Technology used to reduce plagiarism

Share This:

While many factors affect student performances in class, nothing destroys a grade and a reputation faster than plagiarism.

Plagiarism is one form of academic dishonesty that entails taking credit for another person’s work. College faculties and administrations across the country battle plagiarism constantly, from Harvard University to Southern Utah University.

Dean of Students Del Beatty said the most common form of plagiarism on Dixie State University’s campus is copying and pasting from sources without giving proper credit.

“Is it OK to use someone’s words in your paper?” Beatty said. “Of course it is. You just need to cite it correctly. You quote little bits and pieces, but you have to cite it.”

Beatty said plagiarism affects not only students’ reputations and grades but also DSU’s image.

“The problem is every single time a student graduates from the institution, and we award them a diploma, the entire academic integrity of the institution is put on the line,” Beatty said.

Earning a bachelor’s degree leads employers to assume that potential employees are knowledgeable about that discipline, Beatty said. However, cheating one’s way through college means a student isn’t learning and mastering that discipline and is unqualified for work or further education.

“It jeopardizes the integrity of the whole institution because now when you leave, you go get a job, and you’ll say, ‘I graduated with a degree in biology,’” Beatty said. “But, you cheated you’re entire way through. You don’t really understand biology—you don’t really know that discipline.”

Beatty said with more advanced technology, plagiarism has sharply increased. However, DSU is now using technology to combat plagiarism on campus, mainly through the online database Turnitin. Professors will run digitally received assignments through the massive database, which will then connect matching phrases and sentences.

Art history adjunct instructor Nancy Ross said since the implementation of Turnitin, she has caught far more plagiarism than before. For instance, on her first essay last semester, Ross said she caught five students plagiarizing, a higher number than she’d ever caught before.

“I only ever Googled suspicious sounding sentences before, and Turnitin was able to detect a lot more plagiarism than I had been able to detect on my own,” Ross said. “

Ross, like Beatty, said she sees copying and pasting most often, and some students will directly copy and paste from web sites such as Wikipedia and not bother to remove the links.

Ross said, “That’s the worst kind of plagiarism: ‘I’m copying and pasting, and everybody knows what Wikipedia looks like, and somehow I think that looks OK.’”

Ross said plagiarism is so damaging because it negatively affects a student’s ability to learn to communicate effectively via writing.

“When I see plagiarism, I know they probably don’t understand the topic,” Ross said. “[I know] they don’t know how to communicate clearly, that they’re afraid of whether they can communicate well or not, and so they’re trying to put someone else’s better work forward as their own.”

Ross said a common excuse was ignorance, but that doesn’t fly with her.

“I have a plagiarism policy on my syllabus,” she said. “We read it the first day, and I tell my students they will go to art history hell if they plagiarize. I try to be really harsh and a little Machievellian about this on the first day of class.”

Ross’ policy toward plagiarism states the first time she catches it, the student will receive an F on the assignment. After two or more times, the student will fail the class. Ross said she had to fail a student last semester after she caught the student cheating three times.

“[Students] expect I’m kind of a fool,” she said. “That’s what it feels like to me when I detect it. The students thought that I would be dumb enough not to know, and they really think they can get away with that.”

Beatty said when an issue with academic dishonesty arises, professors decide how to handle it initially. However, most will notify him of an issue so he can place student names in a database. If students are caught cheating across multiple disciplines or more than once in a class, he will usually send a personal email at the end of the semester warning the student of potential suspension. 

Beatty said he has seen plagiarism across all levels of school, from freshmen attempting to escape an English 1010 paper to seniors blowing it on their Capstones.

Beatty said the best way to avoid plagiarism is to remain on top of school work.

“The No. 1 reason that students say they had to plagiarize is that they waited to the last minute to do the assignment,” he said. “They procrastinated so long that they felt they didn’t have time to finish, they’ll just do it this one time, and they get caught.”

Beatty said students should regularly attend class as well because frequent absences means a lack of base knowledge when it come to papers, and that can lead to plagiarism temptations as well.

He said: “If students would do those two things, they wouldn’t give in to that feeling of ‘Oh, I’m just going to plagiarize this one time’ because that one time you do it, you’ll probably get caught.”

For information about DSU’s disciplinary policy, go to http://www.dixie.edu/humanres/policy/sec3/334.html