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Alex Hutchins

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Plagiarism and what, if anything, should be done about it in our Colleges and Universities.

There is a business simulation that is being played in many colleges and universities where, if a company (team) is ahead of you in points, simply copy what they are doing right with their products and advertising.

Is that plagiarism?

Years ago, I talked with an container manufacturer who took the artwork from a competitor and made 10-12 drawings, each one a little bit different than the previous one but the last subliminally identical to the competitor's design so that business could be stolen from that competitor with the client in question.

Is that plagiarism?

Are we confusing plagiarism with unethical behavior or is copying simply copying without recognizing the source?

Most Colleges and Universities have a third party available to all instructors that will check out papers to see if they have been plagiarized. Many professors use that service but there are some that simply copy and paste sentences from various paragraphs into the Google search engine and press enter and the sources are readily available. Some have been paraphrased and some have been completely copied and used as their own.

So, here is the debate: should we hold students accountable for plagiarism when the "real world" does not or should we simply let it go, realizing that life over time is always self-correcting?

Sometimes, plagiarism is so easy to spot especially when one has in-class writing assignments and can compare them to out-of-class writing assignments and it is sad to think that college students believe that they will not get caught by professors.

Another issue for debate that is tied to plagiarism is: should colleges and universities prepare students for life and the "real world" or should they just acquaint them with the pursuit of knowledge? Can this question be easily answered by reading the Charter/Mission of the school?

Plagiarism is a substantial component of the competitive environment and should not be tampered with at any cost... is my opinion.


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  • Jun 30 2013: Perhaps there is a new market for algorithmic AI here to consider. But firstly I think institutions need to start considering their own assessment procedures as the problem. After all there is no plagiarizing when an assigned assessment artifact expectation is based in an authentic real world synthesis and not solely in replicative application, rote recall, or comparative critique. Results in institutions that value educating innovators need to assess student innovation against knowledge objectives that build or expand upon learned principles in real world applicable circumstances. Just assessing based in knowledge objectives or simple comparison is indicative of a time when the world's knowledge was not at our fingertips. Therefore I think plagiarism is definitely a systemic institutional problem and not a student problem. Authentic tasks are impossible to plagiarize. Students are becoming inherently higher Order thinkers naturally through higher order technology.
    As far a the AI reference perhaps it's time for computers to start doing the comparing using correlative algorithms to determine probable plagiarism to degrees acceptability instead of subjective non standardized opinion thereby creating a data set of originality in the micro and macro institutional scales and plotting scales of innovative thought and attributing credit accordingly. Google Books seems like a good place to start.

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