Internet Creates a Rise in Cut-and-Paste Plagiarism

By Gormly, Kellie B | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Internet Creates a Rise in Cut-and-Paste Plagiarism


Gormly, Kellie B, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


"I'm not an idiot," Danae Brentzel-Martina tells her high-school English students. "So don't try to play me for one by plagiarizing on your papers."

Plagiarizing -- claiming someone else's words as your own without proper credits -- may be shameful, but not uncommon. In a Pew Research Center study released in August, 55 percent of college presidents said plagiarism had increased in the past decade; 89 percent of those who thought plagiarizing was on the increase cited the Internet was a major reason.

According to surveys of students and faculty by Rutgers Business School in Newark, N.J., about 33 to 40 percent of high-school and college students admit to having done some kind of cut-and-paste plagiarism.

Academic integrity is important, as is respecting people's intellectual property, says Brentzel-Martina, who teaches her students to value their own ideas and work and to give credit to other people's.

"My goal is that they know how to do it (credit) properly by the time they leave my classroom," she says. "One of the biggest things that I work on in my classrooms is encouraging them to have their own ideas, so they don't feel the need to ... fall back on cheating."

When the Norwin High School teacher sees something suspicious -- often caught through the computer program called Turnitin -- she will meet with the student privately. Sometimes, the student admits to cheating by copying someone's else's work, often from the Internet. Brentzel-Martina might will give students a chance to fix it, if they simply failed to cite their sources properly.

But in clear-cut, deliberate cases of plagiarism, the students will fail the assignment. A second offense could lead to the principal's office and failing the course.

Plagiarizing is easier than ever for students, who can just copy something from a website, change the font and electronically paste it into their papers. Yet, the same technology that makes plagiarism easier for students to do makes it easier for teachers to catch. Many schools use anti-plagiarism computer programs. Turnitin, which 10,000 educational institutions use in 126 countries, scans papers and the Internet and reports on text matches.

The Turnitin software has helped numerous high-school teachers and college professors enforce academic integrity in the electronic age, says Chris Harrick of the Oakland, Calif.

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