THE BLOG
11/20/2012 10:32 am ET | Updated Jan 12, 2013

Why Students Plagiarize

Candy (not her real name) needed to get an "A" on her final research paper. An "A" would ensure that her grades for her junior year in high school would help maintain the Grade Point Average (GPA) she was desperate for to qualify for the college of her choice.

Candy plagiarized most of the work. In her desperation for the perfect paper, she took whole paragraphs from various websites she found online.

Unfortunately, plagiarism is not uncommon among high school and college students. A study by the Center for Academic Integrity found that almost 80 percent of college students admit to cheating at least once.

When it comes to the Internet, students know how to use social media like a Ninja knows martial arts skills. However, their skills to use the Internet to conduct in depth academic research is seriously lacking so they take the easy way out and use previously published materials. So much so, that plagiarism has become a serious problem among many high school and college students.

Because these students lack competent research skills they use sources that lack credibility and accuracy such as Wikipedia and unfounded opinion blogs that compound this problem. They don't know how to evaluate the credibility of the site.

Many don't go beyond the first page of Google. This is the same as using one book for entire research paper.

To be fair, many students don't see using previously published materials as wrong. They don't know or understand the difference between attribution (ascribing of a work), citation (directly quoting), collaboration (working together) and copyright (legal right granted to an author).

In Candy's case, her teacher used one of the many online programs to check the originality of her work. Unfortunately, it didn't pass the test and she failed the class.

Samples of these sites are:
Turnitin
Grammarly and
Scan My Essay

How to Avoid Plagiarizing Internet Works

Copyrighted works on the Net include news stories, software, novels, screenplays, graphics, pictures, Usenet messages and even email. In fact, the frightening reality is that copyright law protects almost everything on the Net. This can pose problems for the hapless surfer.

What is protected on the Internet

  • Links
  • Original text
  • Graphics
  • Audio
  • Video
  • HTML, VRML, other unique markup language sequences
  • List of websites compiled by an individual or organization

In addition, all other unique elements those make up the original nature of the material.

Instructions on how to legally and safely use material on the Web:

Step 1: Copy the entire source into a word processing document.

Step 2: Read the entire source.

Step 3: Look for potential quotes and paraphrases in the source.

Step 4: Highlight any passage that you think would be a good quote for your essay.

Step 5: Paste all of the potential quotes from the source into a new document.

Step 6: Copy all the passages you may want to paraphrase into a new document

Step 7: Insert the quotes and paraphrases at appropriate places in your essay.

Step 8: Copy the URL into the appropriate "Note" format.

Following these simple steps will prevent students to avoid Candy's fate.

Geri Spieler teaches Internet Research Classes in person and online. www.gerispieler.com