failures are largely the result of unclear and inadequate teaching and learning. Notably, many UChicago college students never encounter any formal citation instruction: 24% of respondents in the UChicago BA theses writers survey reported never receiving any instruction on how to acknowledge sources. Here are some tips to ensure academic integrity in your classroom.

Scaffold assignment design

Scaffolding an assignment to include instruction on correct attribution can greatly eliminate students' mistakes. Some suggestions for scaffolding an assignment are:

  • Have students hand in draft(s) before the final version is due
  • Create preliminary assignment(s) that require students to report progress or to cite sources (e.g., annotated bibliographies, outlines, etc.)
  • Incorporate a peer review process into the assignment

Include information about plagiarism in your syllabus and assignments

35% of PIL survey participants reported it was difficult to figure out if their use of a source constituted plagiarism. Even more reported difficulties knowing how to cite sources (41%) (26). Clarifying what constitutes plagiarism and its consequences in course assignments can eliminate any confusion. The Office of International Student Affairs clearly defines plagiarism and its consequences.

Don't assume it was intentional

Some students may come from backgrounds where academic integrity has not been discussed or emphasized. They may not understand what plagiarism is or how they can prevent themselves from engaging in it. A Different Perspective on Plagiarism provides insight on cultural differences of plagiarism.

Promote citation managers

47% of UChicago survey respondents used a citation manager while completing their thesis, however, many respondents of the BA theses writers surveyed regretted not learning about citation managers at the beginning of their research process.Citiation managers can help manage research, as well as provide correct citations and build bibliographies. Using such a resource greatly prevents mistakes in attribution and acknowledgement.

Library Services

The Library is more than happy to work with you to develop a program for your course that focuses on academic honesty along with other research skills.  Some resources available to you are:

Learn more about how the Library can help support academic honesty in your classroom