Plagiarism is the greatest breach of intellectual trust. Writers are taught from grade school that all work other than their own is to be cited. Despite the admonitions, students have been gleefully plagiarizing papers for years.
Interestingly enough, one of America’s news darlings, Katie Couric, has been involved in a plagiarism scandal recently. In a segment known as Katie’s Notebook, the author addressed the dwindling interest in America’s library system. According to MSN.com’s Newsweeek report much of the wording, including complete phrases and sentences were very much like a column written by Wall Street Journal Columnist Jeffrey Zaslow. Katie’s April 4th Notebook entries read much like columnists Zaslow’s comments from March 15. For a comparison of a variety of words and phrases, read Johnnie Robert’s article on MSN.
Couric doesn’t actually write Katie’s Notebook, so she faces no repercussions, but the producer who wrote the piece was fired, the inevitable result of plagiarism. This incident, between two major corporations CBS and the Wall Street Journal brings the issue of plagiarism to the forefront. Is is not only unprofessional, but unacceptable in our field to steal the intellectual property of someone else.
The Wallstreet Journal, was alerted by a reader, who had seen both columns. Teachers, professors, and editors have more resources than ever at their fingertips to evaluate an article, news release, or paper for plagiarism. They owe this service to sophisticated software and the Internet. Several companies have developed software that compares a given written piece to those that have already been published. If you are caught, you may earn a label that could affect your student life and/or career longterm.
The ease of cut and paste from the Internet has prompted the development and implementation of this software on text and research assignments. School officials also have to face the dilemma of paper-mills which offer research papers on any variety of topics for a fee. The papers are purchased completely written, cited, and include the list of sources. These capabilities are cheating the intellectual growth and creativity of our students, which ultimately affects the future of journalism, and writing in general.
There are a variety of plagiarism software programs available. Each is created for a specific niche. Some detect similarities in words and phrases with those on the net, others check the similarities of submissions to a given program or school, some specifically detect papers from paper-miils, or essay banks. According to Bull’s report, some programs combine several capabilities enhancing the school’s ability to detect plagiarism.
Programs designed to detect similarities in submissions to a class or program check for collusion. That is the development of papers, and sharing of information with a group of peers. Unfortunately for college students, this method of “paper writing” has helped many students make their way through the educational system. I find it encouraging that cheaters have a greater chance of being caught. This forces people to think and develop ideas on their own. This is essential for future leaders, managers, and writers. The world is ever changing, and we must have the ability to examine it, and write our thoughts and evaluations in our own words.
Bull’s research showed that most of the software they examined was relatively good at detecting plagiarism. They were pleased with the results, because at the same time they performed a survey in which students admitted to plagiarism on a large scale. Interestingly, the majority of plagiarism that took place on college campuses was work copied from texts or other theses. College students were less likely to cut and paste from the Internet.
Most academics said they were aware of the availability of plagiarism detection software, but they did not use it. Most professors and teachers said that the biggest clue in unearthing plagiarism was when they encountered a significantly different style of writing in the paper. This effective means of identifying plagiarism usually ends up in a confession, or apology from the student. This is less time consuming than using technology to compare papers, but it does allow the sneaky cheats to slip through.
It is likely that in the near future more and more colleges, universities, and high schools will implement the use of this software. It will serve a vital role in preserving the integrity of the schools, and their rigor in learning.
The report did conclude that no one device can catch all plagiarism. It seems, that if someone goes to enough trouble to avoid detection, they may as well work on formulating their own papers. Regardless, it’s a cinch that some students will try to pass off the work of someone else as their own. If only students realized the knowledge and experience they would gain by writing their own papers.
There may never be a sure fire way to detect all plagiarism, but until then Turnitin, Eve2, and CopyCatch will assist in the effort. The panel concluded that while the software was worth the investment, that the tried and true method of determining plagiarism was still the best. They’ll continue to look for differences in writing style to crop up out of nowhere in your paper.
The bottom line is that plagiarism is theft of intellectual knowledge. It is neither fair, nor ethical to rob someone else’s work and claim it as your own.
Roberts, Johnnie L. ” Couric’s Contretemps” Newsweek Business on MSNBC.com. 2007, 10 April.
Bull, Dr. Joanna, et al. “Technical Review of Plagiarism Detection Software Report.” Prepared for the Joint Information System Committee, University of Luton.