Plagiarists Turn to Academic Sites, Not Paper Mills

A new report shows the websites students copy most often for their papers.

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Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers are among the websites students turn to the most when plagiarizing, according to plagiarism-checking website Turnitin.com.

Many high school teachers and college professors require students to submit papers to the site, which then cross-checks the papers against websites, previously submitted papers, and published journals and books for matching content. It is then up to teachers to determine if a student properly cited the sources used. A study recently released by Turnitin.com examined the sources of 140 million content matches (whether cited or not) used in student papers.

But most students don't turn to websites like Allfreepapers.com, Oppapers.com, and Schoolsucks.com, where students can download entire papers free of charge or for a small fee. Instead, students who plagiarize often copy and paste from online encyclopedias and news websites.

Many of the sites that showed up in the report aren't designed for cheating, with 14 of the top 25 most used websites being "legitimate student resources for learning," according to the report. Just 15 percent of content matches come from so called "paper mills" or cheating websites.

Many students who cheat don't know that what they're doing is cheating, according to Teddi Fishman, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University and a board member of Turnitin.com's United Kingdom branch.

"It's really important that we talk to students about the processes of writing," she says. "They don't understand that writing a piece of original work can include quoting of other people's material as long as you cite the source. They don't understand that it's completely acceptable and expected that they use other people's words to make their case."

[Learn how cheating makes students overestimate their intelligence.]

Fishman says that while websites like Turnitin.com are useful for catching plagiarism, cheating websites are always finding ways to trick the service, forcing Turnitin.com to come up with "more specific algorithms" to catch cheaters. The way to curb cheating is to teach students to make good decisions.

"Educating students about what is acceptable turns out to be much more effective than this technological arms race," she says.

The eight most commonly copied websites are:

1. Wikipedia

2. Yahoo! Answers

3. Answers.com

4. Slideshare.net

5. Oppapers.com

6. Scribd.com

7. Coursehero.com

8. Medlibrary.com

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