Plagiarism lines blur for students in digital age

As the free and easy exchange of information online has transformed concepts of intellectual property, copyright, and originality, students’ notion of what constitutes plagiarism has changed as well, reports the New York Times. At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness—and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information. And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries—unsigned and collectively written—did not need to be credited because they counted, essentially, as common knowledge. Professors used to deal with plagiarism by admonishing students to give credit to others and to follow the style guide for citations, and pretty much left it at that. But these cases—typical ones, according to writing tutors and officials responsible for discipline at the schools describing the plagiarism—suggest that many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious misdeed. Digital technology makes copying and pasting easy, of course. But that is the least of it. The internet also might be redefining how today’s students—who came of age with music file-sharing, Wikipedia, and web-linking—understand the concept of authorship and the singularity of any text or image…

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