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Appeared on: Friday, January 21, 2005
Electronic plagiarism at schools is a blight on our society

1. Page 1

Probably the most detestable task for a student is the projects they have to do at school. Not a few resorted to cheating that was thought to be the easiest solution to the problem. Copied papers were handed in and claimed to be the original ones. Now that the command of the Internet has become inversely proportionate to age, the process of cheating has turned out extremely easy. High school, college and university students log on the internet download papers or articles and present them as their own. And since there is plenty of material in the English language, the cheating phenomenon in English speaking countries has acquired the magnitude of an epidemic.

A research being conducted in the University of Virginia, 122 students of which are being accused of plagiarism in an introductory physics course, has brought the issue to the surface. Yet, the problem is not confined within universities alone. Donald Makabe, a Business Administration professor at the Rutgers University, has been conducting annual researches focused on plagiarism within the educational system. In his last research 4,500 students attending 25 USA high schools took part. More than half claimed that last year, they copied parts or complete papers without referring to their sources. The percentage of university students who claimed to have cheated, amounts to 10-20%. Professor Makabe has said that he is utterly worried, not by the rapidly increasing percentage of plagiarism alone, but also by the fact that the perpetration of plagiarism is being demoralized really fast. “There is gradual corruption having to do with concepts such as “right and wrong” he stated in the New York Times newspaper. A lot of high school students claim that cheating is not an evil act. “Everybody does it,” they say.

University students are more cynical. “The comments the researches are accompanied with, never fail to surprise me”, Dr. Makabe says. “I get surprised by the fact that young people put the blame of cheating on social problems so easily. A lot of students say: “When Clinton can do this or Mike Milken (author’s note: the king of jack-bonds who devastated many an investor and social security organizations in the USA selling totally worthless high risk bonds and was finally forced to pay a single fine) can do that, why what we have been doing has to be evil? What they are saying is really, absolutely persuasive”, he adds.

So, where does the solution to the problem lie? There is a new website under the title turnitin.com that offers to solve it. Schools and Universities sign in for an annual fee of $ 1,000 and 2,000 respectively, and teachers submit the papers they are handed in by their students there. The computer compares them with hundreds of thousands of written documents that are on the web and emails the results. Mr. Steven Hardinger, a UCLA professor, claims that he uses this website not so much to restrain but to prevent students from cheating. “Using turnitin.com is more beneficial as a deterrent of plagiarism. We don’t want cheating in our University, we don’t want plagiarists, but we do want our students to be aware of the fact that we know what’s going on around us…”

By Pashos Mandravelis.

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