Plagiarism continues rise in college

RALEIGH, N.C. (U-WIRE) – University students and professors say they feel that plagiarism is a growing problem in the college environment, and it is an unethical tendency that needs to be prevented.

Although North Carolina State University officials take a hard stance for academic integrity, and violators have permanent scars on their school records, the problem of plagiarism is still prevalent in the college classroom, according to English Lecturer Janet Hudson.

The national Center for Academic Integrity conducted a study, which found that almost 80 percent of college students admit to cheating at least once.

Hudson said a rise in the amount of plagiarism in recent years may be from an increasingly competitive job market.

“It’s my sense that students are very focused on grades and getting jobs with their degree,” Hudson said. “They may feel that plagiarism is the only way to achieve a high grade.”

Hudson said for professors who grade hundreds of papers in a semester, inconsistencies in a student’s writing style are easy to identify.

“Once you get to know your students and know how they write, it’s fairly obvious when a text isn’t written by that individual,” Hudson said.

English Professor and Director of Campus Writing and Speaking Program Christopher Anson said many of the problems associated with plagiarism come from a lack of cooperative communication between professors and students.

“Across higher education, we are getting so paranoid about [plagiarism]. We focus more on crime and punishment and not on how to educate people,” Anson said. “Students need to be taught what it means to take text from a published work and document it.”

Anson was a member of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, which is a national association of college and university faculty with professional responsibilities for directing writing programs. The WPA publishes a journal and newsletter, holds an annual workshop and conference, develops position statements, offers consulting and program evaluation and holds extensive discussions about college writing and writing programs.

He said professors can decrease the amount of plagiarism by designing innovative assignments that capture the purpose of the information they are trying to teach.

“If you can design assignments that are really engaging, creative and unique, students will not only be unable to plagiarize, but they won’t want to,” Anson said.

Anson said if students and professors work together they can eliminate this problem and create a more productive classroom.

“This is a shared responsibility,” Anson said. “Students have the responsibility to be ethical, and professors need to do their part in considering what they want their students to learn from an assignment.”

Matthew Alfaro, a freshman in biomedical engineering, said he can’t condone plagiarism, and he sees it as a lazy and useless way to do school work.

“If you’re just changing a few aspects of the work and calling it your own, that is both wrong and immoral,” Alfaro said.

Bhagirath Patel, a freshman in First Year College, said his professors have been very clear on what constitutes plagiarism in writing, so it would be impossible for him to break the rules by mistake.

“My professors have informed us in detail about the ethical and moral reasons why not to plagiarize and what will result if we are caught,” Patel said.

Patel said procrastination causes many students to turn to plagiarism as a last resource.

“Often students are just not planning their time well and are working to the last hour,” Patel said. “This creates a lot of unnecessary stress, which leads them to resort to immoral methods such as plagiarism.”

Hudson said in seeking ways to prevent this problem, it is important that above all else, students take pride in the work they create.

“It is most important that students value their own work and be proud of the work they produce in college,” Hudson said. “It should be something they produce rather than merely a means to an end.”