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Antidotes to Plagiarism: The Problem

Based on a LibGuide by Ludy Goodson and Shannon Johnson, Purdue University - Fort Wayne. Many thanks!

Where to start

McKenzie, J. (1998, May). The new plagiarism: Seven antidotes to prevent highway robbery in an electronic age. From now on, 7(5). Retrieved from

McKenzie, J. (2013, May). Fighting plagiarism. From now on, 22(5). Retrieved from

What is plagiarism?

Howard (2000) lists activities usually defined as plagiarism.

  • Purchasing/downloading of material (paper, presentation, etc.) with the intent to pass it off as one's own work.
  • Copying without citing the source and/or use of quotation marks.
  • Patchwriting - borrowing language of the source to talk about it.

What are the standards for labeling each of these as plagiarism deserving of the same method of address?  

  • The first is undeniably in the domain of "fraud."  
  • The second could be a careless "typo" or notetaking error.  
  • The third is a process by which students engage with the text in a way that produces learning.


What is the incidence of plagiarism?

  • Varies with studies and reports (McCabe 1999, 2002, 2003 studies, and 2003 FSU study)
    • Obtain from paper mill or web:  1-8%
    • Copied “a few sentences” without footnotes: 15-45%
    • Donald McCabe reported: "Research that I've done over the years suggest that as many as 10 - 20% of students would qualify as habitual cheaters. Perhaps half of that number or less would fall into the category you describe as incorrigible" (The Chronicle, Colloquy Live
    • Definition changes rate - for example, Howard's 30% in one class went down after redefining.
    • News "sensationalizes" rates and self-reports of minor omissions are lumped together with egregious intellectual theft.
    • Much of what has been labeled as "plagiarism" is just "bad writing" (Jamieson & Howard, The Citation Project),or as Spender called it "bad manners" (2004, p. 6).
    • Jamieson and Howard (2011) reported their concern "about how much the academic discourse about students' writing was focused on whether students were plagiarizing" and yet "what underlay much of what was being interpreted as plagiarism was not based on students' ethical choices, but rather in their practices and skills in source-based writing" (¶8).  Reporting on data gathered in The Citation Project, for cited materials, they found (¶19):
      • 42% direct quotations
      • 32% paraphrasing;
      • 16% patchwriting;
      • 6% summarized;
      • 4% directly copied with no quotation marks or other indication that this was not the student's own words

What intellectual methods should students use to integrate the information and ideas from other writers with their own?

  • Directions in student assignments often leave this question unanswered.

Head and Eisenberg (2010) in "a content analysis of 191 course-related research assignment handouts distributed to undergraduates on 28 college campuses across the U.S." (p. 1) found that a majority "placed more attention on the mechanics...than on conveying substantive information...such as how to define and focus a research strategy within the complex information landscape" (p. 2) and few "advised students about using Internet resources" or what database to use (p. 3).

  • Patchwriting may be one of the methods to include:

"They (students) take bits and pieces, mixing and matching them and making something that is their own product...I don't really care if there are bits and pieces in their initial information that is downloaded from different points. What I care about is: do they understand it and did they use that information to come up with a solution to solve a problem?" (Spender, 2008).

What factors exacerbate plagiarism?

  • Hundreds of papermills easy to find ( shows over 300).
  • Assignments designed poorly - "topical searches" (McKenzie), absence of process guidance (Jamieson & Howard).
  • Expense and effort to catch 'em cheating vs. catch 'em thinking.

"...teachers spend twice as much time lecturing about plagiarism than actually teaching students how to avoid plagiarism" (Niesen cited by Robillard, p. 27).

Plagiarism information "tended to emphasize the disciplinary recourse" (Head & Eisenberg, p. 3) and the "majority of handouts" failed to include "substantive information" such as "how to define and focus a research strategy with the comple information landscape most student inhabit today" (p. 2).

  • University/college relations with the public: (Howard, Eodice, Robillard in Howard and Robillard)
    PUBLIC IMAGE - restrictive standards, severe punishment in official policies. 
    YIELDING TO PRESSURES - for example, University of Kansas drop in 2004 and renewal in 2006 of

And yet, also in 2006, "Princeton, along with Harvard, Yale and Stanford, declines to use the product."  "We are actively discussing ways of assisting faculty in detecting plagiarism, and want to do so in a way that is consistent with the University's philosophy and process regarding academic integrity," Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Hilary Herbold, a member of the Committee on Discipline, said in an email (The Daily Princetonian, 2006).

And the Composition Program Policy Against the Use of Plagiarism Detection Software at University of Louisville makes explicit the rationale for its policy:

What is PatchWriting?

Howard wrote that:

"Patchwriting is a form of imitation, of mimesis. It is a process of evaluating a source text, selecting passages pertinent to the patchwriter's purposes, and transporting those passages to the patchwriter'ss new context. It is a form of pentimento, in which one writer reshapes the work of another while leaving traces of the earlier writer's thought and intentions. It is something that all academic writers do."

She uses the "Greek mimesis and its Latin counterpart, imitation" to remind us of "the long, honorable history that mixing one's language with that of a source text has had" (p. 139), that "writer-text cllaboration bears some relation to an already-sanctioned textual practice, collaborative writing (p. 140), and that "patchwriting is a means of learning the language and ideas of the source" (p. 110), and in this way it is similar to the "visible trace of earlier painting beneath a layer or layers of paint on a canvas" (Oxford Dictionaries at

Original Source of Guide

The structure and many of the resource materials in this guide supported the presentation for the Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy, September 20-22, 2012 at the Coastal Georgia Center, Savannah, Georgia. 

Ludwika “Ludy” Goodson, Associate Director, Faculty Development, Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching
Shannon Johnson, Helmke Library Assistant
Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne

An analysis of research findings to unpack McKenzie’s “antidotes” to plagiarism and Howard’s use of patch writing for learning. Implications of the research will include discussion of more recent findings from The Citation Project and an examination of the role of teachers, assignments, and the Wikipedia paradigm in influencing student behaviors.

Kimberly Lawler-Sagarin's Resource List

Dee, T. S. & Jacob, B. A. (2012). Rational ignorance in education: A field experiment in student plagiarism. Journal of Human Resources47(2), 397-434. University of Wisconsin Press. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, J. (2017, February 26). Teaching students to avoid plagiarism. Cult of Pedagogy [blog]. Retrieved from

Lang, J. M. (2010, October 8). Plagiarizing Yourself. Chronicle of Higher Education. pp. A48-A49. Retrieved from