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Do Teachers Actually Check Sources?

When heading into upper secondary, and always at university there is a requirement to cite references and find sources to back up findings and arguments. It also offers a way to avoid plagiarism and show research. Bit does any teacher or lecturer actually ever check those sources.

Although the verification of sources is more common at university level than in high school it does occur in both. Teachers and professors are often familiar with subject literature and if sources are from alternative material outside of reading lists it is more likely they will be checked for legitimacy

Do you Cite and Check Your Own Sources?

If not you could be unintentionally plagiarizing others work and the bottom line is that plagiarism is cheating. However, there are two main types of plagiarism and a few subtypes of each. Intentional and unintentional plagiarism are the two main types. Let’s take a look at how they occur.

Intentional Plagiarism

This type of plagiarism is not as common as you may think. It is the type of plagiarism that occurs when a student or writer knows that what they are writing is not their ideas or words. Entire groups of words are copied, or ideas are taken from someone else. Students know that it is wrong, but they do it in an attempt to get a good grade or to do little work on a paper.

Generally, paid-for papers or copied papers off websites are the most commonly seen intentionally plagiarized paper. Faked sources are another way that students intentionally cheat, and we will cover more of that later. This type of plagiarism can be easy to detect with free and paid online plagiarism checkers, and ones specifically designed for universities like turn it in.

Unintentional Plagiarism

This type is the most common plagiarism detected. In these cases, students did not know what they were doing was cheating or wrong. Usually, it results from not understanding plagiarism or how to check sources properly.

Wholly Quotable

This TED-ed video shows how people sometimes cheat whether they mean to do so or not. In this type of cheating, a student has quote after quote of other material. The paper has very few of the author’s own words. No more than 10 percent of the paper should be someone else’s thoughts or words, generally speaking. Some instructors will allow up to 25, but more than that is too much.

Forgotten Citations

Sometimes, you just forget to cite your source. Other times, you messed up the source. You may have misquoted or misattributed the source. This type of violation is nearly never intentional. We all miss things now and then. As long as you are not doing this multiple times throughout your work it shouldn’t factor too heavily.

Missing Citations Page

Whether you are using MLA, APA, or another citation style, you must always include a final page of properly formatted sources. An MLA page is a Works Cited, and the APA equivalent is the References page. Other styles may use bibliographies or similarly worded titles. In-text citations are only so helpful for locating sources. Teachers need all source information, and missed citations mean plagiarized work.

Improper Summaries and Paraphrases

Paraphrasing is one of the hardest parts of using someone else’s words. However, using more than a few lines of text is not usually advisable. For this reason, many authors will want to paraphrase the material. Not properly attributing the idea is a forgotten citation, but if you simply substitute each word for another, that is improperly paraphrased. A paraphrase should be in your own words, not the thesaurus.


This type of plagiarism can fall under both intentional and unintentional. Students who reuse their work from other courses or assignments are self-plagiarizing. Most assignments require new work or studies to be accurate. Some instructors will grant permission, but they must be notified first.

How Will My Teacher Know if I Cheated?

Often, when students intentionally cheat, their sources are clearly made up or are unbelievable. The most obvious is the student who cannot form clear sentences for in-class assignments but writes a dissertation worthy essay when given the opportunity to write from home. Sometimes these papers are purchased or done by other students.

Another red flag is when there are few or no in-text citations for a very complex topic. Students in high school probably aren’t familiar with biotechnology. Even if they have a rudimentary understanding, complex concepts are going to be too advanced for the course.

High similarity scores are also a red flag. Teachers often use programs like Turnitin or Sribbr to check the similarity reports of the work students submit. The program provides a percentage of the paper that is found in other sources. The teacher can review each instance of similarity and where the paper originated.

How Does the Teacher Check the Sources?

Sometimes, your teacher can do a Google search and put keywords for your paper. Purchased papers often result from this simple search. Likewise, they can check the article you placed in your references if you have listed them.

If students have no sources, many teachers will simply return it, explaining that they were required to use source materials and lack of using them means they didn’t do the assignment completely. Some instructors give second chances, and others do not.

What Can Happen if I Am Caught Cheating?

The answer to this question is a tricky one. Students in middle or high school who cheat often fail the assignment, and some have to make it up with or without penalty. Some may also have disciplinary consequences such as detention or other penalties. College courses are different, however. Some instructors will allow one plagiarism mistake in a semester.

If you make that mistake, many professors give a 0 for the assignment, though some may let you redo it if it is clear it was a mistake. Other consequences may include failure and withdrawal from the course up to expulsion from school. Most schools do not expel students on the first offense, but this could depend on the situation too. When colleges uncover paper selling rings, all students are often expelled.

If Those Are the Consequences, Why Cheat?

Why, indeed? Students cheat for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the student is busy and thinks that purchasing a paper for a class that is a gen-ed requirement will be no big deal. He or she is not studying psychology, so it’s okay to submit a purchased paper for this class.

Other times, students are just lazy. They do not want to do the work for classes they are disinterested in, so they get someone else to do it. They aren’t working or playing sports—they just don’t feel like working. Most of the time, however, students don’t mean to cheat. They make mistakes or misunderstand the plagiarism that is occurring.

In nearly every instance of intentional plagiarism, the student never imagined they would be caught. They copied sources that were obscure or made the sources look real. Their overconfidence was their downfall.

What Do I Do If I Unintentionally Plagiarized and Was Caught?

Be honest. Let your instructor know what your mistake was, and ask for another chance. If it is clear that it was accidental, many instructors will allow that second chance. Some will not because they want you to learn a hard lesson. No matter the outcome, accept the instructor’s decision.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes people get away with cheating. It is unfortunate and frustrating, but you should expect that your instructor will be checking your sources and citations. If you are confused about how to do this, talk to your instructor or a tutor before your paper is due.

Many will provide you with sources or may help you figure out how to avoid plagiarism. Though there are terrible teachers everywhere, most instructors are only interested in your learning. They want you to be scholars and learn to do the task at hand.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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