Recent statistics show that the number of plagiarism cases in American schools has been constantly increasing over the past few years, especially since access to the Internet became readily available for everyone. Students admit in various studies that they used the copy/paste method of cheating on their papers at least a couple of times during their school years, and several times more while in college. Professors also steal ideas from others, making them their own, and presenting them as original finds.
Putting an end to this trend won't be easy, scientists say. As long as rewards are not set in place for original work, students can't be expected to "waste" their time compiling large volumes of work, as they themselves say. "It is of a great importance to evaluate the programming skills of each student, but the evaluation results become misleading and unreal due to the problem of plagiarism," says Ameera Jadalla and Ashraf Elnagar, both at the Department of Computer Science, from the University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates.
Behavior experts are even starting to mention an information black market in schools, where more and more students use on-line sources to write their papers, but seldom give credit to the real authors of the work, and claim that the researches or data used are their own. On the bright side, surveys show that students who are more mature tend to plagiarize less, as they realize that their future and careers are at stake, in the long run.
There are a number of ways to address this issue, researchers say, and some of them include setting up flexible deadlines for the assignments teachers give in class, as most students who plagiarize papers from the Internet say that they do so because they have very little time to compile their own work. Another solution would be to require all students to present their work orally, so that the professors can tell if they have any idea about what their paper says.
However, bringing changes to schools and colleges country-wide is not easy, officials say, and the first issue to address is each student's honesty. Parents should be required to take a more active role in promoting their children's sense of morality, especially when dealing with information.
And that's because be live in a world of data, where he who controls the information, controls everything. And given that copyright rules are becoming more and more drastic, no one would want to be sued for simply failing to attribute a certain work to its rightful author.