By David Andrews
Awards, prizes and recognition are the dreams of just about any BYU student. For one student, the notoriety and recognition would lead him away from the praise he first received.
This student [name withheld] was in an upper division class. After turning in a paper, the professor remarked that the paper was simply outstanding. Such a piece was quite different than his classmates?.
The paper began to receive recognition as more peers and professors reviewed it. As the paper passed from critic to critic, something seemed oddly familiar about the report.
After further examination, reviewers realized it was not the student?s work. Instead, the paper had been purchased online, which resulted in the student?s suspension from BYU.
While technology provides benefits in the academic arena, there are some concerns about how this knowledge can facilitate academic dishonesty at the university level, even at BYU.
The Honor Code defines various levels of plagiarism from inadvertent, including the use of another?s words or ideas, to direct plagiarism, the verbatim copying of an original source without acknowledging the source.
No matter what degree of plagiarism, most universities, such as BYU, consider it illegal. But as technology evolves, some students resort to the deliberate copy and paste method of the Internet.
Plagiaristic Web sites continue to emerge as their convenience appeals to more students. Sites such as schoolsucks.com, collegetermpapers.com and CyberEssays.com offer complete, prewritten papers instantaneously for a certain fee.
Many of these so-called ?Paper Mills? have databases boasting tens of thousands of available papers on topics ranging from anthropology to technology. And depending on urgency, these reports carry price tags anywhere from $6 per page to more than $38 per page.
?The trend is towards plagiarism because it is becoming easier and easier to do,? said Ted Hindmarsh, a counselor in the Honor Code Office. ?The availability of electronic means and the anonymity of it give a false sense of security.?
Hindmarsh continued to say that students caught plagiarizing can receive various punishments, depending on the professor. Penalties can range from a simple warning to a zero on the assignment or a failing grade in the class. In the most severe cases, students can be suspended from BYU.
?A lot of people have the misconception that if something is on the Internet then it is free for the taking,? said Susie Quartey, associate director of the BYU Copyright Licensing Office. ?That is absolutely incorrect.?
Despite the ethical dilemma and the potential punishment, students continue to risk the consequences of plagiarizing.
?I know students who do it on a regular basis and don?t get caught,? said Michael Esselman, a senior majoring in math and math education. ?They say it?s easy and if you use it from multiple sources, it?s hard to catch. They just change a word or two.?
Professor Eliza Tanner Hawkins said inadvertent plagiarism is the most frequent type of plagiarism she sees in her classes. Students forget to properly cite where they got information, cut and paste from the Internet into the paper or fail to put the information into their own words. She also said there were several ways to detect plagiarism in a paper.
?I can tell when they start using terms they don?t know or they make sudden changes in writing style,? she said. ?The worst is when students leave it in the same formatting.?
But plagiarism is not the only problem colleges face. Academic dishonesty comes in a variety of forms using different tools. It seems where technology can improve academics, students find ways they can abuse it.
Don McCabe, professor at Rutgers University, conducted surveys of more than 25,000 students at 75 colleges and universities. After 13 years, McCabe concluded that 74 percent of students have taken part in some form of cheating.
At BYU, some students try to avoid falling into the status quo.
?I don?t cheat because I believe in doing your own work,? said Todd Zwalen, from Modesto, Calif, majoring in history. ?I want to feel accomplished after working hard at something. I would feel horrible if I cheated.?
For those who think that the benefits of technology might bring them academic glory, Earl Stice, professor of accounting, offered some stern advice.
?It is kind of a last step along the way to students failing,? he said. ?I don?t think anyone can cheat themselves to academic success.?