Plagiarism and Business Plans: A Growing Challenge for Entrepreneurship Education?
Lahm, Robert J., Jr., Journal of Entrepreneurship Education
Entrepreneurship students in numerous academic programs face a unique and arguably difficult assignment: that of creating a business plan. Unfortunately, some students purposely cheat, and others lack sufficient competencies in research and writing, such that they violate academic integrity policies. While plagiarism has been a hot topic in recent media coverage, and in education at large, there is scant research in existence to date that addresses plagiarism specifically as it relates to business plans and entrepreneurship courses. Numerous researchers have observed an overall increase in various forms of academic dishonesty as well as shifting attitudes among students. This paper discusses business plan plagiarism cases and methods by which they were detected and prosecuted through the Judicial Affairs offices at one institution. The author also provides a possible impetus and suggestions for future research as it pertains to a growing challenge for the academic (and practical community).
PLAGIARISM: JUST HOW BAD IS IT?
As a Harvard undergraduate student sat across from her in an interview on the Today show, a "skeptical" Katie Couric asked probing questions about the plagiarism allegations that had been lodged against the student (Finkelstein, 2006). According to Publishers Weekly and other sources, the student had reportedly received a $500,000 advance for her book deal (while she was still in high school) from publisher Little, Brown & Company (Deahl & Milliot, 2006; Finkelstein, 2006). Meanwhile, the publisher of books from which the student was alleged to have plagiarized, Crown Publishing Group, identified over 40 instances where text passages bore questionable similarities (Finkelstein, 2006).
The creator of the site, PlagiarismToday.com related his reason for becoming involved in an aggressive effort to track down and eliminate (primarily) Internet-based plagiarism by declaring: "I never wanted to be a plagiarism fighter, much less a plagiarism expert. That role was forced upon me approximately four years ago when I discovered that nearly six years worth of my poetry and literature" had been stolen (Bailey, 2006). The discovery of the theft occurred when someone asked if the author's work was on more than one site; it was subsequently determined that the individual who had reproduced this author's work had done so by creating a mirror site, using a different name. Individuals who write articles online and post them to article sites also complain about theft (Article Plagiarism, 2006).
NBC recently severed its ties with a freelance "producer who plagiarized passages from" the popular television series, 'The West Wing' (Freelance Producer, 2006). The discovery of this instance was the result of an audience member's email, which alerted the network to the plagiarized material. ABC News Primetime aired an investigative report suggesting "A Cheating Crisis in America's Schools" (A Cheating Crisis, 2006). After Wal-Mart heiress Paige Laurie was accused by her former college roommate of buying custom papers and other work (while they both attended the University of Southern California; the roommate's story was originally aired on ABC News' 20/20), The University of Missouri removed the 22-year-old's name from its new sports arena; Laurie's parents' donation provided the funding for that arena to be built (Isaacson, 2004).
Nitterhouse (2003) cited a series of previous studies which indicated several professional disciplines have reported plagiarism problems, including marketing, computer science, journalism, nursing, and science (p. 215). In the June 2006 issue of the Association for Computing Machinery's journal, Communications of the ACM, published a plagiarism policy statement based (in part) on the following rationale (Boisvert & Irwin, 2006):
Incidents of plagiarism are escalating in computer science and engineering. While plagiarism cases were very rare during ACM's first 40 years in the publishing business, several cases have been uncovered annually in recent years. …