Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 2 class periods
5 minutes to reserve time in the computer lab.
Materials: Have available resource guides on citation format, and reserve time in computer lab for both periods.


Unfortunately, when it comes time for students to compose research papers, the issue of plagiarism inevitably must be addressed. Some students may not even understand that what they are doing is illegal and very serious. During the next two class periods, students need to become aware of plagiarism issues and familiarize themselves with the proper techniques for citation of their sources. Students should come away with the knowledge that plagiarism will not be tolerated, but that there are ways of using information from other authors, as long as credit is given to those individuals.

Purpose – The goal of this lesson is to have students explain what plagiarism is, why it is a problem, and how to avoid it.

Students will be able to:
1. Articulate what plagiarism is and why it is unacceptable in a research document.
2. Show how to avoid plagiarism by using proper citation tools.
3. Demonstrate correct citation of their sources by creating a works cited page.

National English Education Standard
Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Teacher Background
Teachers need to be aware of the dangers of plagiarism and the sites that are available to help them detect violations in their students’ work. Also, teachers should be familiar with at least one method of resource documentation, such as MLA or AMA format. See related web sites below.

Resource Websites
Plagiarism issues http://www.lemoyne.edu/library/plagiarism/detection.htm
Plagiarism detection http://www.turnitin.com/static/home.html
MLA format for citations http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/mla/
AMA format for citations http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/apa/




Day One
1. Before class begins, write the following starter question on the board: “What is plagiarism”. Many students may not be familiar with this term, and may simply refer to it as “copying”. Have the class write the definition of the word according to them. Give them a few minutes.

2. Discuss with the class their interpretation of this word. What does it mean to plagiarize someone else’s work? What are the punishments at your school or in this class for such behavior? Ask students to comment on this. Ask them to consider a different situation. Imagine that you are a rock star or a recording artist, perhaps a rapper. What would happen if some other artist stole a song you had written, recorded the song, and made millions from it? You wrote it, but another benefited from it. What would result? Probably a complicated law suit, besides frustration and resentment. Explain to the class that plagiarism in all forms is illegal, and a very serious matter.

3. Ask the students if they know how a writer can use the ideas of another without plagiarizing. Take a few minutes to gather student ideas and suggestions, writing these on the board. Students may come up with “use quotes” or “give credit to the original author”, but they may need some help. Inform the class that using quotes and giving credit to an original work or author is called “citing your sources”. This process allows us to use information from many different sources without compromising the rights of the authors. Ask the class why this is so important when doing research, and discuss answers.

4. For the last portion of the period, about 25 minutes, tell the class that we are going to learn more about how to document our resources in research papers. You may wish to give them more specific guidelines once in the lab, such as “How do you cite a book with one author?” or “How do you cite an internet source?” Students should take notes about how to cite various sources according to the format you would like them to use (MLA or AMA). Direct them to the appropriate web site (see above).

Day Two
1. Begin class with a few questions to see what students understood from the previous day’s work in the lab. You might post some testing questions on the board, such as:

  • How do I cite a magazine article with two authors?
  • How would I cite an encyclopedia article with several editors?
  • I used a book by William Anchor, called Common Water Contaminants, published by Hoffman and Brooks in 1995, in the city of Atlanta. I used information from pages 34-45. How do I cite this source?

Give the students about 10 minutes to answer these questions, which should be evaluated for correctness. Students don’t necessarily have to know citation format from memory, but encourage them to use their notes, which they collected the previous day in the lab. Review answers with the class, and discuss again why we need to cite our sources.

2. Tell the class that today you going to revisit the computer lab in order to continue practicing using proper citation techniques. Now that we know how a little bit about how to write citations, it is important to give the students a practical use for this tool. Ask the class, by a show of hands, how many resources they used to gather information for their final research projects. Did they use 5 sources? 10? 15? Ask the class: “What might be a good way to credit all of these authors in your final projects?” Take some suggestions, and explain that the place in the paper where sources are referenced is simply called a “works cited” page, which goes at the end of their research document. Outline how you would like this works cited page to look when finished.

3. Proceed to the computer lab. Students should about 25 minutes to compose their works cited pages. Some may need to go back to the library at a later time to review the resources they used, or they may look up texts they have used on the internet (see Library of Congress site).

You may decide to give the class a short quiz at the end of the period, or at some later time, in order to test their understanding of citation format.

Embedded Assessment
Student responses during discussion should be evaluated for understanding the serious nature of plagiarism. Also, starter questions for the second day should be evaluated for correct use of citation format, as well as the final assignment (the works cited page).

Works cited page may be assigned for homework if you feel that students have a strong enough grasp of citation procedures. If you are unsure of the students understanding of this process, assign them several sample sources of different types, including a book, a newspaper article, an internet site, and an encyclopedia, all of which they must cite correctly using MLA or AMA format. Encourage them to refer back to the appropriate web site or reference text to check their citations.

Embedded Assessment




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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