Filed under: Personal
I can well appreciate the problems facing universities when it comes to trying to root out plagiarism. Hardly a day goes by without the site stats here picking up two or three referrals - usually from Google - where the person at the other end has obviously just rammed their essay question into the search engine in its entirety in the hope that it’ll spit out a more or less complete essay in return.
I’d guess everyone who’s been to university will have their own favorite tale of plagiarism uncovered - even the most innattentive lecturer usually manages to catch at least one student trying it on every year - with the best stories invariably being those which relate the most spectacular acts of academic stupidity such as the sociology student on my own degree course who succeeded in plagerising the university’s own Professor of Sociology without realising that he would be the one making their essay.
All of which leads me to yet another apparent academic own goal, as related by Eve Garrard over at the always excellent Normblog who tells of one unnamed institution which has taken to only penalising female students for plagiarism on the pretext that they’re apparently ‘more amenable to being punished’.
More amenable to being punished? WTF has that got to do with it?
Back in my own student days, plagiarism was dealt with in a very simple and straightforward manner - get caught doing it and you got a big fat zero and the invitation to try again or fail the module. There was nothing amenable about it, that was just the way it was.
Of course this was in the pre-Internet days when you really had to work at plagiarizing by finding a suitable source for yourself - no Googling for answers back then - and with a limited range of source material to rip off chances were that if you did try it on then there was every prospect of having picked on something your lecturer was familar with and getting caught but still you’d get one or two people give it a go even then.
Today, is the site stats here are anything to go by, the problem of plagiarism is becoming endemic, not just here but all over the world, to the extent that you start to wonder just what the real value of a university degree is likely to be in future and how quickly we’ll find ourselves in the same situation as exists in the states where your first degree is largely meaningless and its only when you’ve got at least a Masters that you’re taken seriously.
This is question for which there probably are no easy answers, not when the push is on from Government to make having a degree the norm (no pun intended) and not the indicator of academic ability and excellence it used to be, still its sad to note both that plagiarism appears to be on the rise and that, at least, some universities appear to lack either the gumption or resolve to deal with it effectively.