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Filtering by Tag: student plagiarism

As a college English Composition instructor, part of my job is to watch for student plagiarism. The fact is that I must teach students the definition of plagiarism and how to avoid it. One student related to me that she “copied and pasted” all of her high school papers! Other students are somewhat aware of plagiarism, but they do not know any details about the subject. Some students claim to never have heard of plagiarism. Why had these students not learned about plagiarism in high school?

My student population is varied; the learners come from all cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Because of this fact, I tend to see this problem as pervasive and not limited to certain groups. So, I have developed plagiarism lessons for my classes. I also tutor students who have to write papers for other classes.

Recently, a student brought me a five-page paper that she had created for a pathology class. The paper consisted of a series of paragraphs that were encased in quotation marks. Astonished, I asked her if her entire paper was created with quotes. The student confirmed my fears, and then added that she did not understand why she had to reword something that someone else had already said well! I explained to the girl that she was, in fact, stealing the words through plagiarism. I also explained that, through the process of paraphrasing, she would come to an understanding of her topic. I then instructed the student on how to paraphrase, quote, cite, and reference properly. She seemed annoyed, but agreed to take on the task. This example demonstrates the problem faced by educators at colleges and universities across the country.

Plagiarism must be addressed by public and private schools across this country. As soon as students learn to write their first research papers in elementary or middle school, they should have a clear understanding of how to effectively summarize, paraphrase, cite, quote, and reference material used in their papers. By the time students reach high school, they should know how to avoid plagiarism and write a well-developed paper using others’ and their own ideas.

Perhaps if the ethics of good writing is established early in a student’s education, college and university instructors would not be faced with so many plagiarism issues.

Written by Beth Calvano, a college English composition instructor at Instructor at Newport Business Institute who regularly uses Turnitin; also pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership.

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Podcast featuring:Jennifer S., Graduate Student at Stanford University with a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s degree in Personality Psychology, and currently finishing up her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

Listen to Jennifer’s story (57 seconds):

“Trying to write in a very narrow focused area makes it easy to accidentally plagiarize. It (matched content) is defined as being seven words or more. The chances of getting seven words in the same order as someone else in over 150 pages is actually pretty substantial that you will do that at some point."

"It (WriteCheck) was useful as I wrote my dissertation to do a periodic check to make sure that there were no sections that I thought I re-worded, but I didn’t or that I accidentally plagiarized -- that can be an easy mistake to make. WriteCheck helped me have peace of mind that the work I was doing was definitely all my own.”



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Committing plagiarism isn’t often a one time offense that simply goes away.  Like many other infractions and crimes, a bad case of plagiarism is something that can re-emerge and cause havoc for an individual or business throughout their lifetime.

Case in point: Adam Wheeler.  The 25 year old is now infamous for faking his way into Harvard through fraud and plagiarism.  He ended up getting caught and sentenced to 2.5 years in jail and 10 years of probation, although he only ended up serving one month in jail. However, Wheeler recently broke the terms of his probation by using Harvard on his resume when applying to a job.  The repercussion for this will most likely be Wheeler having to serve the remainder of his sentence in jail.

Many are questioning Wheeler’s judgment and overall ‘moral compass’:  why in the world would he risk breaking his probation with such an obvious and public lie?

Despite the seemingly risky act, there is a chance Wheeler may have ‘accidentally’ left the false information on his resume. Either way, he’s guilty of breaking probation.  This just goes to show that an act of plagiarism or fraud can follow someone beyond the initial fallout – it’s not something that is easily forgotten by the world (or legal system).

The names on this ‘plagiarism blacklist’ go on and on – even if they weren’t formally charged with a crime, the long term ‘brand’ damage that comes with an incident can often be irreparable.  Stephen Glass, who was infamous for his plagiarism scandal at The New Republic, is another prime example.  After the initial scandal fallout, Glass tried to move on with his life and enter the field of law.  He did successfully get his law degree from Georgetown; however, Glass also applied to the California bar association and was denied due to ‘his history of ethical problems.’  These problems will likely follow Glass around for the entirety of his life (probably also due to the popularized movie ‘Shattered Glass’ that portrayed his story).

These aren’t just stories that have happened to other people; they are lessons to be learned. Plagiarism is a huge risk that isn’t about one confined incident – it can be a permanent mark on a person’s reputation that prevents future opportunities throughout their life.


Crimesider Staff.  “Harvard wannabe tries again, lies again, puts school on resume.”  CBS News.  November 11th, 2011.  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57322651-504083/harvard-wannabe-tries-again-lies-again-puts-school-on-resume/

Wikipedia. October 7th 2011.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Glass_(reporter)


Current Events

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Written by Beth Calvano, a college English composition instructor who regularly uses Turnitin; also pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership. Originally published on Turnitin Blog.

The University of Phoenix uses Turnitin's plagiarism checker software in its Center for Writing Excellence. The software has guided me through a master’s program with the university and through the first courses of my doctorate degree. In the beginning of my master’s program, I used Turnitin to examine whether or not I was using too many quotes, or I was not paraphrasing well enough. As the program continued, I began to use it for checking my academic teams’ contributions. Once, at the eleventh hour of a project, I discovered that a teammate had copied and pasted his portion of the team project. I asked him review his contribution, paraphrase, and properly cite it, averting a possible low grade.

The University of Phoenix’s Student Code of Academic Integrity cites violations as plagiarism, self-plagiarism, fabrication, unauthorized assistance, copyright infringement, misrepresentation, and collusion (University of Phoenix, n.d.). Plagiarism includes copying material verbatim without citation, paraphrasing without citation, using someone else’s work (including purchased work), and the absence of proper citation for data used in a submission (University of Phoenix, n.d.).

Self-plagiarism includes work that has been previously turned-in for another class without citation. This violation surprised many of my classmates. Fabrication includes falsifying any information. Unauthorized assistance includes the use of work created by someone assisting the student, cheating, and a student using someone else to take an exam for him or her (University of Phoenix, n.d.). Copyright infringement includes the use of copyrighted material without permission, and misrepresentation includes lying to justify a missed or late assignment. Finally, collusion includes aiding or allowing another student to commit academic dishonesty (University of Phoenix, n.d.).

Many students do not cite properly or at all because they are not familiar with citation and reference formatting.

The best preventative measure for that issue is to study the format used at your college. The University of Phoenix uses the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) format. The Perdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) has been an effective APA format source for me. Only trust professional or academic websites for use. Becoming proficient in your college’s chosen format is imperative. Keeping a list of reference formats that you have used saves time.

Turnitin has been an effective academic tool for me over the years. It has helped me to become a better writer, and helped me to monitor my academic teammates’ project contributions. Academic integrity is imperative. Preventative measures include programs like Turnitin and the proficiency of the student in formal writing formats.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

University of Phoenix. (n.d.). Student code of academic integrity. Retrieved from http://ecampus.phoenix.edu/secure/aapd/student documents/uophx/academic_integrity.htm


Writing Skills

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Academic dishonesty in the United States is taken very seriously. It is not uncommon for students to be expelled for acts of plagiarism, cheating and even bribery. In fact, our commitment to academic integrity is unparalleled, giving credence to our colleges and universities, some which are considered among the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.

United States universities attract students from all over the globe who wish to pursue an American education. This is considered a good thing as there are several advantages -- economic and social -- that come from having foreign students participate in our educational system.  While school administrators aggressively recruit foreign students, there has been a surge in academic misconduct, particularly by international students.

Plagiarism as a Common Offense

The most common type of rule breaking that occurs in American universities is plagiarism. Among international students, plagiarism is even more prevalent. Why? After looking at the statistics and reading the studies, there is a reasonable explanation -- not an excuse, but a valid suggestion that seems to make a lot of sense. Perhaps because English is not the first language of many international students, a language barrier exists, making it increasingly difficult to write an acceptable academic paper.

Wikipedia's article on academic dishonesty notes: "students who speak English as a second language are more likely to commit academic dishonesty and are more likely to be caught over native speakers." It has been suggested that the reason for this is because foreign students are less likely to paraphrase as they are uncertain that they can properly rephrase the thoughts without losing the meaning of the sentence. In addition, in many cases, even the most dedicated international students are not familiar with the U.S. referencing system and therefore, may not even be aware that they are breaking the rules.

Cultural Differences May Play a Role

Regardless of how welcoming the United States is, assimilation does not take place over night. In fact, in some cases, it doesn’t happen at all. The Times Higher Education recently reported on the changing times.  With twenty percent of foreign students who are admitted to our universities from China and fifteen percent from India, there are some pretty strong cultural differences to take into consideration.  Interestingly, in both countries, the strong commitment to academic integrity that we experience in the United States is missing.

Cultural differences may also play a role in increased rule-breaking as a consequence of family pressure.  For example, it is customary  for both Chinese and Indian students to be held to very high standards while enduring significant pressure from family and friends to meet or surpass academic benchmarks within a foreign country. In many cases, students who do not perform well are sent home or worse, considered as having disgraced the family honor.

Cheating as an Epidemic

For international as well as U.S. born students, cheating is relatively commonplace. In the early 1960’s when scholarly studies first began to investigate cheating, more than half of college students reported that they had cheated at least once. Today, in 2011, these statistics are generally unchanged. There are disparities between different schools based on size, location and even anti-cheating policies within individual schools. Small universities have less cheating than larger, public universities and schools with an established “honor code” have less cheating than those without one.

Students are not the only ones that are having problems maintaining academic honesty. A recent study in North Carolina confirmed that teachers are also less than honest when it comes to education. According to the study, almost a third said they witnessed a colleague cheating in one form or another. Blame it on the pressure to report positive outcomes or a state pressure to perform well, whatever the reason, cheating in U.S. schools is on the rise-both behind the desk, and in front of it.


Marcus, Jon.  “Foreign students rule-breaking: culture clash or survival skills?” The Times Higher Education. October 6th, 2011. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=417650&c=1

Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_dishonesty#cite_note-41 October 2011.


Current Events

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Ask any college kid across the country if they’re willing to give up technology for a single day and you’re likely to get a resounding no. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter or internet capable smart phones play a major role in the daily lives of the younger generations. So much in fact, that many of them wouldn’t know how to function without the technology that they use to communicate, find information, entertain themselves or shop.

While some of these advancements have enriched lives through access to information and convenience, in many cases, they can be misused. One area that has been the subject of this misuse is in college and university environments. In fact, a recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that over half of a sample of college presidents said they noticed a significant increase in plagiarism over the past decade at their schools, and almost all of them said that they think technology has played a role.

A Tech Savvy Generation

What is it about today’s youth that is so different from other generations? Well, for one thing, almost every kid over the age of five knows how to use a computer and it’s even younger for a cell phone. In fact, in many cases, children are outpacing their parents in terms of knowing how to operate and control most technological devices. These are the kids of technology and as technology improves, so does their ability to use it.

Think of the different types of technology you use in an average day. The remote control operates the family television, the digital camera takes pictures and records family events, the computer shares images with our family and friends, even the GPS in the car tells us where to go. It used to be that programming the VCR was the most tech-savvy thing people did at home. Now, things are quite different. The younger generation is technologically savvy and on pace to become more so in the coming years.

The Plagiarism-Technology Link

Just a few years ago, if you needed information you went to the library or you asked a professional. Today, on account of the internet, access to information is immediate. In fact, within a few seconds, you can find almost any piece of data or tidbit of information by simply entering a search query into Google. The internet has opened the door to a whole new world of possibilities from online businesses to reconnecting with friends to research to entertainment. As a tool for virtually anything, the internet’s volume of data is endless.

Unfortunately, for college students, the temptation to use technology for shortcuts is very high. Not only is it easy to plagiarize by simply cutting and pasting, but it’s also easy to purchase fully written papers, reports, even PhD dissertations. In fact, for a small fee students can buy and download a professional college ready paper on virtually any subject. There are sites dedicated to nothing but providing academic papers to the next kid with a debit card. On many college campuses, the internet has changed from a tool for gathering information to one for stealing & buying information.

Two Pew Research Center surveys discovered the impact of technology on college behavior. The first survey was conducted by telephone, reaching out to a sample of over 2,000 adults over the age of 18. The second survey was conducted online, targeting the presidents of over 1,000 colleges and universities.

Over half of college graduates surveyed stated that they used some form of technology in class. For the presidents, almost all said that they use a smartphone daily, over a third reported that they use social networking sites weekly, and more than half work for universities that offer online courses. Interestingly, over 60% anticipate that sometime in the next ten years, more than half of the textbooks used in traditional courses will be digital.

Obviously, technology is not going anywhere anytime soon. This is generally considered to be a good thing, as the internet, smart phones, social media etc., have made life easier and in many cases, more entertaining. However, as a tool for promoting plagiarism, the internet simply provides too much freedom with too little regulation. College students are dependent on technology to function efficiently at the same level as their peers. Nevertheless, as technology becomes easier and more accessible, so does the temptation to be lazy and plagiarize work. Solutions need to be found both by using technology to support current peer review processes along with providing students with a proper guided framework of research and writing integrity.


TechNewsDaily Staff.  “College Presidents Blame Rising Plagiarism on Tech Increase.” September 16th, 2011. http://www.technewsdaily.com/college-paper-plagiarism-rising-3256/



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The New York Times recently published an article in it’s Arts Beat section that gave a perspective on dissertation plagiarism from Dora D. Clarke-Pine, a professor of psychology from La Sierra University. Professor Clarke-Pine conducted a study to examine dissertation plagiarism by evaluating a sample of papers from psychology students at universities across the country. She also made a clear distinction between religious and non-religious universities to see if ‘moral values’ played into the incidence of plagiarism.

Her findings were pretty much what we’ve come to expect as far as high percentages of copied materials. From the NY Times:

“Four of every five dissertations examined contained examples of word-for-word plagiarism. Ms. Clarke-Pine found no difference between religious and secular schools.”

The study yielded the interesting notation that there wasn’t any distinction in plagiarism between religious and non-religious schools. Ms. Clark-Pine originally thought there might be a lower incidence of plagiarism in religious schools because of stricter moral codes that would deter students from cheating. The lack of differential could be taken as an indicator that students across the board were accidentally plagiarizing, or didn’t know exactly how to define plagiarism.

One part of the study that took heat was Ms. Clark-Pine’s methods for determining what constitutes plagiarism. In her study, she considered plagiarism as ‘copying 10 or more words without proper attribution.’ Many opponents of the study voiced their opinion that copying 10 or more words could be entirely accidental due to the limited constraints that certain phrases can be structured.

One article comment poster, “norman,” wrote:

“I'd like to see Clarke-Pine's paper. Defining plagiarism as copying 10 or more words sounds awfully slippery. If I write a sentence of 10 words on a common theme that can be found somewhere with a Google search or somewhere in a term-paper database, is that copying or coincidence?”

Although it is true that cases of accidental plagiarism can potentially occur, that doesn’t mean that many of the word-for-word matches in the study weren’t intentional cases of plagiarism. There is only a finite number of ways to structure a particular phrase or sentence, but that’s exactly what makes the content unique.

Some of the greatest words and phrases in written history have been ten words and under:

“Words may show a man's wit but actions his meaning.” - Ben Franklin “An unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates “Poetry is what is lost in translation.” - Robert Frost

Though some cases of plagiarism may be accidental, that doesn’t mean papers shouldn’t be checked. Even if one single case of intentional plagiarism is discovered by checking hundreds of papers – it’s worth it.

Citations Cohen, Patricia. “Thinking Cap: The Seemingly Persistent Rise of Plagiarism.” The New York Times. August 23rd 2011. http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/23/thinking-cap-the-seemingly-persistent-rise-of-plagiarism/

Proverbia.net Quotes http://en.proverbia.net/citastemas.asp


Social Networking

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