General Preventative Steps

Written Assignments:

  • Explain to students what constitutes plagiarism. Provide examples of citation you expect in written assignments.
  • Students are often tempted to misuse electronic sources (e.g., academic papers are readily available on the Web for acquisition or purchase). Remind students of their obligation to do their own work, and of the ease with which electronic sources can be located if students' work is called into question.
  • Change topics each semester, if possible.
  • Require students to submit an outline and/or an initial reference list, which must be approved before they proceed. Require submission of an intermediate draft and/or notes with the final paper.
  • Students increasingly use electronic means to locate and retrieve source materials. Consequently, it may be worthwhile to perform a search of the Web using one of the popular search engines (eg., Lycos, Infoseek, Google, Yahoo or


  • Have students sign an honor statement on exams and papers attesting that all work is their own that no unfair advantage has been taken.
  • Prohibit talking or any communication among students during exams; for questions about the test, have them talk to you
  • Number exams and include the number at the top of each page.
  • Use a sign in sheet for each row, by exam numbers, to record where students sit.
  • Do not allow the students to leave during the exam.
  • Have students sign each page of exam in ink.
  • Require written excuses for make-ups or extensions, and check for authenticity.
  • Encourage students to sit away from study partners or friends during exams and to cover their work.
  • Give oral and written instructions regarding which materials can or cannot be used on the test.
  • Have students put away books, notes, or other prohibited items and store them out of sight.
  • Change exam questions often, preferably every semester.
  • Do not permit programmable calculators or require students to "clear" all programs before exams begin.
  • If you provide sample questions or study sheets, do not use the exact same questions on the exam.
  • Have students turn in blank blue books to you at the beginning of class before the test, mark to show you've seen them, and redistribute at random, or have students pass blue books two seats down.
  • Require students to begin writing on a certain page in their blue books, leaving a specified # of lines/pages blank.

Watch for:

Crib notes up sleeve, under leg; inside pockets, clothing, pen, calculator cover, or cap brim; written on hands, arms, pencils, desks, chairs, blackboards, walls; visible on clipboard or floor, binders or backpacks; stored in programmable calculators or electronic date books; pre-written in blue book; or hidden in a bathroom or a nearby classroom.

Also watch for:

Students leaving room without submitting test (to use notes or key outside class); attempting to sneak completed exam back into room at end of exam, or into faculty office, or having accomplice "find" and turn in "lost" exam later.

Deterring copying or collaborating during exams:

  • Use multiple exam versions, "scrambling" the order of questions or changing key variables.
  • Use alternate seating. If no extra rooms are available, combine classes for exams seating students from each class alternately. Use different color exams for each class so it's obvious if those from same class are seated adjacently.
  • Put multiple choice and true/false questions at the bottom of page where it's harder to copy.
  • Refuse credit for correct answers unless ALL WORK is shown.
  • Require students to remove hats and dark glasses during exams, unless they have a medical reason.

Watch for:

Wandering eyes; talking; passing notes; or other communication (e.g., cell phones, headphones, and pagers can transmit and receive information by voice, e-mail, data transfer, message function, or "pager code").

Avoiding fraudulent re-grade requests:

  • Photocopy graded tests/scantrons before handing back.
  • Mark wrong answers or blank space with an "X" or slash mark.
  • Use numbered exams and sign-in sheets
  • Have one person review all re-grade requests and record changes.

Watch for:

Erased or changed scantron answers; new, correct answers in place of previously blank or incomplete response; test that has been photocopied with original answers and grading marks blanked out, then redone with correct answers and forged grading marks; pages or entire exam with higher scores stolen from return bin, name changed, then submitted for more credit under thief's name. Red flag: poor-quality "second generation" copy inconsistent with original exam; copies of staple hole; entire pages erased and re-written (to avoid detection of different handwriting).

"Ringers" and loss/theft of exams:

  • Count the number of exams handed out, of students taking the test, and or exams turned in (before leaving room), and make sure numbers match. Use exam numbers and sign-in sheets.
  • Collect exams from students while still seated rather than having a chaotic rush to the front.
  • Have consistent "loss-proof" method of transporting papers between class, office, and home (e.g., locked briefcase). Keep office and desk locked, papers secure when you are out.

Watch for:

Ringer taking test for enrolled student (who may be present or not). Ringer may do own test, then re-copy scantron for student. Or, ringer may do real exam while enrolled student does "fake exam". Fake exam is discarded or submitted with phony name.

Also watch for:

Theft of ungraded exams/papers for submission pile/box; or from office, computer lab print-out tray; or other student's computer, account, backpack, or room. Thief erases name and submits as own work, or copies/alters work and submits as own. May destroy original work to avoid detection. Student may come to test (or earlier section), take exam copy (or have friend get copy) then go study before own section test/scheduled make-up. Rarely, exam questions or answer key taken from faculty office or computer.

Still more to watch for:

Student who fails to submit paper or exam, then claims faculty error caused loss of work (goal: make-up exam or extension).