In this end-of-year exams and papers season, a new French study analyzes the evolution of cheating techniques in the past five years, in particular the widespread digital tool we all have come to know as "copy-paste."
PARIS - As the academic year draws to a close, it's time for end-of-year exams and papers. But what (and whom) are the teachers correcting finals and grade papers actually reading?
Techniques for cheating have changed drastically in the past few years. With the widespread use of digital tools in schools and universities, new methods are emerging that have helped make plagiarism both more widespread, and at the same time notably unimaginative.
In 2007, the Research and Superior Education Center at Lyon University (PRES) studied how students behave online, particularly in regards to plagiarism. Their findings led to the adoption of preventive actions in certain colleges. A more recent PRES study commissioned by Compilation.net (an online plagiarism-detector) compared results from 2007 and new research from 2012 to see how student behavior has evolved in the past five years. The goal was to observe a possible link between Internet usage and the spread of plagiarism, and to confront teachers' perspective on their students' behavior.
The study, which spanned 100 universities, polling 2,727 students and 224 teachers questioned, mainly addresses the use of "copy-paste." The results? In 2007, more than two out of three students admitted that a typical piece of homework contains over 25% of content simply copy-pasted from the Internet. Three out of four students estimate that more than one-quarter of their total homework contains at least one copy-pasted portion. In 2012, those numbers dropped significantly to only one out of ten and one out of five of the respective questions about prevalance of copy-pasted material in their homework.
But are students really putting in more personal effort, or are they just less honest when asked about their methods? Teachers estimate that half of their students don't even bother to use quotations marks, and that three out of five students even rewrite the quotes they use in their work.
The Lyon PRES finished its study by distinguishing three different categories: schools, teachers and students. The first seem to have understood the importance of raising teacher awareness about plagiarism and the need to get the students to face the consequences of using copy-pasted content, using strong dissuassive methods like the implementation of serious sanctions.
With teachers, we see that work methods have changed since 2007: there has been a generalization of digital drop boxes to collect homework, with the obligation to turn in a paper version of the work in addition to a digital one. Over time, the awareness about plagiarism has grown. Attitudes have changed and teachers have integrated the phenomenon into their working habits: they try to be more creative in their assignments, have more oral exams, ask students to supply their work product.
The final category, students still have a certain number of bad habits, especially since their digital equipment is multiplying. Internet is still their favorite place for documentation and research, but despite a few methodological improvements, they are less likely to admit to copy-pasting, since they have a better understanding of the risks and penalties.
Read more from Le Nouvel Obs in French.
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