Brian: Hi Lori, glad you could make it.
Lori: Didn't have much choice, this team project is due next week. Hopefully we can get a good start on it tonight.
Brian: Right! Personally, I'm hoping we can finish it tonight.
Lori: Are you serious! This is a huge project-there's no way we can finish it tonight. Besides I have to go to practice in two hours.
Brian: No worries, Lori. All we have to do is Google our topic and find a paper that we can use to organize ours. Then we just split it up and rewrite it for our project. It'll be easy!
Lori: But, isn't that cheating?
Brian: Not really, Lori. We're doing research with Google, right? Then we're going to rewrite the paper so it will be our work, right?
Lori: Well . . . OK. I guess I just didn't think you could do it this way.
Brian: Come on, Lori. I've done this before, so don't worry. Besides, everybody compiles his or her papers these days.
Lori: Really. Then OK. I've got to do well in college or I won't get into Graduate School. Good grades are the key to success my dad always says.
Across the country, colleges and universities are dealing with situations similar to this scenario. The Center for Academic Integrity (CAI) reports that about 40 percent of students surveyed admitted to "cut and paste" plagiarism.* Even more shocking is that 77 percent of these students do not consider cheating a serious issue. How did this happen and what can institutions do about it?
Various forms of cheating have existed almost since the beginning of time. In The Cheating Culture, David Callahan attributes the evolution of cheating in America to economic inequities that have been created by our highly competitive market society with its focus on personal wealth. Students today see a college degree as critical to a successful future, or as Callahan aptly describes it, their "economic life and death" (2004, p. 20).
While student cheating takes many different forms, plagiarism, the act of representing someone else's work as your own, is the type of cheating receiving the most attention on college campuses today. Whether a student copies text from a Web page or purchases a paper from one of the many "paper mills" that sell papers on various subjects for as little as $9.95, the Internet has definitely made it easier for students to plagiarize another's work.
Colleges and universities are combating this problem in different ways. Some schools have implemented honor codes to help students understand the implications of cheating. Others are developing educational programs to teach students how to recognize and avoid unintentional plagiarism. Still others are using new plagiarism detection tools made available with today's technology. Penn State is using a combination of these solutions.
Academic integrity is one of Penn State's four guiding principles and is defined in Faculty Senate Policy 49-20:
"Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, the University's Code of Conduct states that all students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts."
At Penn State, instructors are asked to provide students with an academic integrity statement at the beginning of each course so that students will understand how the policies apply to the respective course.
Penn State recently licensed a tool from Turnitin.com to help faculty detect and prevent plagiarism. Turnitin performs originality checks on submitted papers, and checks the submission against four sources: (1) the Internet; (2) ProQuest, a database of full-text newspapers and magazine articles widely used by undergraduates; (3) a database of student papers submitted to Turnitin.com from other universities; and (4) papers submitted from Penn State. If a studentÕs paper has strong similarities to materials in any of these four sources, the software indicates the sources. The system also affords faculty the flexibility of creating rough draft or revision assignments that are not compared against a student's previous submissions.
About fifty faculty participated in a pilot test of the system in May, 2004. This fall, the system was offered to all Penn State faculty. Two weeks into the semester, more than 200 faculty had signed up and registered more than 600 students. Of the 839 papers submitted for "originality" checks, 457 papers showed 100% originality. According to John Harwood, senior director of Teaching and Learning with Technology, a unit of Information Technology Services, "While these numbers are small, they reflect only the first two weeks of the semester and they indicate that Turnitin.com is being used."
Complete directions for creating an account and getting started with Turnitin.com can be found on the Information for Faculty page at the Penn State Turnitin Web site, http://its.psu.edu/turnitin/. This site contains training materials and brief videos for both faculty and students on how to use the system. Questions about the system should be directed to the Turnitin listserv: Turnitin@psu.edu.
Another anti-plagiarism resource available for Penn State faculty is a new module in the iStudy for Success! series of instructional modules. Faculty are encouraged to take advantage of Academic Integrity, Plagiarism, and Copyright, a web-based instructional module that provides the academic integrity information faculty should include in every course, especially courses that will use Turnitin.com. Information about using the iStudy modules is available at http://iStudy.psu.edu/.The Turnitin.com project and the iStudy for Success! instructional modules are presently offered through Teaching and Learning with Technology, a unit of Penn State's Information Technology Services. For more information on these and other Teaching and Learning with Technology initiatives, visit http://tlt.psu.edu/.
* http://www.academicintegrity.org/cai_research.aspCallahan, D. (2004). The Cheating Culture. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace.