Plagiarism, cheating on the rise

By SpencerRoush

Students know all about cutting corners to save time and energy from repetitive research papers and professors’ busy work. Plagiarism is among the most popular time-saving measures but also the most frowned upon. Every year students are busted for this dirty deed, yet they continue to do it, knowing there is software to detect any stolen content.

A report was released on April 28 by iParadigms, a company that created a popular plagiarism detection service, Turnitin, saying students are using social and user-generated websites more than ever to cheat.

Throughout a 10-month period, the company examined 40 million high school and college students’ papers to determine where most unoriginal content is coming from. To the scientists’ surprise, it’s illegitimate research websites like Facebook.

The system detects “matched content,” which doesn’t always mean plagiarism if the information is attributed correctly. But whether the students really plagiarized or not, the most interesting findings were that these user-generated websites made up one-third of all “matched content,” and education sites, such as the National Institutes of Health, trailed with one quarter of the findings. Paper mills and cheat sites, like, came in last with only 15 percent of “matched content” coming from these sources.

Regardless if they plagiarized, it’s mind-boggling that students see these sources as valid enough to copy from and turn in for a grade.

Among the most popular sites for matched content were, Yahoo Answers, SlideShare, and Wikipedia, to name a few.

Sorry, teachers, it doesn’t matter how many times an assignment is prefaced with “Wikipedia is not a reputable source, don’t use it.”

Students will anyway, and in some cases, they are copying the information verbatim.The study’s results obviously show students are being lazy, but now it doesn’t matter where the information is coming from just as long as it’s turned in. Students will continue doing the bare minimum if they don’t care about an assignment or think the professor is merely handing out busy work.

Young people, especially Generation Y, need to be motivated and understand the assignment’s importance to put real effort into the work. Research has shown that this digitally-savvy age group needs to be pushed to produce upstanding content.

Columbia courses occasionally cater to these needs through creative end-of-the-year projects in each class, but there’s curriculum to be revised. To accomplish this, professors should refrain from handing out the same research assignments year after year and instead be innovative and thought-provoking.

Some students take classes their friends have taken just to get their homework and research papers to copy from. Professors might miss that some papers are recycled because the same project guidelines are handed out year after year.

If students are being challenged and the projects vary each semester, a quick Wikipedia search, cut-copy-and paste job won’t do the trick to earn an easy “A.”