Internet Makes Plagarism a Breeze

January 28th, 2008 by Bob Bly

A survey conducted by Rutgers Business School found that nearly half of college students said they were guilty of plagarism: using content in their papers that wasn’t theirs, without permission or attribution.

Of those, nearly 8 out of 10 said they committed plagarism either solely or mainly when using online research materials.

Reason: it’s so quick and easy to cut and paste the text from the Web site into their document.

Printed source material is plagarized less frequently — presumably because it’s too much work to rekey the material into their laptops.

Among high school students, who were also surveyed, 6 out of 10 plagarize, and 3 out of 4 cheat on tests.

Students felt little guilt about plagarism and cheating. They cited lack of time and the need to have high grades to get into a good school or job as ample justification for their dishonesty.

Another reason cited was peer pressure: the students felt that, with so many of their peers cheating, those who don’t cheat are at an unfair disadvantage.

What a world!

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19 responses about “Internet Makes Plagarism a Breeze”

  1. Joel Heffner said:

    While I was teaching a high school class an assignment was handed in that didn’t sound like it was written by the student. I entered the first sentence in Google and immediately came up with the original source. The student copied the whole thing! He added nothing of his own. It didn’t seem to bother his parents, either! That was the scary part.

  2. Ken said:

    I guess the survey shows that a human’s penchant for taking the easy way starts long before they reach adulthood.
    We are friggin’ lazy!
    And as for the stealing aspect…just like with cable signals, online music and movies, it seems that if it isn’t something physical, we don’t consider it stealing at all. How convenient!

  3. Fern said:

    I remember “rewriting” paragraphs from the encyclopedia for grade school assignments. Well, the encyclopedia said it all — really what could I add!?

    Perhaps the teachers could have spent a little more time instructing us on research versus copying?

  4. Riel Langlois, comic book writer said:

    I was tempted to copy and paste Joel Heffner’s response; when I was teaching high school this was a common occurrence. But I say the internet has also made it easier to CATCH plagiarists, and here’s why: Plagiarists are lazy.

    In the past, the teacher had to pore through all the reference material in the library to find the original source. However, now we just have to type a sample sentence (in quotation marks) into Google. It works. The student who is too lazy to write original copy is also too lazy to find a non-internet source to steal from.

  5. Melissa Beynon said:

    Questions to the teachers: What is the punishment for plagiarism? Is proper citation still taught, including internet sources? I was getting out of college just as the internet was becoming such a problem. Thanks!

  6. Fern said:

    Let me re-comment. My earlier comment referred to mindless assignments in grade school. I taught myself how to research and draw my own conclusions in graduate school.

    But I still think that (most) teachers don’t teach methods for research assignments.

    To answer MB: Many colleges/universities have a disciplinary process, usually involving a faculty-student committee.

  7. Dianna Huff said:

    I think the problem goes way beyond simply catching students using content from the Internet. (And it’s not just students — business people do it, too.)

    Too much stuff is “free” on the Internet — and because it’s free and easy to consume, we don’t value it.

  8. Stacey Mathis, Copywriter for the Parent Market said:

    Riel Langlois is right. Plagiarists are lazy. My English professor shared a story about one of his former students who plagiarized a piece by a writer and hadn’t bothered to check the name of the author; the author was OUR ENGLISH PROFESSOR!

  9. Jesse Hines, Vigorous Writing said:

    Like previous commenters have said, plagiarists are lazy.

    Eventually their laziness will get them caught.

    Irony is beautiful.

  10. Bob Bly said:

    Jesse: I am not convinced all get caught. And of those who get caught (e.g., Stephen Ambrose), are they really punished or penalized in any way?

  11. Copyvirgin said:

    I was reading something the other day on the bbc website, where students had not just plagarised, but plagarised badly. They had left the ad’s from websites in the text they had copied.

    Surely its easier (as i always found it was) to form your own opinions, find info that backs that up and make it part of your argument!? As opposed to having to go through someone else’s work and trying to make it look like your own work!?

    The fact that students have little guilt about it, just shows how they feel about their education; as a means to an end!

  12. Craig Hysell said:

    Do they still make high schoolers read “1984″? Would they cherish their free thought and indivduality any better? Maybe if Orwell was on MySpace and posted acted out chapters of his writing on YouTube…

    Dianna said “Too much stuff on the Internet is free- and because it’s free and easy to consume we don’t value it.” A valid point. Perhaps not to most of us because we remember what it meant to trudge to the library or pick up a phone when we needed something done.

    Maybe they should assign today’s students a paper once a semester where they can’t use the Internet as a source. Then again, “free” and “easy” are some very popular words among us copywriters…

    Was cheating always so predominant? How far back to the studies go?

  13. Peter George said:

    Ease and tolerance are two of the key factors in the swell of plagiarism. Perhaps lack of shame and accomplisment are equally so. In researching topics on the Internet, I have not only discovered identical articles with different author’s names, but I have also found one of my own articles being attibuted to another author.

    For obvious reasons, Bob, I found your post near and dear to my heart. So much so that I almost copied it and put it on my blog. (Just kidding!)

  14. Raj Khera said:

    We spend a lot of money on our web site, MailerMailer, writing original content. I’ve seen our checklists, articles, industry reports, and even our marketing material get chopped up and used as text on other people’s blogs. As a company, there are too many of these bandits to pursue. So, while the Internet makes it easier to plagarise and for plagarists to get caught, unless you dedicate a lot of resources to pursue them, the saddest part of the issue is that they often go unpunished.

  15. Bill Hilton said:

    Agreed with Joel and Riel. I used to teach, and you can usually spot plagiarism a mile off – providing you know the kids well, that is.

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