While cheating isn’t new, the internet is making it a whole lot easier for students. In fact, a recent survey by the Center for Academic Integrity found that 52 percent of high school students admitted to copying text from a web site and pasting it into their written work without citing the source.
The good news is there are several strategies that can help you combat the problem in your schools. Here are 10 tell-tale signs of internet plagiarism to watch for, according to the author:
1. A writing style that is much more sophisticated than you’ve come to expect from the student.
2. Abrupt changes in tense, word use, etc.
3. Unusual spelling, such as British forms of common words (“colour” instead of “color”).
4. Transitions that are less sophisticated than the surrounding textan indication of “patchwork” copying.
5. Gray-shaded words within otherwise black textan indication of hyperlinks from a web page copied and pasted into a word-processing document.
6. Inconsistencies in formatting, such as sudden changes in headings, spacing between words or lines, and font styles.
7. References to tables, charts, footnotes, or other elements that don’t appear in the paper itself.
8. Papers that are off-topic or deal with the assigned topic only indirectly.
9. Papers that are handed in at the last minute or late. While this doesn’t guarantee cheating, it does make the paper more likely to have been plagiarized.
10. The student can’t summarize the main points of the paper or answer specific questions when asked.
Here are seven strategies the author suggests for preventing internet plagiarism in the first place:
1. Make sure students understand the Modern Language Association’s guidelines for citing electronic publications.
2. Discuss plagiarism openly with students, citing examples and outlining the consequences.
3. Don’t just ask students to gather facts about a topic. Instead, create assignments that challenge students to solve problems, make personal choices, or reflect on class discussions.
4. Encourage students to use the internet in their research, but require them to print out and attach the web pages they use.
5. Have students complete a series of short writing assignments under a teacher’s supervision, then use these assignments for comparison if you suspect plagiarism.
6. Require students to write more during class time, preferably by hand.
7. Require students to complete their assignments in stages, and ask for a series of drafts and revisions before the final paper is due.