At my (Cathy’s) institution, like most HE schools, plagiarism is an issue. According to Wikipedia, “Plagiarism is not a crime per se but in academia and industry, it is a serious ethical offense.” I deliberately quote Wikipedia because that (sadly) seems to be a popular source for many students these days. As the cartoon to the left implies, is copying from the internet plagiarism? The many new sources for plagiarism checking indicates “yes”. My institution supports a plagiarism locator called Turnitin. It is a relatively simple tool to use. Once the text is submitted to the Digital Learning System, the tool highlights all words in sequence that can be located on the www and Google Scholar. Hence, copying the words from Wikipedia becomes as evident as copying a paragraph from a journal article. The professor has to look at the text and determine if the highlighted parts have been properly cited. If not, the text is plagiarized. Although professors have access to this and can use it to check for plagiarism, it is used instead as a formative feedback took to encourage students to monitor their own work and how they are sourcing. Regarding Turnitin, Jennifer Haber, Professor of Communications at St. Petersburg College shares this email from one of her students:
Keeping an eye on the similarities percentage area keeps me aware of possible situations where I may be using too much (or even too little) outside resource information. Due to its ease of use and instructive benefit, I would say the service has played a significant part in my becoming a more improved writer. I would favorably recommend its use to any institution of learning.
This kind of feedback has sold Professor Haber on the use of this tool. Besides Turnitin, many more of these tools are popping up on the internet. Two popular sites are: Best Plaigerism Checker and Proofreader and Plagiarisma.Net (links provider below). With these kinds of free tools available and the bad press plagiarism has been receiving, its wonder that students still plagiarize. Perhaps these tools will help reduce it happening in our schools. Let’s hope so.