It’s nearing the end of the semester, and once again we all have the opportunity to wait until the last minute to write that research paper. Don’t stress! There may be help only a mouse click away. Entering the search terms “term paper” in any popular search engine like Yahoo or Google will summon an abundance of services for students.
A cottage industry of Internet-enabled term paper mills has sprung up to serve a receptive college student market. Some of the more unsubtle services have names such as Schoolsucks.com and The Evil House of Cheat. Other services appear to be trying to cultivate a more legitimate image such as Research-Assistance.com and FastPapers.com.
The Internet has made the plagiarism of term papers increasingly more convenient and instantaneous. Exactly how prevalent such activities may be at Yuba College is unknown. However, recent evidence indicates that Yuba students are aware of these online services.
Plagiarism is defined by the Yuba College student code of conduct as the knowing appropriation of imitation of language, ideas and thoughts of another and representation of them as one’s original work. Even paraphrasing materials from a source text without appropriate documentation is defined as plagiarism.
Essentially, there are two basic categories of online term paper services, those that sell papers from a database of pre-written papers and those that provide papers customized to the needs of the student customer. Several services offer pre-written papers for free while other services charge up to $10 per page. Custom papers are of course more expensive and can run as much as $20 a page or more. Free bibliographies are generally included.
These websites often equate their services with such study aids as Cliff Notes. Most services feature a disclaimer, in small type font at the bottom of their homepages, that their product is designed to assist students in research, and that students should never turn in a paper purchased through the service as their own work. Several services are very careful to call their products “model” term papers. However, it is questionable whether students heed or even read these warnings.There is evidence of less-than-honorable conduct among this nation’s college students. A recent Rutgers University study of 2,200 students at 21 college campuses revealed that 10 percent admitted to borrowing fragments of material found in cyberspace. Worse, 5 percent confessed to swiping large passages or entire papers.
One professor’s suspicion of plagiarism at the University of Virginia resulted in the discovery of 122 students involved in cheating in his popular Physics course, “How Things Work.” The physics professor, Lou Bloomfield, maintains that advancing technology can be very seductive when it comes to plagiarism.
“Technology has made some of the easy ways out very seductive and blurred the lines between what’s acceptable and what’s not,” Bloomfield said. “Cheating is on a gray scale. Things come rolling into your computer, and you feel ownership of them even if you don’t own them. You slide down the slope into full-fledged intellectual theft.”
Plagiarism at Yuba College can be punishable by as little as a simple verbal or written warning to as much as course failure and disciplinary probation. Paul Mendoza, the Yuba College Vice President for Student Services, indicated that no cases of plagiarism have recently been brought to his attention. However, when asked about the prevalence of plagiarism on campus through online term paper services, he responded, “Is it occurring? Probably so.”
A recent Prospector investigation into the web browsing habits of Yuba students indicates that several of these online services have been accessed from campus computers. Several browsers had visited a number of web services selling term papers. Although these results do not indicate a widespread plague of plagiarism at Yuba College, they do show that some students are aware of these services.
Plagiarism is cheating, but this fact is too easily forgotten. It is easy to fall into the trap of restating another’s ideas without proper attribution. Then again, we are all, instructors included, treading in a deep sea of information. The true danger is not that students may get caught. It is that they may get caught without ever having a unique and distinct idea of their own. Isn’t that the object of a college education, or did I just copy that idea from somewhere and forget to attribute it properly?