Effective practices for papers and projects

Effective practices for papers and projects

Table of Contents

Apply the measures on the achieving academic integrity page and these practices to discourage plagiarism and promote academic integrity with papers and projects in your course.

Design the assignment

  • Change your assignments somewhat from semester to semester to discourage students from recycling previous students’ work.
  • Avoid open topic research paper assignments: either select a question (or a series from which students choose) that limits their range OR require a research question in advance of students’ starting their research/paper/project.
  • For large classes, change assignments slightly from section to section to prevent the exchange of papers among friends in different sections (where students are likely to have separate graders).
  • Use a service such as Turnitin.com to check on possible plagiarism (see the TurnItIn Guide and the TurnItIn: Draft Coach Guide).
  • Provide students with an assignment description for all written work, clarifying the required task, the parameters for collaboration, and the evaluation criteria.
  • Determine and communicate clearly with students how you will collect the papers/projects
  • If you have grading assistance, have the same grader evaluate all the papers/projects written on the same topic or closely related topics.  

Begin with low stakes assignments

  • Assign short writing assignment(s) early in the class; this activity will allow you to see students’ writing capabilities (which makes noticing anomalies easier) and give students a chance to practice.
  • Collect the in-class or low-stakes paper writing samples to compare to papers written outside of class.
  • If possible, obtain a relevant Internet-source paper or discussion and examine it during class. Among other benefits, this indicates to students that you know that Internet sources exist! 

Scaffold the paper/project

  • Ask students to turn in consecutive drafts/plans of a more extensive assignment; it isn’t easy to plagiarize all the way through the course (Bishop & Cini, 2017).
  • Have students submit topics, produce drafts/plans before submitting the final paper/project, and don’t accept last-minute changes. Tip: Many faculty choose to keep the draft for comparative purposes with the final submission. This method not only prevents many forms of plagiarism and cheating, but it also prevents procrastination – one of the primary reasons students cheat.
  • If possible, require students to submit topics, assign term papers/projects in stages. Use writing assignments (i.e., outline, first draft, plans) to gauge student progress if appropriate to the material (e.g., a brief “progress report” on the term paper or project). Keep these reports to compare with the final product. 
  • Consider having your students walk you through their writing and thinking processes with a video recording s for the paper/project (e.g., Studio in Canvas). When students did not write a given paper or create a project they can rarely explain their writing process or the paper’s reasoning.

Communicate expectations for citations

Plagiarizing and lacking appropriate citations is another common issue. You can help discourage plagiarizing and encourage the use of proper sources by repeatedly and communicating your expectations for citations, including that correct citation is required for all assignments (drafts, proposals, ungraded work, presentation slides, images, diagrams, etc.). It would help if you reiterated these expectations both in class and in written examples.

  • Require a bibliography in advance.
  • Avoid general annotated bibliographies that only require a summary of the sources themselves; many of these are readily available on the Web.
  • Require a bibliography with short summaries of how students see each entry fitting into their topic
  • Ask that students turn in part or all of print sources with the final draft.
  • You can also direct students to writing resources such as: 


Bishop, M.J., & Cini, M. (2017, October 5). Academic dishonesty and online education (Part 2): Strategies for supporting academic honesty in the digital age. The EvoLLLution. https://evolllution.com/revenue-streams/distance_online_learning/academic-dishonesty-and-online-education-part-2-strategies-for-supporting-academic-honesty-in-the-digital-age/

Effective practices for papers and projects, by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University, is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This work, Effective practices for papers ad projects, is a derivative of Promoting Academic Integrity developed by the Office of Student Conduct at North Carolina State University (retrieved on February 12, 2021) from https://studentconduct.dasa.ncsu.edu/faculty/promoting-academic-integrity/, the Academic integrity handbook for faculty and other instructional personnel (PDF) from Academic Affairs at Oklahoma State University (retrieved on February 12, 2021) from https://academicaffairs.okstate.edu/site-files/documents/ai-handbook-faculty-personnel.pdf, and Prevention from University of Rochester Academic Honesty (retrieved on February 19, 2021) from https://www.rochester.edu/college/honesty/instructors/prevention.html