Social websites are latest sources for plagiarized material


Harrick added: “I think [students] do have a problem with understanding the merit of different sources.”

Thirty-three percent of matched online content came from social networking and content-sharing sites, 25 percent came from homework and academic sites, 14.8 percent came from cheat sites and term paper mills, 13.6 percent came from news and portals, 9.5 percent came from encyclopedia sites, and 4.1 percent came from other websites.

The ability of students “to go and rip something off the web … and place it in their papers” is easier than ever, Harrick said. But the problem of plagiarism has evolved beyond merely copying and pasting someone else’s thoughts or ideas. With the advent of Creative Commons licensing, open educational resources, and internet mashups, the notion of “originality” has become more complex—and many students might be plagiarizing without meaning to do so.

“The big challenge that educators have is to make sure that they teach their students the proper way to find material on the web, how to document it, what’s acceptable and what’s not, and then use tools to make sure that those protocols are followed,” Harrick said.

Encyclopedia sites received their own category in Turnitin’s analysis, owing to the popularity of Wikipedia—which was the single most common source for matched material. This category also includes sites such as Britannica.com and Encyclopedia.com.

“There is ambivalence around Wikipedia,” said Harrick. “What we hope students will do is use it as an entry point [for their research] … but then use the source material [listed] down below to be able to go deeper into the subject that they’re interested in, rather than just relying on Wikipedia. That’s what we don’t want. It can be a gateway; it shouldn’t be the final destination.”

According to Turnitin’s whitepaper, the top eight most popular sites for matched content, along with their categories, are:

Harrick said that emphasizing the consequences of cheating and discussing the correct ways to use sources should be highlighted at the beginning of the school year to head off problems before they begin.

The whitepaper outlines three recommendations for educators as they strive to teach students how to research and properly cite from sources online:

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