How to Beat Online Plagiarism
Plagiarism is best described as copying someone else's work and putting your name on it without giving the original author any credit for his or her work. It is a problem that has existed in academia for centuries, since the creation of text documents. Original methods of plagiarism were limited, however, to copying by hand the work of another person from sources found in libraries and other books and magazines. This form of plagiarism, while it still existed was not simple to perform in that the student would continue to be forced to find and read text that was relevant to his or her project. This process has changed within the 1990's as a result of the Internet. Students may now find countless articles on any desired topic available at their fingertips. Julie J.C.H. Ryan, an information security consultant, wrote "before the world was linked to the Internet, hard-to-detect plagiarism required ingenuity and skill. But today, with the click of a mouse, even technologically inept students have access to vast information resources in cyberspace without having to leave the comforts of their dorm rooms" . Essays may be found online concerning almost any topic imagined, making it very simple to plagiarize. Some of these essays are found in full text study-guide sites, where students are paid to write critiques on different works of literature. To a student who finds pleasure in stealing another students work, these sites are a great haven, especially if the topics written about and topics needed are similar. Fortunately, technology has been able to keep up with this problem and available now are a few simple ways for teachers to "check up" on their students, and help fight the problem of online plagiarism
. This essay will discuss the problem of online plagiarism and elaborate on ways that it can be beat
Plagiarism is a serious problem
within any academic society. While harsh penalties for plagiarizing often involve failing that specific class, or removal from the learning institute altogether, the problem continues to exist. Plagiarism.org is a web-site devoted to information concerning plagiarism. The site defines the problem of plagiarism as "one of the most serious offenses in the academic world" . This site goes on to say that 30 percent of students may be plagiarizing on all the assignments they complete, and that four out of five students admit to cheating at least once. These numbers are shockingly high, especially for a society such as ours within North America that consists of such high standards of achievement in education.
Unfortunately, there are many sites available that can fuel any plagiarists' endeavors. Online, it is believed that up to 200 cheat sites exist where students may find essays previously submitted by other students and teachers. Most famous in this type of online "resource" include: Schoolsucks.com, CheatHouse.com, Cheater.com and PhreePapers.com 2. These sites can be accessed by anyone with a computer, and the desire to perform the least work possible in hopes of completing assignments on time. A MacLean's article in the November 24, 1997 issue states that these cheat sites are no longer limited to the English language. Many of the sites now have available to the user up to fifteen different languages, which any cheater can convert documents to any desired language . This will only make these sites more and more popular to people all over the world. Disappointingly for those who utilize these sites, the essays are often poorly written by authors who put very little time into the works, and may actually have very little to do with the actual topic or work of literature they are referring to. These sites practically advertise plagiarism, while they do so in not so many words. Many boast about having X-number of satisfied customers, and this number is often in the tens of thousands. Fortunately, these customers may only be satisfied until they hand the document to a teacher who has knowledge of technological advances. While the problem of plagiarism still remains part of academic environments, there are now online resources to identify plagiarism assist in the battle against this problem.
Identifying plagiarism in today's times may not be an easy task to the untrained eye, as cutting and pasting from internet sites is as simple as two clicks on the mouse. Luckily, there are resources available to spot plagiarism in documents and note the source(s) where the information was obtained. This makes it very easy for teachers catch students in the act and deal with the problem before it gets too serious. These resources are again located online, with one of the best ones appearing at www.turnitin.com.
Turnitin.com is a web-site devoted to identifying plagiarized works handed in by students to teachers. Teachers, or learning institutes, apply for a membership at this site, and membership prices vary according to the number of documents a member submits in a month's time or the number of teachers who are going to be using this membership. There is also a free trial option, which this author decided to take advantage of, to determine the accuracy of this service. The document submission process is actually quite simple. Upon receiving a user name and password, the user may access his or her account at any time. Teachers who wish to check documents submitted by students believed to be plagiarizing can do so by selecting the "Submit New Document" option. Teachers who receive hard copies of student's work would have to then scan the document into their computer, and cut and paste that document into the "New Document" box. When the document or section of document has been entered, the user submits the paper to Turnitin.com. The checking process takes up to 24 hours to be completed, while the document is cross-referenced with databases containing paper sources online. When the document has finished the checking process, it appears on the user's main page and identifies whether or not the document has been plagiarized and the percentage of the document that contains plagiarized material. By selecting the completed document, the user may then find out where the original source(s) is located, to use as evidence against the student. The partial document that this author utilized from www.sparksnotes.com came back 100% plagiarized, whereas a document of this author's own work came back 100% original. The process was completed within the timelines suggested and proved very user friendly. Teachers and administration staff who suspect plagiarism within their institution will more than definitely find value in this resource.
Many educators are concerned with the rise of plagiarism as a result of the Internet, and results of studies and reports are available online outlining these concerns. In a discussion held at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, it was identified that "…detective sites…found matching complete papers, fragments of papers and listed URL's where information about the papers may be found which may be used to further the investigations and bring about positive results . This published discussion highlights many of the common concerns from educators in the twenty-first century concerning plagiarism and what the future may have in store. The site also acts as a reference for students in obtaining locations for proper document citation to prevent accusations of plagiarism. This site is a good place for students to visit for any class, as it explains the problem of plagiarism in great detail, explains what tools are available to teachers to check against this problem, and how to prevent getting charged with plagiarism by following the proper steps. By instilling the fear in young scholars that the chances of getting away with plagiarism are minimal with today's technological advances, the overall problem with copying other authors' work may be drastically reduced as students realize it is much more rewarding to write their own papers.
The problem of plagiarism has existed for centuries and most likely will continue to exist in some form or another, as long as teachers require students to write papers and other works of literature. As stated earlier, this problem has been made drastically easier with the creation of the Internet and online "cheat" sites designed for the sharing of documents. The availability of translations into multiple languages will make the problem of plagiarism more widespread and useful all over the world. Hopefully, society through the use of technology will fight to stay one-up on these sites at all times with the creation of search sites to be utilized by educators to detect any form of plagiarism. Perhaps someday, the problem of plagiarism will be minimized due to the fear of "getting caught" that it will almost seem not to exist. Until that time, sources like turnitin.com will always be available.