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Strategies for Assignment Design

Strategies to deepen learning and prevent plagiarism through assignment design include designing, scaffolding, embedding, modeling, and documenting.


Effective assignments are designed with plagiarism prevention in mind.

  • Specify or vary voice, audience, and purpose
  • Create problem-based not just topic-based assignments
  • Empower students to choose from a list of specific problems OR use wording that is specific with an unusual twist
  • Require an argument not just a report
  • Limit sources to those published within the last (xx) months/years, if appropriate to the problem
  • Design for the appropriate course level (100-400)



Effective assignments are scaffolded.

Break down major assignments into manageable mini-assignments

  • Make elements of one major assignment due at reasonable intervals
  • Build in review (either by faculty or in peer groups)


Example of a Scaffolded Research Paper:

  • Class Discussion: “How to find and develop research questions”
  • Annotated bibliography, summary, or abstract assignment
  • Thesis and outline development in-class workshop OR self-guided writing center visit
  • Work with librarians to provide a workshop or resources on effective source integration and/or citation guidelines appropriate to the discipline
  • First draft peer review
  • Final draft due



Effective assignments are embedded in course themes and materials.

  • Tie assignments directly to course readings, overarching themes, or specific learning outcomes
  • Prescribe the use of one or more particular sources, datasets, etc. (especially those that have been used or demonstrated in class)
  • Create low-stakes writing assignment(s) in which students put two sources in conversation with one another
  • Allow students to define specific questions about course theme or problem



Effective assignments are modeled.



Effective assignments require source documentation.

  • Require copies of source material
  • Require process notes on group/individual activities
  • Require an annotated bibliography ahead of time–complete with call numbers for books, URLs for web resources, and DOIs for journal articles
  • Require “low stakes” response papers or research logs
  • Use Turnitin to review assignment drafts