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It's two o'clock in the morning, you're just one page into a 10-page term paper that's due at eight o'clock. A few years ago, that would have been it: You would have submitted the paper late, if at all, and dealt with the consequences. But this is 2005, and so, in your most desperate hour, you try a desperate ploy. You log on to the Internet, enter "term papers" into an online search engine, and find your way to There you find a paper that fits the assignment, enter your credit card number, and then wait until the file shows up in your e-mail account. You feel a little ashamed, but, hey, the course was just a distribution requirement, anyway. You put your own name on the title page, print it out, and set the alarm for nine o'clock. A few years ago, "" would have been just another tiny ad in the classifieds--hardly a temptation for most self-respecting students, and hardly a worry for any serious institution of higher learning. But the Web now features dozens of similar sites--from the "Evil House of Cheat" to "Research Papers Online"--which enable students to purchase ready-made term papers on a wide variety of subjects.

The companies, of course, maintain they are merely providing learning materials for inquisitive students. But there's good reason to think online plagiarism is becoming a real problem on college campuses. The Evil House of Cheat page now boasts over one million hits; A1 Termpaper claims thousands. Although a "hit" is a visit, not a sale, it is hard to imagine that thousands of students--at least 8,000 a week--are visiting these sites, and no one is buying. A spokesman for "The Paper Store" told me that his company's yearly traffic in papers was "well in the...

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...lagiarism has led at least a few educators to contemplate high-tech solutions. Two employees of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Ned Feder and Walter Stewart, have designed a computer program to scan text and recognize word-for-word similarities as short as 32 characters long. Still, the programs have their limits, and, in the end, it's a losing battle. The whole point of the Internet is to share information. To get the benefits of online technology, universities have to cope with the costs. The only real solution to cyberplagiarism, then, is old-fashioned vigilance. Having spent millions of dollars wiring their students to the Internet, universities may have to invest in smaller classes and a better teacher-to- student ratio. A return to some good old analog, face-to-face teaching may be the only way to keep online plagiarism at the fringes, where it belongs.

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