Plagiarism -- The Problem Defined.


Plagiarism is an historic problem that has quickly adapted to new technology. It has been occurring for decades, and not solely in the academic world, but among professionals as well. Plagiarized works have been documented in national newspapers as long ago as World War I. Now, with the introduction of the Internet there is yet another, even easier way to plagiarize. With the stroke of a key, entire paragraphs of work can be copied directly into another document. Certainly unfair to the original author who labored both over content and style, plagiarism is more than a moral issue. It is illegal by federal law.

As defined in Webster's dictionary to plagiarize is, "to steal or pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own." But to materialize the act of plagiarism one must include a range of behaviors from failure to properly cite sources to downloading entire papers from any of the online paper mills. An outline of the various ways to plagiarize, either ignorantly or intentionally follows to show clearly what actions are against the "rules."

Information via the Internet is available to anyone who is willing to take the time to look. Therefore it is a tool that informs blindly, empowering any academic researcher, any high-tech business executive or any creative cheater. ``This isn't a new problem,'' said Franklin Pierce College librarian Anthony Krier. ``There has always been the filing cabinet at the frat house and the underground place on every campus and the back of the Rolling Stone where you could buy papers. But now, the whole process is more global and, for the good guys anyway, harder to find''(11).

Over 180 term paper sites offer everything from tailor-made theses costing hundreds of dollars, to free and mundane material that will neither raise suspicion nor grade point averages, but will earn a passing grade. Sites such as Schoolsucks.com and Evil House of Cheat swap or sell papers online, claiming that their services are for research purposes only.

These mills accept all major credit cards and prepare, package and e-mail the papers within two hours of the order. ``Freebies'' include tips on how to cheat in class while taking an exam and which porno Web sites are most entertaining.

The astronomical growth of such term paper mills reflects the ever-growing attraction to online plagiarism. "When I first got on the Net there were only three or four others. Now, I understand there are 180 term-paper sites. Quite a few free ones, too," says Michael von Plato, head of A-1 Termpapers in West Chester, Pa. Digital paper mills boast thousands of daily visitors, while both SchoolSucks.com and Evil House of Cheat claim to have had more than one million visitors since their inception.

Moreover, term paper distribution is not limited to the United States; it is a global epidemic. A Yahoo! search found 37 sites in Asia that dealt out free or cheap papers. The Student Essay Bank in the UK and CheatWeb in Germany offer access worldwide to papers to download. The creator of SchoolSucks.com is too internationalizing his product by offering papers in Hebrew, and soon to come are papers in at least 15 other languages (8).

Above and beyond these ready-made online papers is the phenomenon of "cut and paste." To some students the Internet has become a boundless archive of essay components. It is so simple to highlight text, click twice, reformat and then have before you a well-written, well-supported work that is nearly impossible for the professor to track down. "The flow of information is so rich and tempting that even many instructors are pinching one another's syllabuses and lesson plans," says Donald McCabe, a Rutgers University professor who researches cheating.

Victoria Benning of the Washington Post writes, "Teachers and administrators at several Washington area colleges agree that cheating is on the rise -- not because today's students are less honest, but because the computer has made cheating so easy...[t]he computer has made cheaters out of students who otherwise never would have considered such trickery...."(1).

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Most Recent Update: April 16, 2000
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