Friday, May 05, 2006

Marginal Revolution: The economics of plagiarism

I am not sure if I plagiarized this :) but Tyler Cowen at marginal (Marginal Revolution: The economics of plagiarism) writes on the changing economics of plagiarism. I like his list and makes me think of both the increased ease of doing it as well as the increased ease of finding it. My child in his high school has to submit all his work to and the teacher gets a great report showing what parts are not properly cited. I wish my University would license this product, but has decided not to use any technology to make more efficient the professor in catching students plagiarising, while the students have no barriers to their efficient searching of the literature.

While denying the professor the opportunity to use my university does suggest we can take the time consuming process of Googling each and every suspicious bit of writing. The reason my university denies our use of is that they believe that the student has a copywrite in their own papers and then the paper will be stored in a database at and violates their copywrite. Specifically, "(o)nce submitted, the papers are considered proprietary property of the software vendors and are used as comparative data for future submissions and analysis, totally disregarding any intellectual property rights of the students. It is a lawsuit waiting to happen! (reference)", not surprisingly has a very different view and backs it up (see here).

Geoff and Sosin have a section in their paper, which I have previously cited, on plagiarism that is worth a re-read. They start their section with survey results (not theirs) that 82 percent of students admit to cheating and while not all cheating is plagiarism, this raises a fairly serious alarm. They point our the limitations of Googling for discovery and seem to support products like

So try this.. google my phrase above, 82 percent of students admit to cheating and while not all cheating is plagiarism, and see the number of links that point out the seriousness of the problem. I am amazed at the seriousness of the problem, but I do not find the source where I stole that phrase (Geoff and Sosin) until page three of the Google listing. I did substitute 'while' for 'although,' and used 'not all cheating' instead of 'not plagiarism' and left out a citation, but it was taken directly. I think Goeff and Sosin would agree: Google checking is very inefficient and not reliable. Can't we just have

I have long maintained we should not use a technology unless we believe it increases student learning and makes the professor more efficient. could make us more efficient, especially more efficient than endless Googling of phrases, and student learning is always enhanced when they are doing their own work and not stealing the ideas of others.

(And yes I did post this while wading through
student end of term papers).

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