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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 18:11 GMT
Study shows 'plagiarism epidemic'
by Matt Precey
BBC News

Students at work
Some students using the web for research are plagiarising work
An exclusive survey carried out for BBC East has revealed an epidemic of plagiarism in schools and colleges where material is copied off the internet and passed off by students as their own work.

More than half of teachers who took part in the survey (53.3%) said copying material from the internet without attributing it was a problem affecting work they set their students.

The poll was carried out among members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and covered their experiences with the 16 to 18 age group.

The survey also revealed almost a third (30%) of those teachers who responded did not know if their school or college had a policy for dealing with plagiarism.

More than a quarter (27.8%) admitted their institution did not have a plagiarism policy.

The emphasis on competition for students and for schools is what drives plagiarism
Alison Ryan, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

More than half (52.8%) also believed that their students did not sufficiently understand what constituted legitimate research and what could be considered to be plagiarism.

The ATL survey in the East of England had more than 90 responses.

Teachers who responded described how "large chunks" of written research compiled for GCSEs were often cut and pasted from the internet.

One respondent complained of finding a piece of work which had not only been copied word for word but had also included links saying "click here".

Other ATL members complained that having to cross-reference returned assignments with the internet to check for copying greatly added to their work loads and that meant that plagiarised work was often not spotted.

Even when plagiarism is detected, confronting the student can entail problems.

One teacher who wished to remain anonymous said that when she discovered two of her pupils had copied substantial portions of their A Level English coursework she was later confronted by an angry parent.

'Cut-and-paste generation'

She said: "The students themselves were made aware that this work was inadmissible but in the case of one student the parent then set about trying to prove that I hadn't supported their child and therefore I had to defend myself against those allegations."

She also described how at a recent forum she had asked about 40 English teachers from across the UK whether they were experiencing problems with internet plagiarism.

"There was absolute uproar because so many of the teachers had met exactly this problem," she said.

Alison Ryan from the ATL said she believes the emergence of the so-called "cut-and-paste generation" was a consequence of what she described as target or league tables culture.

"End grades and results predominate over learning. The emphasis on competition for students and for schools is what drives plagiarism.

"Remove that and you remove most of the causes of plagiarism."

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