Plagiarism is a perennial temptation for students and an eternal challenge for teachers and writers, especially in the age of the Internet. An event during the summer of 2006, however, seemed almost a re-invention of plagiarism, at least to some who responded to it.
In June 2006 a message was emailed to fraternity and sorority chapters across the country advertising a new electronic repository for down-loadable college and university papers, as well as articles on various topics. The site was called "writing sucks" (link removed intentionally), and featured the slogan "Download your Workload." Members of the Alliance for Computers and Writing (ACW) listserve list fumed and argued about plagiarism in general and "Writing Sucks" in particular.
Sources for plagiarized text
Traditionally, a person simply
- copied paragraphs from various scholarly journals or books in the library, or
- removed an old term paper from the files in his/her fraternity and copied some, or all, of it.
In the late 1960s, commercial services began to sell term papers to students, sometimes under the euphemistic name of "academic research services". These services are particularly repugnant, as these businessmen are making a profit from the fraudulent acts of students, as well as damaging the integrity of grades and degrees from schools and colleges.
And, since the mid-1990s, students can simply download material from the Internet, without the bother of retyping the text. While the Internet is a great resource for plagiarists, it can also be a great resource for professors who are suspicious and want to take a few minutes with search engines, in an attempt to find the true source. Further, some commercial anti-plagiarism services have begun to prepare databases of essays, term papers, etc. for comparison with a student's work submitted in a class, in a large-scale attempt to find plagiarism by students. Furthermore, the existence of free material on the Internet is likely to diminish, if not kill, the business of selling term papers from stock. Unfortunately, there may continue to be a business for custom-prepared papers.
How common is plagiarization by students? No one really knows, because most plagiarization is either undetected or unreported. Julie Ryan, an instructor at George Washington University, found that "7 of 42 students plagiarized most or all of their papers" in a class during the Fall 1997 semester. She says that, in the Spring 1998 semester, again 17% of the students "plagiarized their entire papers." But wait! That 17% only represents the plagiarists that she caught by using the Alta Vista search engine on the Internet, a method that will not find students who plagiarized from books, scholarly journals, old term papers by other students, material sold by term paper mills, .... So the true incidence of plagiarism among students is higher than one in six. Still, one in six is unacceptably high and represents a serious erosion of quality and integrity in colleges across the globe, especially in USA, and UK.
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