Plagiarism: a Social Problem

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PLAGIARISM: A SOCIAL PROBLEM

It's four in the morning, and you're just one page into a 15-page term paper that's due at ten, and the professor isn't giving extensions. A few years ago, that would have been it: You would have passed in the paper late, if at all, and dealt with the consequences. But this is 2007, and so, in your most desperate hour, you try a desperate ploy. You log on to the internet… enter "term papers" into the search engine, and find your way to www.al-termpaper.com. There, you scroll down past the big red disclaimer ("All work offered is for research purposes only"), find a paper that fits the assignment, enter your credit card number, and then wait until the file shows up in your email account. You feel a little ashamed, but, hey, the course is just a general requirement anyway. You put your name on the title page, print it out, and set the alarm for nine (Lathrop).

"Plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work" (Plagiarism). Many are noticing how plagiarism is becoming a more prevalent problem in schools today and the thought of plagiarism is on many intellectual minds. Warnings about plagarism are included on every syllabus distributed on the first day of class, accompanied by a lengthy discussion of the same topic delivered from almost every teacher. It is forced into the minds of professors as they read through a thick stack of essays. but only few have the "literary theft" tattooed on their permanent records, forever damaging their student and professional careers. Many students are unaware of what true plagiarism consists of and how easily it can occur. The Princeton Integrity Honor Code plainly states that plagiarism can include "the key idea, the word choice, the order of the examples, and even the basic structure of original sentences" (Academic).

Plagiarism is not a new trend in schools today, we see it since the early history of our country. Also known as "cribbing", "shining", or "theme-copying" (Buranen), this aspect of cheating has been known since the 18th and 19th centuries. In early colleges, students were required to deliver speeches on what they had learned in front of the faculty and students, but during the 19th century these speeches were replaced by writing. Because writing only is required for most classes, plagiarism became more and more widespread. Delox Wilcox, an undergraduate at University of Michigan in the 1890's was quoted saying "a large percentage of students cheat in the classroom at sometime or other… two-thirds would not be too high an estimate" (Buranen).

Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was much more difficult to copy someone else's homework that the professor had not seen, but with the resources we have now it is almost effortless for a student to find a paper to plagiarize that their educator is not familiar with. Few tools are required to plagiarize, all a student really needs is a computer, printer, and the internet. Using term paper vendors or "term paper mills" on the internet, students can gain access to pre-written papers. Internet vendors have several unique systems of distributing papers. Some vendors have free papers that are supposed to be used "for research only", others charge a price per page or have a fee for the entire paper, and also other sites have an exchange system where you give a paper of your own to the website and in return you receive another. One of these term paper mills – Cheater.com claims to have 72,000 members and gains a few hundred more everyday. Another pre-written paper vendor called "The Evil House Of Cheat" reports at least 4,000 visitors a day with a database of 9,500 different papers (Groark). When finding "literary theft," what is the teacher to do? Representing our educator's reaction to plagiarism is Dr. James M. Lang, a professor of English at Assumption College in Worcester,...
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