College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

Summary:Plagiarism is on the rise, according to new research, with technology and the web as the reason why, apparently. But is technology to blame?

Plagiarism -- copying work and passing it off as your own -- is a common problem in college and university. New research by Kew suggests that the problem is more prevalent than first thought.

In a survey of 1,055 college presidents, more than half have seen a significant increase in plagiarism over the last ten years -- citing technology and the web as the weapon of choice for students plagiarise.

But is technology causing todays graduates-to-be to rip off their way through college?

(Image via Flickr)

The temptation to plagiarise is always there: an ever-present demon hanging on the shoulder of each and every student around the world.

Time is finite. Only students, past and present, can truly understand how difficult it is to manage time effectively during the course of a college degree. It is extremely difficult, and often many leave essays and coursework to the last minute. Some thrive on the pressure, whereas unfortunately, as appears the case in my own personal experience, it falls down to sheer laziness and poor time management.

What many students are not taught -- instead, simply lambasted when it happens -- is to read, take it in and to be able to then re-explain it in written form.

But so many students search through a text on Google Scholar or an e-book, and re-write it without necessarily taking in the full context of the content. Would you call that plagiarism?

It's certainly a tough one to call, but it trickles down to one key question to 'that old chestnut' from the past -- is technology to blame for when things go wrong?

In terms of plagiarism, sure -- it plays its part. But as technology is neutral, controlled and managed by those who create and use it, if technology is misused or abused, it is the person behind it who is at fault.

Don't even get me started on those damned essay-writing websites.

I have a certain hatred for those who buy work off the web -- more than those who are caught plagiarising by simply copying and pasting text. Never mind the reasons why, but a certain pomposity and arrogance for one to buy their way into or out of something grates me like nails down a chalkboard.

Proof-reading sites, which offer a fee to run through your completed work to grammar and spell-check; now that's certainly pushing it in my eyes, but I can let it slide. In practice, there is no difference -- but when you fork out money for something relating to your actual coursework, that may not look favourable if it is found out by college administrators.

But as plagiarism detection becomes more intelligent and algorithmically developed, the risk of getting caught is significantly higher.

Whether or not it acts as a deterrent or not, it remains to be seen. But with plagiarism software often automatically scanning texts for related or copied content from other pieces of work, there is no doubt in my mind that it is certainly becoming harder to get away with the 'crime' of plagiarism.

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Topics: Browser

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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