CyberPlagiarism

Back in my day, we had to actually write–OK, carve into stone tablets–essays and term papers for school. My question is, what’s to stop the youth of today’s Internet Age from simply surfing, copying & pasting their way to an A or B every time? Change a word or phrase here & there, et voila. Teachers warn that they have ways of easily detecting the submission of work purchased from the myriad online term-paper sites, and threaten expulsion for anyone trying it. This is good. But how on Earth can that be possible with all the new papers being added all the time, to say nothing of the countless web sites a miscreant student could just swipe paragraphs from directly? Is there really any way to prevent plagiarism, aside from an astute teacher recognizing style differences?

Typing in sentences from the work into google would be an effective way to stop plagiarism.

IIRC there is also a piece of software out there tht measures the approximate “reading level” of a document or section of a document. Not foolproof but a way.

One useful resource is turnitin.com. They take any student paper submitted to them and check it against everything on the Internet. They also check it against a big set of published papers. Finally, they check it against all the student papers previously submitted to them. The paper then becomes part of their database to be used to check future student papers against.

A couple of years back, my mother (a high-school chemistry teacher) asked for my help on rooting out some papers she suspected of being plagiarized. Her main complaint was that some of the papers seemed “too good”, i.e. it didn’t sound like something a high school student would write. I showed her how to enter the more suspicious phrases of the papers into Google, and we were both surprised at exactly how many completely ripped-off papers there were in her class…

Conclusions: (a) teachers can find stylistic differences, especially between something written by a high-school student vs. something writeen by a professional writer; and (b) teachers don’t need to match the whole paper to be able to find where a student got his/her material, just a sentence or two; and even if a student types “Louis Pasteur” into Google and selected the ninth or tenth paper down the list to try to throw the teacher off the track, all the teacher has to do is type “Pasteur’s phenomenal contributions to microbiology and medicine can be summarized as follows” into Google to see if the student got that particular sentence from somewhere else.

It appears that if they swipe their prose from an SDMB thread, it won’t be caught in a Google search.

A teacher can evaluate a student’s performance in a variety of ways, including oral examinations. If, for whatever reason, the teacher feels a paper may not be a good indicator of a student’s work, the teacher has the option of testing the student further. He can ask the student to explain the paper or he can ask further questions.

Hi, Rip Van hyjyljyj. What was the world like when you fell asleep? :slight_smile:

In our world, this has been a much-discussed issues for many years. Entering the relatively new coinage “cyberplagiarism” into Google gives 512 hits. “cyber plagiarism” (to catch those antediluvian thinkers who still insert a hyphen) gives 1280.

The problem is that students do not somehow feel that this is in any cheating. A recent news report stated that 30% of college students do this without thinking that this is wrong. (Sorry, can’t remember where I herd this, but within the past week.)

Catching students is not solving the underlying problem. Re-educating them so that they understand sourcing, citing, plagiarism, original thinking, and the purpose of writing essays is necessary.

Hi, Rip Van hyjyljyj. What was the world like when you fell asleep? :slight_smile:

In our world, this has been a much-discussed issues for many years. Entering the relatively new coinage “cyberplagiarism” into Google gives 512 hits. “cyber plagiarism” (to catch those antediluvian thinkers who still insert a hyphen) gives 1280.

The problem is that students do not somehow feel that this is in any cheating. A recent news report stated that 30% of college students do this without thinking that this is wrong. (Sorry, can’t remember where I herd this, but within the past week.)

Catching students is not solving the underlying problem. Re-educating them so that they understand sourcing, citing, plagiarism, original thinking, and the purpose of writing essays is necessary.

It’s all part of a larger issue where people rip music CDs and distribute the contents across the 'net without paying royalties to the artists.

Intellectual property seems not to be a concern for many these days.

It seems that if they swipe their prose from an SDMB thread, it won’t be caught in a Google search.

I also wonder what is wrong about copying somehting with which I agree? If it states exactly what I believe, then I can make an argument that it is obvious that I would have written exactly the same thing eventually.

Isn’t someone claiming it to be their ‘intellectual property’ actually denying my human rights to have thought of it first? These so-called ‘authors,’ ‘writers’ and ‘reporters’ are interlopers upon the (as yet) undiscovered territory of MY intellectual property and some redress is in order, I therefore don’t worry too much about their false ‘plagiarism’ charges.
(ok, this is written in jest, but somewhere in there is a profound truth… I’m just not sure where/what it is)

Ideas aren’t copyrighted, so you’re perfectly free to express the same ideas as another person. What you can’t do is copy the expression of the idea wholesale. Your rights aren’t being denied – you just have to say it in your own words, which isn’t too much to ask.

And you’re perfectly within your rights to take a paragraph or two of a work found online and put it in your paper – all you have to do is give it proper attribution. It’s not to much to ask someone to identify their sources – if they’re honest, that is.

Not only did one of my students plagiarize a short story, it was one of my very favorite short stories – based on a television program that had aired in the 1950’s. I had seen only one copy of that particular short story. It was in a book that I owned. The one that was stolen from the desk in my classroom.

Dang kids are lazy these days. Back in my day, when we copied a paper, we went through and paraphased all the sentences to make this type of detection much more difficult.

It’s called quoting, friends. Add a couple quotation marks and an author’s name at the end, and your paper is instantly and legally longer.

I love this post. It made me laugh and laugh. It also made me remember back deep into the far reaches of pre-mammalian history, when I was a sophomore in high school.

The social studies teacher sternly and specifically admonished us about our term papers, "Never say to me that you looked something up in the encyclopedia and ‘couldn’t think of any better way to put it.’ " Later that day I was researching my topic in the encyclopedia and came across two paragraphs that answered a crucial question and in so doing succinctly confirmed what I had intended to convey. I couldn’t think of any better way to put it. Paradoxically this made it more difficult to use in my paper. The course title effectively changed at that moment to Obviously Rewording That Which is Already Well Put 201.

Thanks to all for very helpful and amazing information

“Rewording”? I find what you’re saying disturbing.

School papers aren’t aren’t like the executive summaries you do at work. They are to demonstrate your grasp of the subject, and your ability to state it clearly yourself – not to present the ‘correct answer’ in the best words possible, even if they aren’t your own.

When I went to school, whether high school or grad school, I never had any difficulty stating ideas in words that were more suited to my specific purpose than some generic article in an encyclopedia. I’d have considered a failure of my ability to express myself, if I couldn’t.

Try closing the encyclopedia, going home to write the paper. Unless your memory is far better than mine was, you won’t have any choice but to formulate it in your own words. Since you are writing a specific cohesive paper, your formulation will fit your topic better, and combine ideas more fluently than a few copied articles. It wasn’t uncommon for me to come up with insightful syntheses without even realizing it, because I was using my understanding. Of course the article’s author said what they meant to say well. They went through a process of multiple revierws and external editing

The question is: can I say what I meant to say well? IMHO, there’s no excuse for writing a paper with someone else’s work open in front of me. Fine, maybe they said it well. What does that demonstrate? How does would copying it benefit me?

If you can’t write straight from your head, then perhaps you didn’t understand the material as well as you thought. Sometimes your new synthesis will be less than completely perfect for some reason, but that’s an important part of learning (a benefit some of my classmates lost in their quest to simply rephrase the work of another). Maybe your professor will catch it, and you won’t get an A - but you’ll learn more from the correction. There’s nothing like losing a few points to drive a point into your brain. Usually you’ll catch the errors in your understanding yourself by the end of your paper, because they’ll create contradictions or problems later in your paper.

It happens to all of us sometimes. Sometimes you have to learn something two or three times before it’s fully yours --there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just the nature of learning-- but anything less than review/reinforcement to the point of genuine understanding wouldn’t be of much use to you when the course is over, would it?

Unless the title of the course really is “Rephrasing 201”, then why spend your time rephrasing. If that’s all you do in the class, then the skill of rephrasing is all you’ll take away from the class. It may seem as if the course is at fault, but it’s actually a choice you make. Suppose you had not found that 'perfect article (say a classmate had found it first, so it wasn’t on the shelf when you went for it), then you’d have had to synthesize the answer yourself – and would probably have learned more from the experience than from nodding and acknowledging the quality of someone else’s work.

The perfect article is irrelevant. Your true task would be the same if it didn’t exist. Don’t let the fact that someone else understood and summarized the material better keep you from the true benefit of the assignment. You should be able to say it as well or better. I’d daresay others in your class probably did. Otherwise the Prof would always get twenty near-identical papers.

Thank you for that, KP. I was just as deeply disturbed by Anga’s post. Rather than a profound truth, it was a profound lie.

Kiddies of all ages, the teacher/professor doesn’t care what information is in your essay. He or she already knows 500 times as much about the subject as whatever you’re copying in two paragraphs.

Essays are assigned to see how well you can research and compile information, how well you can absorb and understand it, how well you can put these new thoughts and facts into a coherent whole.

In short they are assigned to see if you can think.

It is completely right to flunk plagiarists. Cheating is one powerful reason, of course. But the other is that if you have simply copied words then you have failed the actual underlying assignment, which is to think.

Last school year, I started a similar thread. I was told about a piece of software called “EVE” (which I think stood for “Essay Verification Engine”). I didn’t buy it at the time, but may do so this year.

I’ve found turnitin.com to be helpful too, but Google is just as effective, I think.