Despite the availability of pre-written term papers and reports on the web, many teachers believe plagiarism is still a very rare occurrence. But a study published earlier this year by Rutgers University professors found that more than half of 4,500 high school students surveyed said they had used an essay from the internet (either whole or in part) in the last academic year.

Cheating can come in many forms. It includes the fairly innocent downloading of a few sentences into a term paper by a student who does not know that those sentences must be credited to a source. But it may run to the extreme of term papers purchased from online sources that offer guarantees on grades.

At the recent National Education Association annual meeting, teachers shared their techniques for identifying and stopping online cheating. These include:

  • Educate students about what is–and is not–fair use of published information;
  • Require that students show examples of their progress on research papers through outlines and rough drafts;
  • Check the web for sites that offer papers for sale or for free;
  • Use online services that scan papers and find potential cases of plagiarism; and
  • Know students’ general writing abilities, so papers that are better than anticipated can be checked more carefully.