What Teachers Can Do About Plagiarism
The news from Professor Bloomfield's Physics
course at the prestigious University of Virginia was bleak. Bloomfield
caught wind of a rumored cheating problem in his 500+ student class and
decided it was time to check up on his students. Using a customized software
program, he analyzed 1500 term papers from his electronic database of
past and present students to put these rumors to rest.
What he found not only put the legendary UVA
honor system in great doubt, it put many students out of the running for
a college degree. 122 of his students had plagiarized their papers.
Unfortunately plagiarism and cheating in general
is just as prevalent among high schoolers. A recent survey from Who's
Who Among American High School Students found that 80% of high achievers
reported haven cheated at least once.
The Internet and digital technology in general
has greatly enhanced students' opportunities to plagiarize material quite
effectively and covertly. With Web sites like ezessays.com and cyberessays.com,
students have access to thousands of research papers in a matter of moments.
Like Professor Bloomfield, teachers nationwide are fighting back the tide
of electronic cheating using both digital and conventional means.
The increased access to canned essays afforded
by the Internet is equally effective as a means to ferret out unoriginal
work. Teachers are using a plethora of strategies including using search
engines, plagiarism-detection Web sites, email and customized software
Free and Easy
The cheapest and easiest method of finding work taken from the Web is
to conduct a simple Internet search on a search engine site such as Google
(Yahoo and Altavista are generally not as effective). Simply ask your
studentes to submit their essays in electronic form, copy and paste a
six or seven word phrase from an essay into the search box, and let it
Teaching Today used the Google search engine
to easily find the source of a plagiarized phrase from a biography written
about Emily Dickinson. At least three different term paper Web sites contained
the exact phrase in published essays.
This method only compares the paper against
work available on the Internet, however. Not all plagiarists are so far-removed
from their source material. Professor Bloomberg actually found that much
of the plagiarized work came from other students. For that kind of detection,
teachers need to be somewhat more diligent.
For a Fee
Subscription services such as internet-based Turn
It In search for exact word-for-word matches with papers in their
digital archive and on the internet. The advantage of a program like this
is that students have to submit their work directly to the service prior
to handing it in to the teacher. The teacher then logs into the Web site
for customized analysis of the student's work. Thus, the service compares
the work not only to essays posted on the Web, but also to others in the
An Ounce of Prevention
Teachers can reduce large scale plagiarism by employing a few simple preventative
- Discuss plagiarism in the class and clearly
define what constitutes plagiarism and inappropriate paraphrasing. You
may need to discuss why it is wrong to steal intellectual property.
- Teach the five-step writing process. By
teaching students how to write using a process approach, you arm them
with the skills they need to actually complete a writing project without
resorting to plagiarism.
- Require students to hand in outlines, drafts,
and all other evidence of the writing process, including research notes.
Make it easy on yourself by requiring them to place it all in a binder
or file folder.
- Inform students that you will be checking
for unoriginal work. This alone can be enough to deter a student; especially
when the consequences of plagiarism are harsh.
What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It
Created by the Writing Tutorial Service department at Indiana University,
this site outlines standard definitions of acceptable and unacceptable
uses of intellectual property.
This subscription-based plagiarism detection service uses complex-search
tools to compare submitted works with those available on the Web.
Offering both free and subscription-based plagiarism detection services,
IntegriGuard offers a two-tiered service for detection and validation
of instances of plagiarism.
Plagiarism in an Online World
Author Julie JCH Ryan takes a candid look at online cheating and ways
in which teachers can spot work that is not original.