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

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?

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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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32 comments
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  • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

    I would argue that more students are getting caught rather than more are doing it. And yes, technology deserves credit for that.
    Michael Kelly
    • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

      @Michael Kelly I'd argue that too. In the realm of yesteryear, there was really no way to know if something was plagiarized or not unless you had actually read the article yourself. Nowadays, there are programs you can shoot an entire paper through to check for plagiarized content.

      Also, unless you're running a full time job (which you probably aren't), you have plenty of time to study and write essays. Just because you'd rather go to that party Saturday night and spend all of Sunday with a raging hangover doesn't mean you don't have enough time. You do, you just choose to squander it.

      If anything, with the age of technology we're in, students have even more free time than they used to. I don't have to spend hours in a library doing a research paper anymore. I can stay on my couch with a laptop and pull out more relevant information to my topic in thirty minutes than a library-goer can do in an entire day.
      Aerowind
    • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

      Right, I think so as well. When I was a student (before the web), there was a lot of cheating, but there was just no way for the teachers to tell. I remember one case when two students handed in identical coursework. Of course, they got caught, but that was purely accidental.
      Having said that, there may be more cheating too as it is all too easy to copy and paste.
      Scrabbler
    • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

      @Michael Kelly Personally I think more students are being caught but I also think that there is more information more readily accessible via the internet and therefore more opportunities to plagiarize work then there was prior to the availability of the internet.
      athynz
  • The student is 100% to blame.

    That should not even be open to debate.
    Bruizer
    • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

      @Bruizer

      Agreed.. People are accountable for their own actions
      bobiroc
      • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

        @bobiroc Not just the students but their teachers and parents too. Most serial plagiarizers do so because they were never caught and taken to account by their teachers and parents when they were in high school (and many parents actually encourage plagiarism). In my high school classes I have the use of plagiarism-checking websites, and I actively teach the habits and responsibilities of good research and writing. My students are taught how to take material they find and use it properly, with credit to the source material and to add their own intellectual contribution. But most students aren't taught how to do research the right way. They are just thrown into the water without instructions on how to swim.
        ssaha
      • Missing should be...

        @bobiroc Should be accountable for their own actions, sadly not for a while.
        Richard Flude
    • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

      @Bruizer
      I also agree. Plagerizing is a behavior. It is the deliberate copy of a work by someone else being passed off as your own. The Internet, and the Web subset, may have automatic copying, but it doesn't deliberately pass off the works stored on it as it's own creation. S

      Blaming the teachers and the parents is a cop out, as well as dishonest. The teachers didn't copy the work, nor did the parents (unless you got one that wrote the kid's paper too.) Point is, if you're in college, you're an adult. You, and only you, are responsible for your behavior at that point. It's irrelevant what your parents taught you. It's irrelevant whether your teachers caught you or not. You where told what plagarism is. You were told not to engage in that behavior. You choose to ignore that.
      Dr_Zinj
    • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

      @Bruizer

      I don't agree 100%. Technology in this case is an enabler, because it had made it even easier for students to cheat. Do you ever disobey the speed limit? Why? Not because you even think about it, BUT BECAUSE IT IS SO EASY TO DO. Human nature is what it is - humans will always tend to look for the easiest way to do something, and if it's easier to plagiarize than work, a large percentage of the human population will take that option. It is incredibly ignorant to believe that 100% of humans follow a certain moral standard 100% of the time.

      As a side note, in this case, it can be even trickier to NOT plagiarize. Consider this example You read a series of writing, discover the underlying theme, and write a paper about it. You haven't cheated, you haven't read anyone else's critiques, but it turns out that another person came to exactly the same conclusion as yourself and wrote an earlier article. Your essay sounds as if it were paraphrasing theirs. How do you prove you DIDN'T plagiarize the ideas and simply paraphrase them? The answer is simple: You can't. It is increasingly difficult to create original analyses of information that has any sort of age, particularly writing that is centuries old.
      aep528
    • Agreed

      @Bruizer

      I get sick and tired of people excusing people for their bad behavior.

      It's all about teaching your children values from the cradle on. Cheating is cheating, pure and simple. I do not believe that right and wrong are all "relative."
      sissy sue
    • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

      @Bruizer I agree that the student is the one who ultimately made the choice and should be the one punished.

      But - I think there are many contributing factors as to _why_ it is happening more often. First, we have a society where you must have a college degree in order to move significantly above poverty level income for your lifetime. Then, we have an education system which studies have shown is producing high school graduates who have third grade skills on average. This produces college students who don't have the skill set required to complete college work in the allotted time, if at all. Then, add the fact that so much information is easily accessible on the web and you have a temptation which is difficult for drowning students to resist. All of this, and I didn't even factor in the general decline of morality in our society.
      BillDem
    • Yes, Except for Not Being Clear About What Constitutes Plagiarism

      @Bruizer <br>It's true that the students are to blame if they knowingly plagiarize something.<br><br>However, in my day I saw a number of students who weren't clear on exactly what constituted plagiarism. Of course any direct quotes have to be in quotation marks or in a block quotation and cited. Most students know that. I was also taught, however, that every source for any non-original unique idea or information (anything not considered general knowledge about the subject) had to be cited, or else it was plagiarism no matter what wording you used. That is, if you knew about the idea by reading it in only one of several sources, then you had to cite it.
      CFWhitman
      • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

        @CFWhitman

        I graduated college with honors, and I did not know that. My high school education would have been a better experience with more time spent teaching these skills and less time force feeding us Ethan Fromm and The Scarlet Letter.

        Thanks for nothing NYS Regents Exam Requirements!
        mlashinsky@...
  • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

    Simple answer: It is the lazy students fault. If they put in the time and effort to do the project in a timely manner, there would be no need to plagiarize. But rather than managing their time, they tend to blow it off and then throw something together at the last moment.
    Rick_Kl
  • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

    We were taught to read, digest and interpret (rather than re-word) text to fit into the context of your argument, but to ensure that correct references are always given, e.g. "According to XYZ [1], double blind research demonstrated the sloth's ability to write technical articles at ZDNet is below that of most of their regular bloggers." It's about understanding... however, those that plagiarize will have a long and quite fruitful career in management.
    BanjoPaterson
  • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

    I think the big question here is this: Is this rise in plagiarism recognition because it's easier to copy, or because it's easier to check? 20 years ago if you didn't recognize the source you'd never know it was copied.
    Snowsong
    • RE: College plagiarism on the rise: Blame the web, or blame the student?

      @Snowsong I think that's an excellent point. Something for yours truly to look into at some point, I think.
      zwhittaker
  • Well, duh, Zack...

    As you have written about before... Macbooks are gaining popularity w/ the student crowd.

    And as such, Students are just taking a page from the Apple handbook, and copying ideas, thoughts, and solutions from others and labeling them as their own.

    What will really be scary is when students start suing others for IP infringement for ideas they stole from someone else, just like Apple does!
    SonofaSailor
  • Actually, I blame the educational system of today.

    Instead of concentrating on the real basics of education, such as reading, writing, math, factual social studies, geography, etc..., text books are being rewritten to be politically correct instead of factual, students are being passed whether they know the material or not, subjects being dropped such as music, art, etc... for sports.

    Until those in education today decide to really teach students on the basics, and properly, students will continue to cheat because they were not properly taught to begin with. (I do know there are those who will always cheat no matter what...they will always exist.)
    linux for me