Student and Faculty Shared Responsibilities

What are our Shared Responsibilities?

When assignments are highly generic and not classroom-specific, when there is no instruction on plagiarism and appropriate source attribution, and when students are not led through the iterative processes of writing and revising, teachers often find themselves playing an adversarial role as "plagiarism police" instead of a coaching role as educators. Just as students must live up to their responsibility to behave ethically and honestly as learners, teachers must recognize that they can encourage or discourage plagiarism not just by policy and admonition, but also in the way they structure assignments and in the processes they use to help students define and gain interest in topics developed for papers and projects.


Students should understand research assignments as opportunities for genuine and rigorous inquiry and learning. Such an understanding involves:

  • Assembling and analyzing a set of sources that they have themselves determined are relevant to the issues they are investigating;
  • Acknowledging clearly when and how they are drawing on the ideas or phrasings of others;
  • Learning the conventions for citing documents and acknowledging sources appropriate to the field they are studying;
  • Consulting their instructors when they are unsure about how to acknowledge the contributions of others to their thought and writing.


Faculty need to design contexts and assignments for learning that encourage students not simply to recycle information but to investigate and analyze its sources. This includes:

  • Building support for researched writing (such as the analysis of models, individual/group conferences, or peer review) into course designs;
  • Stating in writing their policies and expectations for documenting sources and avoiding plagiarism;
  • Teaching students the conventions for citing documents and acknowledging sources in their field, and allowing students to practice these skills;
  • Avoiding the use of recycled or formulaic assignments that may invite stock or plagiarized responses;
  • Engaging students in the process of writing, which produces materials such as notes, drafts, and revisions that are difficult to plagiarize;
  • Discussing problems students may encounter in documenting and analyzing sources, and offering strategies for avoiding or solving those problems;
  • Discussing papers suspected of plagiarism with the students who have turned them in, to determine if the papers are the result of a deliberate intent to deceive;
  • Reporting possible cases of plagiarism to appropriate administrators or review boards.


Administrators need to foster a program- or campus-wide climate that values academic honesty. This involves:

  • Publicizing policies and expectations for conducting ethical research, as well as procedures for investigating possible cases of academic dishonesty and its penalties;
  • Providing support services (for example, writing centers or Web pages) for students who have questions about how to cite sources;
  • Supporting faculty and student discussions of issues concerning academic honesty, research ethics, and plagiarism;
  • Recognizing and improving upon working conditions, such as high teacher-student ratios, that reduce opportunities for more individualized instruction and increase the need to handle papers and assignments too quickly and mechanically;
  • Providing faculty development opportunities for instructors to reflect on and, if appropriate, change the ways they work with writing in their courses.

Council of Writing Program Administrators, 2014