[EAS]Internet Plagiarism

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Sun Nov 16 17:22:26 EST 2003

Subject:   Internet Plagiarism

Dear Colleagues -

I've commented on this topic before,
<http://jove.eng.yale.edu/pipermail/eas-info/2001/000383.html>, but
is seems to produce little resonance, maybe because so many readers
of these mailings are in the sciences and technology. But even in
the humanities the dominant faculty feeling I've encountered seems
to be that it either isn't happening much, or that it would be
detectable readily enough.

I'm not so sanguine.

Another reminder of "cyber-plagiarism" comes via a recent BBC
News item reported in Edupage, November 14, 2003:

> Susan Bassnett of Warwick University in the United Kingdom is
> working to address the growing problem of Internet plagiarism at
> U.K. colleges and universities. Bassnett blames a higher education
> culture of mass education for the current situation, in which rising
> numbers of students engage in "cut-and-paste" cheating and cheaters
> are increasingly difficult to detect. Academic texts are widely
> available online, and the tools and strategies to mask plagiarized
> scholarly work are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Bassnett
> argues that in a higher education system where much of the grading
> takes place anonymously, preventing instructors from developing a
> sense of different students' writing styles, the odds of spotting
> cheaters drop significantly. Bassnett is calling for strong
> punishments for students caught plagiarizing from the Web, including
> expulsion. Charles Juwah of the Robert Gordon University said his
> institution is working to address the problem by educating students
> about their responsibility and what is expected of them
> academically.
> BBC, 14 November 2003
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/3265143.stm

Let me give you a few quotes from that BBC item. The disturbing
aspect of this situation is the growing feeling amongst the young
that what may start as a still recognized transgression committed
out of laziness

> "It is easier, because sometimes when you go to the library you
> can't find the necessary books or you have too much to read," she
> says. 
> "But I'm always careful. The best way is to combine library
> materials with essays bought from the internet."

becomes an accepted aspect of competition. 

It is, after all, easy to neglect generational factors. A
pre-Internet upbringing, whether in regard to respect for privacy or
intellectual honesty, can help inhibit the abuse that the Internet
can encourage by its huge scaling up of possibility. But those of
the Internet age, raised by perhaps less attentive parents, have
little or no such inhibition. For them it is natural.

> The woman leading the campaign to flush out cheats says UK
> universities have only just begun to get to grip with the enormity
> of the situation. 
> Prof Susan Bassnett, a pro vice-chancellor at Warwick University,
> believes plagiarism is a spreading plague in higher education with
> more and more cases coming to light every year. 
> "Across UK universities we now have a cut and paste culture which is
> becoming difficult to detect," she says. 
> "There seem to be higher cases in arts subjects than in sciences or
> lab-based courses where course works are more practical based."
> "Students nowadays want to push the boundaries. Universities are
> becoming degree-producing factories."

Sigh,  --PJK

More information about the EAS-INFO mailing list