The Problem of Plagiarism Literature Review

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The Problem of Plagiarism:
Literature Review Selection
Melinda “Mindy” L. Boucher
Lower Columbia College

The Problem
Students routinely hand in papers in which the writing is so complex and the vocabulary so sophisticated that there is doubt that they were written in the students’ own words. When samples of the writing are typed into a Google search engine, sentences and whole paragraphs are found to be a match. Students are confronted with the plagiarism and given information on the guidelines for avoiding plagiarism. Often the result is a re-constructed paper or a paper on a new topic in which sentences are again cut and pasted from the Internet source, but one word or the punctuation was changed. Students often report that they simply use the Microsoft Word thesaurus to change a word here or there in order to avoid plagiarism. The results are clearly not an expression of their own thoughts. “In the 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement, 87 percent of college students who took the survey online said their peers copied data from the Internet without citing sources at least some of the time” (Sterngold, 2004, 16). A second form of plagiarism is when students have handed in reports that were written by their friends, even papers that were revised and handed in two or more times, making them obviously familiar to the teacher. Students can also find papers on many subjects on the Internet (for free or for a price); all they have to do is download and type their own name at the top (Renard, 2000, 39).

A third form a plagiarism is when students turn in papers they have written for another class. This is easy to spot because the topic is usually only slightly related to the topic actually requested by the instructor. The causes of these instances of plagiarism appear to be 1) lack understanding of the meaning of plagiarism 2) lack of prior knowledge of the process for writing an essay or research paper 3) ease of cutting and pasting from the Internet 4) sub-standard reading and writing ability and 5) pressure to produce a “perfect” paper.

Even more disturbing than the acts of plagiarism is the evidence that the majority of this generation of students don’t see anything wrong with it. In a survey on the prevalence of plagiarism done in 2003 by the New York Times, over fifty percent of the respondents who said they had plagiarized didn’t think it was cheating (Brugeja, 2004, 37). Because young people today have always had almost unlimited access to music, entertainment, and information, many of them have no concept of intellectual property. Their attitude seems to be that if something is available, it’s not wrong to use it (Bruster, 2004, 38). Literature Search

A search of scholarly literature was guided by these key words: plagiarism, student, high school, high school student, research, research paper, Internet, online, cheating, and digital. Using ERIC and Wilson Select Plus, the key words plagiarism and high school student were used first, resulting in general articles on student plagiarism. The specific use of the Internet in plagiarism was not mentioned. These articles didn’t address the causes of plagiarism or offer strategies to prevent it either. A modified search using Wilson Select Plus and the key words research paper and plagiarism resulted in articles referring to use of digital sources such as the Internet for plagiarism and also offered reasons and solutions. Additional key words were identified which could be used in future searches for information; these include NetGen, cut and paste, ethics, and networked knowledge, and intellectual property. The following sources are a sample of the articles that most closely pertain to the stated instructional problem. Although most articles contained some information on all three subtopics under investigation (symptoms, causes, and solutions for the problem of plagiarism), they are placed in the category which characterizes the...
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