Preventing plagiarism - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Preventing plagiarism

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BOCA RATON, FL (WFLX) - Another school year is wrapping up, and students on campus are packing up, but not before crunch time.

Exams and papers are par for the course, or courses. Florida Atlantic University Associate professor of English Barclay Barrios estimates he and his colleagues review and grade 30,000 papers a year. "The first time you read a piece of writing from a student, you instantly learn that students voice, and you literally hear as you read the students voice in your head," he said.

So when that voice changes, up goes a red flag. "Teachers have kept pace with technology as much as students, so that's usually the first line of investigation," he said.

Barrios can upload a student's paper into one of a handful of search engines, like "SafeAssign", that check a student's work to see if there's any plagiarism. Sometimes it's just a quotation. Sometimes it's more. "We're more concerned when students are taking people's ideas, taking whole paragraphs, or several paragraphs or whole papers."

There are notebooks in Barris' office archiving the plagiarism cases he has addressed. "You can see a whole lot more being identified."

But of the 30,000 papers each year, how many cases of cheating does he see? Only 12-20 instances of "academic irregularity".

"Another professor I spoke with said, oftentimes, it's not that the student wants to plagiarize, it's just that they don't realize they're doing it."

Bruce Beck, an associate professor of English at Palm Beach State College, agrees. "It's certainly not intentional, he said, "It's careless."

Jennifer Lubieniecki and Sara Notgarnie are two of Beck's students. "It's a never ending process to cite the things correctly," said Lubieniecki.

Professor Beck also has a computer program, "TurnItIn", he uses to check his students work. "What students do when they haven't fully digested the material or they procrastinate is they tend to use way too much research," he said.

Jen and Sara agree that there's no substitute for hard work. "You always think there's an easier way because there's short cuts for everything in school. Everybody wants to do things the shortest way but it's not possible, it really isn't," said Lubieniecki.

"They can figure out if you're cheating now, so it's not a good idea," said Notgarnie.

Professor Barrias at FAU says students today are pulled in so many directions, and part of what they learn in college are adult level coping skills. "Sometimes, they haven't mastered those skills yet, and they get to crunch time, and they just do something."

But today's technology shows that "something" probably won't cut it.

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