At first glance, there appears to be a rather unfortunate trend at IU. According to statistics from the Office of Student Ethics, plagiarism cases at IU have more than quadrupled in the last 10 years.
In the 1995-1996 academic year there were 30 cases of plagiarism reported, the office said. In the 2005-2006 academic year there were 132 people reported for plagiarizing.
At first glance, these numbers would indicate that plagiarism has significantly increased at IU.
But it is important to remember these numbers can only measure the amount of plagiarism cases in which the student is caught, not the actual prevalence of plagiarism.
Pamela Freeman, the associate dean of students, said the majority of plagiarism cases she sees are from the Internet. Indeed, there is a correlation with the number of cases reported and the development of the University's information technology. Residence halls and classrooms first started to become Internet-equipped in the 1990s, and all residence halls have had Internet access since 2003.
What students tend to forget is that though the Internet may make it easier to plagiarize, it also makes it much easier to get caught. If there's a suspicious-looking paragraph in a student's paper, a professor can easily hop on Google and search an excerpt from it.
Beyond that, the popular anti-plagiarism Web site TurnItIn.com is used by 670 instructors here at IU, with more than 18,000 students registered. The Web site takes a student's paper and compares it to all the other papers in its database, academic periodicals and journals, and millions of Web pages. It's easy to take something off the Internet and use it in a paper, but it's just as easy to be caught red-handed.
It's unfair to say our overly-wired, jaded tech-junkie generation is caught in a downward spiral of unethical information-technology misuse that has resulted in a sharp increase in plagiarism.
Who knows how many students of the pre-Internet Stone Age variety copied verbatim from resources in the library without getting caught? We have no statistics on how many people, without the threat of TurnItIn.com, turned in their older brothers' psychology papers.
The numbers simply show an increase in the ability to catch those who are plagiarizing, courtesy of the same tool many of the offenders are using to assist them in their academic misconduct.
That said, it's really rather sad that a small minority of students necessitate the use of TurnItIn.com for the rest of those who turn submit their own hard work. It's inexcusable that the student body has caused professors to spend a half-hour on the first day of classes telling students what plagiarism is and that they will be severely reprimanded they plagiarize.
Plagiarism doesn't just make you look undignified, unethical and pathetic. It makes you look plain stupid. Please realize that if students can Google, professors can Google too. It doesn't take a genius to see that.
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