Preventing Professional Plagiarism: Technology Can Help Ensure Students and Faculty Live by the Same Standards

Article excerpt

PERVASIVE STUDENT PLAGIArism used to be the dirty little secret in higher education, but plagiarism by professors is the dirtier secret now being told. They condemn student plagiarism but are now being found guilty of the same crime.

Campus politics and hierarchies, economics, and fear of litigation all conspire against confronting the problem. Some professors industriously steal others' phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and research to trade for credibility, reputation, tenure, and textbook royalties.

Technology has made pilfering prose easy, but it can also hinder those actions. Still, its use has been mainly for student work. Kennedy-Western University, an online university offering bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees through distance learning since 1984, is working to change that. We have worked proactively, using technology, to ensure originality of faculty work.


Plagiarism is reportedly more prevalent than ever before in academia, thanks to word-processing software and online searches. Professors brazenly present as their own the work of colleagues, authors, and even their own students--all to advance their careers in a "publish-or-perish" culture. In a 2004 survey by two University of Alabama economists, 40 percent of 1,200 professors polled believed their work had been pilfered at least once.

Stealing another's statements is a serious charge than can damage the core of a professor's credibility. But with professors who think nothing of plagiarizing, what is the academic community to do?

Look to student anti-plagiarism efforts, such as text analysis solutions from companies such as Glatt Plagiarism Services, iParadigms, MyDropBox, and CFL Software Development.

In December 2001, to prevent student plagiarism, KWU was an early adopter of iParadigms' web-based anti-plagiarism service, Turnitin, which scans documents for signs of plagiarism and missing/improper citations. Every phrase is rated for likelihood of originality. When plagiarism is found, the original document is cited for verification.

The service itself works well, but its mere presence is a strong deterrent. Currently, an average of only 2 percent of KWU student work is flagged as suspicious. …


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