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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 08:59 GMT
Students using the net to cheat
By Shola Adenekan

Student using PC
Some do not understand that plagiarism is wrong - others do
For Anna, 22, a final year student in south-east England, internet plagiarism is a natural part of undergraduate life.

For the past three years, she says, she has been submitting essays bought and copied from the internet and passing them off as her own.

She is currently working on her final-year project and most of the materials in the dissertation are coming off the net.

Anna (not her real name) says she cheats because it is easy to get away with it.

"It is easier, because sometimes when you go to the library you can't find the necessary books or you have too much to read," she says.

"But I'm always careful. The best way is to combine library materials with essays bought from the internet."

Essays for sale

Anna is not alone. Cheating, especially internet cheating, is increasingly becoming the way of the academic world.

There are several websites offering well-written essays for token fees, and business is booming.

Other internet operations will not only sell students essays and term papers but also remove them from cyberspace altogether so that nobody can trace the source.

Across UK universities we now have a cut and paste culture which is becoming difficult to detect
Prof Susan Bassnett, University of Warwick
Universities cite "laziness", "lack of appropriate preparation for assessment", "peer pressure and pressure to pass modules and gain good grades" as some of the reasons students have given for cheating.

The woman leading the campaign to flush out cheats says UK universities have only just begun to get to grip with the enormity of the situation.

Prof Susan Bassnett, a pro vice-chancellor at Warwick University, believes plagiarism is a spreading plague in higher education with more and more cases coming to light every year.

"Across UK universities we now have a cut and paste culture which is becoming difficult to detect," she says.

"There seem to be higher cases in arts subjects than in sciences or lab-based courses where course works are more practical based."

'Mass education'

Prof Bassnett says students get away with internet plagiarism because of lack of resources to monitor cheating, coupled with the increasing workload faced by lecturers and examination markers.

"Even though some universities now have software in place to monitor plagiarism, most markings are done anonymously and therefore you don't get to know the students' individual writing styles."

She believes the trend is a result of the mass higher education embarked upon by the government.

"When you have mass education you no longer have expectation of excellence.

"Students nowadays want to push the boundaries. Universities are becoming degree-producing factories."

Cultural attitude

Dr Charles Juwah, a senior education development officer at the Aberdeen-based Robert Gordon University, says recent cases of plagiarism there suggest that students previously educated in a rote learning culture, such as in South Asia, have some difficulty in appreciating values and policies regarding plagiarism.

"This difficulty is often exacerbated by English language difficulties," he says.

"Regardless of culture, however, it is becoming increasingly common for students to resort to web-based sources for submitted assessments, and this is also associated with poor referencing practices."

Robert Gordon University now holds regular awareness sessions at which students are informed of their responsibilities in upholding good academic practice with regard referencing academic work appropriately.

"We've also produced a video on what is plagiarism and how to avoid it," says Dr Juwah.

"Although the university proscribes plagiarism and cheating, it also places emphasis on educating students about best practice in scholarly referencing and the acknowledgement of sources of information."

But Prof Bassnett says universities have to take tougher measures, including "sending down" - expelling people.

"Universities have to be more rigorous in their monitoring.

"Students need to be motivated through quality of teaching resources and coherent monitoring and penalty of expulsion.

"When a student is sent down, the rest take notice," she said.

The plagiarism plague
07 Feb 03  |  UK News
Net closes on essay cheats
10 Jan 03  |  Education
Catching the internet cheats
27 Oct 99  |  Education
Student praised for hoax essay
14 Oct 99  |  Education
Cheats stay one step ahead
05 Feb 00  |  Education

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