Studies Show Internet Plagiarism on the Rise

Instances of plagiarism are on the rise among college students, according to two new pieces of research. In the Pew survey of 1,055 private and public university presidents, over half said plagiarism in students' papers at their schools has increased over the past 10 years, writes Lauren Caruba at The Daily Northwestern.

Weinberg Assistant Dean Mark Sheldon said that NU faculty have asked him to investigate over 200 cases of academic integrity violations, involving students from various undergraduate schools.

"We've had some really serious cases," Sheldon said. "People have been permanently excluded."

Sheldon said there have been instances where students have taken other students' papers without permission, erased the name and even the impersonation of a professor, in which the student emailed the class saying that an exam was cancelled.

While Sheldon speculates whether more students are actually cheating or if detection methods have simply improved, it can't be denied that there has been increase in cases at NU over the past few years.

With tools like SafeAssignment, an electronic plagiarism detection system used by many NU professors, it is much easier to determine if a student is submitting original work, he said.

The Pew survey found 89 percent of university presidents said the influence of technology and the Internet has been a key factor in the increase in plagiarism among students.

"It's physically easier to lift material because of the Internet, in a way that 10 years ago papers were harder to get — physically harder to get," said Jeffrey Masten, an English and gender studies professor at NU.

In his annual Introduction to Shakespeare class, Masten said, he often has one or two academic integrity violations per class.

The other study, this time by iParadigms, creators of Turnitin, revealed that secondary school students in the United States rely more heavily on social networks for content in their papers and less on cheat sites than college students.

"We hope that sharing this data will help educators initiate discussions with students regarding plagiarism and student writing," said Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing at Turnitin.

"Solutions like Turnitin can reduce unoriginal content by 50 to 75 percent for secondary and higher education schools while teaching students how to research, cite, and write correctly."

The Turnitin study examined 128 million content matches from 33 million student papers that were submitted to Turnitin between June 2010 and June 2011.

Michele Bitoun, senior director of undergraduate education and teaching excellence for Medill, said NU students place a high amount of pressure on themselves to do well. She also noted the fast-paced, demanding nature of journalism specifically contributes to mistakes, both accidental and deliberate, writes Caruba.

"There will always be pressures on people," Bitoun said. "In their professional life as a journalist there's going to be tremendous pressure on them to take on a lot, to do things quickly — all the pressures that might lead you to make a mistake or even do something deliberate to sort of cutcorners."

11 9, 2011
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