IU plagiarism quadruples since 1996

More Internet access cited as possible reason

According to statistics provided by the Office of Student Ethics, plagiarism on campus has skyrocketed in the past 10 years.

In 1995-96, 30 plagiarism cases were reported. By 2005-06, that number jumped to 132 people who have used another's ideas or words.

Pamela Freeman, associate dean of students, said it was difficult to explain some of the increases in plagiarism from year-to-year, but said the Internet has contributed to plagiarism greatly.

Christine Y. Fitzpatrrick, communication officer within the IU Office of the Vice President for Information Technology and chief information officer, said while dial-in-access to the campus was available as early as 1972, residence halls and classrooms began to be connected in the early 1990s. All the dorms and classrooms were connected to the Internet by 2003, she said.

In fact, in 1990-91, of the 63 cases of academic misconduct reported, only 15 of those were plagiarism.

"Most of what (plagiarism) I'm seeing is from the Internet," Freeman said.

But as the Internet is helping some students plagiarize, it is also helping IU faculty and administrators like Freeman catch them as well.

"More students are caught by software like the TurnItIn software," Freeman said. "But even with a Google search, you can sometimes track down sources."

TurnItIn.com results, according to its Web site, "are based on exhaustive searches of billions of pages from both current and archived instances of the Internet, millions of student papers previously submitted to TurnItIn and commercial databases of journal articles and periodicals."

Professors on campus would have to sign up for it and then students submit their papers to the TurnItIn.com database to see if it matches any works done by a student, said Jim Julovich, University Information Technology Services coordinator and the administrator of TurnItIn.com on the Bloomington campus.

TurnItIn.com was implemented on campus in January 2003, Julovich said. He said there are 670 instructors signed up to use the software and more than 18,000 students signed up for it through their instructors' accounts. But while it does help catch a plagiarist, Julovich stressed that IU's campus uses TurnItIn.com as a learning tool.

"We don't look at it to catch someone," Julovich said. "We look at it as something as a learning tool; something to help students to become better writers."

Bonnie Brownlee, associate dean for Undergraduate Studies and associate professor in the School of Journalism, said the most common excuse she hears from plagiarizers is bad time management.

"We usually hear excuses like, 'I ran out of time. I was under pressure. I knew it was wrong but I took a chance,'" Brownlee said.

Jack Dvorak, journalism professor and director of the High School Journalism Institute, said he does not like to use the TurnItIn software.

"I never found any problems and, frankly, I felt uneasy doing it," Dvorak said. "I don't like it. I won't use it in the future."

Dvorak said while his perspective might be naive, he believes it's better to "operate out of a positive environment than from a negative one."

"I think using something like TurnItIn.com is simply telling the students 'Look, I know you're dishonest and I'm going to catch you at it.'" Dvorak said. "I don't like that philosophy as a teacher, as a professor and as an educator."

But Turnitin.com claims to have had such success that "institutions using our system on a large scale see measurable rates of plagiarism drop to almost zero."

Freeman, who also disciplines plagiarizers at IU, said while it might sound like a good idea to the plagiarizer's mind at the time, "a grade earned is much better than a grade received for misconduct."

But even though plagiarism is increasing, Dvorak said it's still a "miniscule problem" when you compare it against the 38,000 plus students at IU.

"The vast majority of students are honest and will do their own work and get credit for it," Dvorak said, "which is one of the reasons I don't use TurnItIn"

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