Resources for Faculty
Thank you for encouraging your students to use
the Writing Center! Whether you offer credit
for visits or simply tell your students we're here, you
are strengthening them as thinkers and communicators. The
Writing Center can help your students think deliberately about
their writing assignments and their subject matter, increasing
their success and also allowing you, as you evaluate their work, to
focus more on their thoughts and less on issues like clarity,
organization, and grammar. To get the most benefit from the
Writing Center's service, consider the following tips and
Encouraging Students to Use the Writing
You Don't Have to be Sick to Get
Better. Ever heard that before? Let your
students know that the Writing Center assists writers at all
experience levels. Wise novice and veteran writers welcome
feedback from an experienced preliminary audience. They seek
opportunities to talk out their ideas, watch what their writing
does to a reader, and ensure that their message comes across the
way it is intended. Let your students know that the Writing
Center is a service we use whether we excel in writing for not.
Suggest Students Seek Feedback Early
in the Process. Consider offering extra credit for
Writing Center visits made early in the writing process. A
session at the start of an assignment can set a writer off on their
journey with an enormous advantage. Writers are welcome to
talk with a writing consultant even before they've begun writing.
In fact, the best scenario might involve more than one
session per project, since writing and revision are best done in
Urge Them to Visit the Center with
Questions in Mind. The writing process overflows
with questions, not just questions about the research topic but
questions regarding writer focus, the concept of audience,
incorporation of sources, organization, examples, tone, paragraph
structure, word choice, grammar, format, and documentation.
Writers who come to their sessions prepared with questions
for their reader often leave the Center with better ideas.
Requiring Your Students to
Visit. Asking your entire class to visit the
Writing Center may be an effective way to show your students that
all writers can benefit from constructive peer feedback.
However, some students might see the requirement as busywork
or even punishment, while others may fear the opinion of an outside
reader. To give them the best chance for effective sessions,
let your students know what they can do in the Writing Center.
The message we have for writers is not "You need help and the
Writing Center is here for you" but rather "You are doing
interesting work, so let's try it out and see what a reader might
say." It may also be helpful to place the deadline for
Writing Center sessions a couple of days before the paper due date.
This can deter students from procrastinating their visits,
lower the stress level in their sessions, and give them time to
revise after their visits. You might also want to meet ahead
of time with Jared to discuss the assignment.
Invite Us to Your Class.
As we spread the message about what writing and
revision can do for our students, we jump at the chance to visit
classes and introduce our services, give workshops on writing with
sources, or facilitate peer reviews. You can also schedule a
time to bring your class to the Center.
Set the Example.
Faculty who work on their own projects in the Writing Center
show students that we can all benefit by seeking outside feedback.
And if students ever misunderstand assignments in your
classes, consider bringing in an assignment description to hear the
questions a consultant asks after reading it.
Using the Writing Center from an Extended
For students and faculty working online or at extended campus
sites, we offer writing consultations with real-time
conversation over the phone or via online chat. Writers using
this service should expect feedback similar to that given in
face-to-face sessions. See our instructions for online
sessions or e-mail Jared (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Discouraging Plagiarism in Your Class
What is Plagiarism?
According to the Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA)
(2003), plagiarism occurs when a writer "deliberately uses someone
else's language, ideas, or other original (not common knowledge)
material without acknowledging its source" (p. 1). Plagiarism
is a serious, intentional act, to be distinguished from carelessly
or inadequately incorporating or documenting sources.
What is Patchwriting?
Patchwriting means "restating a phrase, clause, or one
or more sentences while staying close to the language or syntax of
the source" (Jamieson & Howard, 2011). This is commonly
done by directly copying a source's words and then rearranging or
replacing some of them. Many beginning writers learn to
patchwrite before they learn how to effectively summarize or
paraphrase sources. For this reason, patchwriting is best
treated not as deliberate deception but rather as a tansitional
stage. An exercise designed to help students move beyond
patchwriting is included in Writing with Sources.
What Can Students Do to Steer Clear of
The short answer? Read the source, understand
the source, close the source, and write your own
words. That sounds simple enough. But
ethical treatment of sources requires time, practice, and habits
that not all writers have developed before we meet them.
Writers sometimes justify committing plagiarism if they 1)
have limited experience in writing with sources, 2) have not
effectively managed their time, 3) misunderstand the assignment, or
4) come from a culture in which plagiarism is not recognized as
unethical. In the long run, though, whatever their reasons
are for taking shortcuts, writers need to understand that the
lasting benefits of genuine learning far outweigh the short-term
ease of playing school. The following choices
facilitate genuine learning:
- Understand research and writing assignments as learning
processes and opportunities for genuine inquiry and growth.
- Learn to find, understand, and analyze relevant sources.
- Make it clear when and how you use others' words or ideas in
- Learn how writers in your discipline use and cite sources and
define common knowledge.
- Ask your instructor when you are unsure whether or how to cite
- Choose a topic early, and one you connect with personally.
- Start your research soon, take notes, and pay attention to the
words you see authors using in the text around their sources.
(Price 2002; WPA 2003)
What Can Professors Do to Discourage Students from
Most students know that plagiarism is wrong. But few
students can define the concept with much certainty. Since
the advent of the Worldwide Web, the ways students think about
authorship, research, and source attribution have evolved.
Anymore, questions about plagiarism are less about right and
wrong and more about what an author is, what constitutes "common
knowledge" and what makes our ideas "original." Consider the
following questions asked by students in discussions about
- What if you think of something and it turns out someone else
already thought of it first?*
- What if it's something you heard somewhere, but you can't
- Can a writer ever compose "original" material, free of anyone
- What if you find the same idea in two books?*
- Why does my professor tell me to cite everything that doesn't
come from me when my sources don't do that?
- What's considered "common knowledge" in this subject?
- Why do all of my source articles use different format and
- How many copied words in a row are okay?
- Isn't it all right to use a source's words as long as you mix
in your own?
- How much of my own ideas can I put in my paper?
*All or part of these questions come from Price (2002).
Although the answers to some of these questions might seem
universal, communication norms vary widely across academic fields.
For example, writers in history and biology derive common
knowledge in different ways and, therefore, use different criteria
in deciding what information needs citation. Because of these
differences in academic fields, and because students are more
likely to internalize concepts that they can discuss in detail,
it's a better idea to address these questions in individual
Suggestions for Class Discussions and Policy
Consider spending time in your classroom talking about
plagiarism and the ways sources are ethically used in your academic
field. Writing scholar Margaret Price (2002) makes the
following suggestions regarding class discussions and policy
statements that address plagiarism:
- "The most constructive way to approach teaching on plagiarism
is to invite students into a dialogue about the subject, welcoming
their perspectives on its complexities" (p. 106). "Such
invitations should not be framed as the novice coming to the expert
in order to be enlightened . . . . Instead, invitations to
students to question and discuss plagiarism should be approached as
part of their participation in a discourse community"* (p.
105). Students should understand that "their own questions
and ideas . . . are an important part of the evolving understanding
of plagiarism in the classroom" (p. 105).
- Written statements should make it clear that citation
conventions "shift across time and locations" (p. 106).
- "Leave spaces-literal spaces-for students to fill in. The
policy that I handout out includes blank lines placed at strategic
intervals with prompts for students to write in ideas or questions"
- Discuss examples of successful citation, and give students
chances to practice summarizing, paraphrasing, quoting, and
contextualizing source material (p. 108). These exercises
show students that rather than a "quilt of loosely connected
quotations" a research paper involves creation and interpretation
as well as reportage" (p. 108).
- "Plagiarism, attribution, and authorship should be ongoing
topics throughout the semester, to be revisited from many different
angles. This would offer students various points from which
to consider what plagiarism means" (p. 109).
*Writing scholar Anne Beaufort defines a discourse community as
"a particular community of writers who dialogue across texts,
argue, and build on each other's work" (2007, p. 18).
Beaufort, A. (2007). College writing and beyond: A new
framework for university writing instruction. Logan, UT: Utah
State University Press.
Council of Writing Program Administrators. (2003). Defining and
avoiding plagiarism: The WPA statement on best practices. In
Council of writing program administrators. Retrieved from
Jamieson, S. & Howard, R.M. (2011). What is plagiarism?. In
The citation project. Retrieved from http://site.citationproject.net/?page_id=32
Price, M. (2002). Beyond "gotcha!": Situating plagiarism in
policy and pedagogy. College composition and
communication, 54, 88-115.