Academic Misconduct and the Internet

Academic Misconduct and the Internet

David Ison (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8057-7.ch002


This chapter provides a general background on the problem of plagiarism, how the Internet has been implicated as a negative influence on Academic Integrity (AI), empirical study data on the influences of the Internet on plagiarism, reasons why students may conduct plagiarism, and best practices in the use of plagiarism detection. Within the first section, three empirical studies are highlighted to indicate the actual occurrence of plagiarism in graduate education and the role the Internet may play in influencing AI. In the second section, a description of both how and why students conduct plagiarism is presented. Existing literature on the topic is explored to better inform stakeholders on the ‘why' component with suggestions for potential mitigating solutions. The subsequent section describes plagiarism detection software that is commonly in use across the globe including best practices on how to interpret detection results. Lastly, recommendations and calls for future research are provided.
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Plagiarism has existed ever since the dawn of human creativity. The English word plagiarism first came into use in the early 17th Century and has its root in the Latin term plagiarius, meaning kidnapper or plunderer, which in itself is rooted in the Greek word plagion, for oblique or non-direct. In its earliest form, a literary thief was termed a plagiary (‘Plagiarism’, 2014). During this time in history, it is understandable that the term plagiarism was born as words were becoming much easier to copy due to a combination the advent of the printing press, improved literacy by the populace, and the widespread distribution and consumption of text (Febvre & Martin, 1976). In response to concerns about the copying of ideas and words, the concept of copyright was developed by British printers in the 18th Century.

Perhaps some of the best examples of the pervasiveness of plagiarism through history can be seen in the pirating of text by great writers such as William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Moss, 2005). Within exigent literature is been a rising concern about the negative influences that the Internet has on the incidence of plagiarism. In a disturbing recent event, and intelligence report on the weapons of mass destruction reported to exist in Iraq that was submitted to Prime Minister Tony Blair, it was found that many of the materials that were used were plagiarized from various online sources (Howard, 2007). Another high profile plagiarism case occurred when New York Times writer Jason Blair was found to have utilized text without permission and without citation in many of his 600 articles (Roig-Franzia, 2014).

Beyond the literary world, plagiarism has infiltrated other areas of society as well. Specifically, it has been noted that plagiarism has been prevalent within Higher Education (HE) throughout its existence (Grijalva, Nowell, & Kerkvliet, 2006; Postle, 2009). Just as concerns about the ease of conducting plagiarism utilizing the Internet has been voiced in the news, numerous studies have reported that due to the amount of information available online, coupled with the ease of computer technology, the Internet has provided an almost irresistible means of carrying out plagiarism (Ackerman & White, 2008; Gilmore, Strickland, Timmerman, Maher, & Feldon, 2010; Grijalva et al., 2006; Lanier, 2006; Logue, 2004; Schiller, 2005; Selwyn, 2008; Townley & Parsell, 2005).

Complicating the issue, is that many students when queried about cutting-and-pasting of texts from various sources, these individuals did not realize that they were conducting plagiarism (Baker, Thornton, & Adams, 2008). This lack of awareness is readily confirmed by a study of 70,000 undergraduate and 10,000 graduate students, in which 62% and 59%, respectively, admitted to plagiarizing material from online sources (McCabe, 2005). The efficiency at which plagiarism can be conducted utilizing Internet sources carries even greater concern in light of the prolific growth that has occurred in the use of online environments in HE since the 1990s (Grijalva et al., 2006; Hart, 2010; Lanier, 2006).

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