Internet offers help, temptation to students

The Internet makes it easier than ever for students to research their schoolwork but, for many, it also offers the temptation to cheat.

Recent studies show that an increasing number of college students across the nation use the Internet as a source for plagiarism.

Donald L. McCabe, management professor at Rutgers University, conducted a recent study of the relationship between students and Internet plagiarism.

Thirty-eight percent of more than 18,000 students surveyed admitted to taking part in this form of plagiarism, often referred to as the “cut-and-paste” method.

Nearly half of the students surveyed did not consider it to be cheating.

The Northern Kentucky University Writing Center defines plagiarism as “the deliberate copying of other people’s sentences or ideas without giving them due credit.”

Internet plagiarism is becoming a problem at NKU, according to Dr. Ron Hoffman, a professor in the honors program.

“It’s easy to plagiarize if you’re not careful,” he said. “The Internet has just made it easier.”

Hoffman said that students might not think Internet plagiarism is cheating.

“In most cases it’s not conscious,” he said. “(Students) don’t always have intentions of cheating. Cheating is when you consistently go to a source and pass it off as your own.”

Freshman Mary Jo Baker said many of her friends got in trouble for Internet plagiarism in high school.

“I don’t think they really know what they’re doing,” she said. “They think, ‘Okay, as long as I reword this I’ll be fine.'”

Hoffman said the most common problem is that many students have different interpretations of the distinction between paraphrasing and plagiarizing.

“They think changing a few words is good enough,” he said.

“Stuff they say is stuff you would want to,” freshman Michael Clements said. “People that aren’t trying to [plagiarize] will still get blamed – it happens every day. Plagiarism is copying straight-up, word-for-word. Paraphrasing is doing it in your own words.”

The NKU Writing Center can help students avoid falling into this trap, according to student Sharon Schuchter, a writing center consultant.

“We help them get [their own] ideas and find research materials,” she said.

Hoffman thinks there may be a solution to the issue.

“We need to teach students how to properly use resources,” he said.

If college students were taught how to successfully utilize their resources, Hoffman believes there would be a much less incidence of plagiarism.

Hoffman has discovered ways to reduce the chance of plagiarism in his classrooms, however.

“I come up with topics that are not likely to have papers online about,” he said.

By coming up with assignments that rely less on facts and more on critical thinking, Hoffman has less to worry about when it comes to plagiarism.

Hoffman also attempts to discourage students from depending entirely on the Internet for their resources.

“But [plagiarism] has always been a problem. It’s not the Internet’s fault,” he said.

Some students disagree, however.

“It’s way, way too easy,” said freshman Cara Beasley. “You can even get term papers online.”