Volume 1, Issue 4 ISSN
Suarez, J., & Martin, A. (2001). Internet plagiarism: A teacher's combat guide.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education
[Online serial], 1 (4) . Available:
Internet Plagiarism: A Teacher's Combat
Bossier Parish Community college
Bossier Parish Community college
Have you ever sat down to grade a student's paper
and wondered, 'Where in the world did this come from? I know Suzy
Sleepalot did not write this paper.' Educators across the country
are facing the dilemma of plagiarism more and more. To combat
plagiarism, teachers need to know what it is, the strategies to
detect it, and the ways to prevent it.
What Is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism 'refers to the presentation or
submission of the work of another, without citation or credits, as
your own work' (University of Northern British Columbia, 1997, p.
1). A student may plagiarize deliberately or unintentionally.
According to Hinchliffe (1998), some common types of plagiarism
Submitting another student's paper with or without
that student's knowledge.
Copying a paper or paraphrasing information from a
text without proper documentation.
Purchasing and turning in a paper from a peer,
research service, or term paper mill.
Downloading and submitting a paper from a 'free
term paper' Web site (Hinchliffe, 1998).
Paper sharing or copying is not something new, but
it has become more widespread due to the easy access of computers
and the Internet. Students are able to copy and paste vast amounts
of text quickly with just a few clicks of the mouse. Students can
also download, as well as purchase, free essays, reports, and term
papers from several web sites. The fees can run from about $10 and
up per page (Schevitz, 1999). It is estimated that there are at
least 400 web sites that currently offer essays, with 20-30 of them
being run professionally (Plagiarized.com, 2000). Some sites that
teachers need to be aware of are
For an extensive list of term paper mills, visit
Coastal Carolina University's list of Internet Term Paper Sites at
What Signs Should Teachers Look For?
To detect plagiarism, teachers should
Check for unusual formatting or formatting that
does not match the assignment requirements (Hinchliffe, 1998). In
particular, Robert Harris (2000) suggested that you look for
'strange margins, skewed tables, mixed subheading styles' (p. 6).
Also, check for peculiar use of upper/lower case and
capitalization, for web site printout page numbers of dates and
letters or words that have been whited out (Hinchliffe, 1998).
Notice mixed paragraph styles and various skill
levels of writing. This is a sign that the copy-and-paste method of
plagiarism was used (Harris, 2000). Also, notice jargon and
advanced vocabulary usages (Hinchliffe, 1998). Asking, 'What do you
mean by meridians?' may provide you with beneficial information
Review the references used in the paper. Check the
dates on the reference material, as well as the time frame of the
events cited in the paper. Several online papers are old, so if the
paper contains references older than 10 years or if it refers to
Ronald Regan as President, it's a sign that the paper has been
passed around for a while. Also, see if the references are
available at your school. Many times, the books may be not only
from another state but also from another country.
Refer to the original assignment and see if the
paper is about the assigned topic and if it contains the
information that was required. If it doesn't, Harris (2000) warns,
'It may have been borrowed at the last minute or downloaded' (p.
6). Also, if the paper contains extra information that was not
required, it's a sign that the paper has been recycled.
Review the citation styles. If some paragraphs
have MLA and some APA citations, the paper has probably been pasted
together (Harris, 2000). If there is a lack of references or
quotations and the paper contains well-written information, it may
have been copied from a general knowledge source such as an
Look for dead giveaways such as web printouts with
the URL and date in the corner or messages at the end, such as
'Thank you for using Research Papers Online.' Also, look at the
name on the title page and make sure that it matches subsequent
pages (Plagiarized.com, 2000).
Some Strategies to Prevent
Experts believe that the best way to stop
plagiarism is by means of prevention. Some guidelines to prevent
Offer a list of topics with the option of the
student's choosing an alternative topic if he or she discusses it
with you first (Plagiarized.com, 2000). Furnishing a topic list
provides students with direction while giving them enough freedom
to pick a topic that is interesting to them. Also, change the list
of topics each semester to discourage papers from being passed
Require the paper in a specific format with a
given number of references from a variety of sources. For example,
the requirement might be to have references from two book sources,
two journal sources, and two Internet sources. Review (or teach)
the proper citation methods with your students. It is also a good
idea to have each student turn in photocopies of the sources used
Periodically check the progress of each student's
paper throughout the semester (Clayton, 1997). Assign due dates for
the students to turn in the selected topic, thesis, outline,
bibliography, rough draft, and final draft. Do not allow students
to skip portions of the paper. For example, if a student did not
turn in a rough draft, then a final draft would not be accepted.
Checking and requiring progress makes it more difficult to acquire
someone else's paper; it helps the procrastinators stay on track
and, as a result, lessens the temptation to cheat.
Educate students about plagiarism by explaining
what it is and how to avoid it. Also, let them know that you are
aware of Internet paper mills (Leland, 2000). Discuss your policy
(or the school's) regarding plagiarism, and be sure to outline
Online technology is also available to detect
plagiarism from web sites. Educators can subscribe to a service and
require students to upload their paper to the service's site. The
site compares papers with material on the Web. Some sites even
compare papers turned in from previous semesters to detect the
papers that were passed along (Schevitz, 1999). Some of these sites
are free; others are subscription- based with fees that start at
about $20 per year for a class of 30. Most services that detect
online plagiarism offer free trials (Dyrli, 2000). Some plagiarism
detection sites are:
Plagiarism has been around since the beginning of
organized education; therefore, it is likely that there will always
be students who plagiarize. Now that the Web has made it even
easier for students to cheat, it has become imperative for teachers
to combat plagiarism. Knowing exactly what plagiarism is, learning
the clues to detect plagiarism, and practicing the strategies to
prevent it can aid teachers in detouring plagiarism.
Dyrli, O. (2000, October). Confronting
online plagiarism . Matrix on the Web [Online] .
Harris, R. (2000, September 1).
Anti-plagiarism strategies for research papers [Online].
Hinchliffe, L. (1998, May). Cut-and-paste
plagiarism: Preventing, detecting, and tracking online
plagiarism [Online]. Available:
Leland, B. (2000). Plagiarism and the
Web . [Online.] Available:
Plagiarized.com. (2000) The instructors
guide to Internet plagiarism [Online]. Available: http://www.plagiarized.com/
Schevitz, T. (1999, November 5). Point, click,
plagiarize/Web site nabs UC Berkeley students stealing from Net.
SF Gate News [Online]. Available:
University of Northern British
Columbia-Learning Skills Centre. (1997) How to lessen the
chances of plagiarizing [Online]. Available: http://quarles.unbc.ca/lsc/rpplagia.html
Bossier Parish Community College
South Complex, 200 Douglas Dr
Bossier City, LA 71111, USA
318-746-7754 ext. 23