Plagiarism and the Internet

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Plagiarism and the Internet

Plagiarism has always been a problem in schools. However, with the invention of the internet, it has made plagiarism even more of a challenge. Plagiarism.org, “estimates that nearly 30 percent of all students may be plagiarizing on all their written assignments and that the use of the Internet has made plagiarism much worse.” [1] The act of plagiarism can be defined as, “To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own, to use (another’s production) without crediting the source, to commit literary theft, to present as new and original as idea or product derived from an existing source”2. Plagiarism has become such a concern for colleges that almost all the sites on this topic are sponsored by schools. The three main topics with plagiarism are the copy and paste function, “paper mills” and the ways that can be used to prevent students from doing this.

The first major concern with the internet would be the copy and paste function. Wittenberg lists that “Widespread availability of the internet and increased access to full text databases has made cut and paste plagiarism very easy”.3 While the function is actually very nice to have, people are using it the wrong way. Instead of just using it to copy quotes from websites, than pasting it to their word document and giving it the proper credit, people are passing it off as their own. This is where the problem occurs.

The function is actually very beneficial. In fact it has helped with the writing of this paper. I just made sure to give the proper credit necessary. One aspect of this function that leads to plagiarism that many people are not aware of is as follows: “When students capture images or text from other websites or scan hard copy to include in a website without attribution or permission, the result can be a violation of copyright law”.4 Most people are used to just copy and pasting images when necessary but are not always aware pictures may be copyrighted. We must take extra care when copy and pasting in order to avoid plagiarism.

The next problem with the internet and plagiarism that leads to a lack of independent thought would be the availability of paper mills. Plagiarism.org, “points to the proliferation of “paper mills”, Internet sites which allow students, sometimes at a nominal fee, to buy ready-made research papers”.

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5 The ease with which one can find relevant papers on the internet has made these sites very popular. It is often easier for a student to go to these websites and print off a paper rather than to write it themselves. And in fact, “McCabe found that 15 percent of the students had handed in papers cut and pasted from term paper mills and Web sites”.6 This is actually a very alarming number if it is accurate. Paper mills are in fact a major reason that there has been a lack of independent thought recently.

And the last topic to be dealt with would be how plagiarism can be stopped or at least how one can detect it. The first and most obvious way would be to shut down the paper mill websites. Another way, would be to, “simply ask your students to submit their essays in electronic form, copy and paste a six or seven word phrase from an essay into the search box, and let it search”.7 This way if a quote or paper has been plagiarized, the teacher will know.Several websites are also set up to help teachers. Several of these would be Internet Paper Mills, Cheating 101,A Faculty Guide to Cyber- Plagiarism, etc. With the help of these techniques teachers are able to identify plagiarism, and by letting their students know this, they are helping to encourage independent thought.

Plagiarism is a problem that has gotten worse with the invention of the internet. But with the proper use of the copy and paste function, avoidance of paper mills and by teachers using the techniques to identify plagiarism, this can be avoided. By depending less on the internet and more on independent thought, plagiarism can be combated.


[1] “Plagiarism: Opportunities and Challenges in the Age of the Internet”, Basitali.com. http://www.basitali.com/plagiarism.htm


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