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The top 10 ways college students plagiarize
Colleges and universities continue the fight against cheating made easier through technology
When it comes to plagiarizing, students who use the unethical shortcut seem to be all in: Copying and pasting a research paper word for word is now the most common form of plagiarism.
Those findings, along with the ten most common forms of plagiarism in higher education, were detailed in a national ranking of plagiarism incidents released this month by Turnitin, an online company that makes software designed to detect cheating in homework assignments and research papers.
Myriad more subtle forms of plagiarizing made the list—carefully replacing key words and phrases, for instance—but turning in completely plagiarized work is the most common and most troubling form of cheating, according to respondents to Turnitin’s survey.
And the barefaced plagiarism has persisted in higher education despite campus-wide policies that explicitly tell students what constitutes cheating and the range of consequences for breaking the school’s rules.
“Nearly every school has an academic integrity policy, yet instructors tell us that blatant, intentional plagiarism is still frequently encountered,” said Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing at Turnitin.
The second most common form of plagiarism among the 879 survey respondents was dubbed, “CTL-C,” because it involves copying large portions of text from the web and inserting those excerpts into a research paper.
“Find-replace” is the act of changing phrases in an attempt to avoid the watchful eye of plagiarism detection programs common on college campuses. “Recycling” is another popular approach: Borrowing from previous work, or self-plagiarizing, as described by Turnitin.
The “hybrid” method is defined as a paper that includes cited sources and copied passages without any citation. And the “404 error” is when a student includes citations to sources that don’t exist in print or on the internet.
“Educators take a kinder view” of the recycling and “remix” method—paraphrasing from various sources and combining it without proper citation”—because it could be a “reflection of [a student’s] inexperience with doing research papers or with writing academic papers in general,” according to the Turnitin whitepaper.
“Problematic scores” given to each kind of plagiarism in Turnitin’s top-10 list show that all cheating isn’t equal for many educators. The “CTL-C” approach, for example, was awarded a problematic score of 7.4 out of 10. The “remix” form of cheating received a problematic score of .5.
Campus academic integrity policies should reflect the severity of plagiarism, avoiding a too-common blanket approach, Turnitin suggested.