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Copy-and-Paste is Bad?
[ Issue 119 Page 10 ] Saturday, February 23, 2013, 17:37:14 Seung Hyun Suh Staff Reporter hyunsuh@kaist.ac.kr

A night before the due date of the General Chemistry Laboratory report, I had to go through a tough inner conflict of whether to copy the lab report or not. Unlike my high school, where students are often expelled when they get caught plagiarizing, KAIST seems to have a much more lax attitude towards copying. “It’s not ethically right.” “But everyone copies it. Why are you overreacting?” “This is stealing the work of someone you don’t even know.” “It’s not even a research paper.” I hate to admit, but the devil side of me won most of the times. Sleeping for a few more hours was all I got by giving up my academic honesty, but I continued to copy the lab reports a few more times. The worse part is that I became more and more insensitive to plagiarism as time passed by.

I am almost 100 percent sure that all KAISTians have copied other people’s lab reports at least once. This horrible trend is not just limited to our school. One research paper recently announced that 82 out of 100 people from a university in Seoul answered that they have plagiarized their laboratory reports. This is also not just limited to Korea. According to surveys conducted from 2006 to 2010 by Donald L. McCabe, co-founder of the Center for Academic Integrity and business professor at Rutgers University, about 40 of 14,000 undergraduates admitted to copying a few sentences in written assignments. Moreover, the portion of people who believe that copying from the Internet constitutes as “serious cheating” was only 29 percent, which is a significant drop from the 34 percent from earlier on in the decade.

Why is college plagiarism at an all-time high? Is our generation presumptuous than the previous generation? Society blames the Internet instead. According to The New York Times, students raised during the Internet Age have developed an extremely lenient attitude towards plagiarism. They fail to catch the difference between an unacceptable copy-and-paste and a properly cited passage. The Internet has indeed made plagiarism a hundred times easier than searching through thick books in the library.

Moreover, in the case of Korea, the education regarding plagiarism is not systematically done. According to the research paper titled “The Present Condition on Education of Citation & Reference Writing in Academic Library” by Dr. Hey-Young Rhee, 9 out of 51 universities in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do teach the course Paper Writing, which is about citation and reference writing, except for one academic library where the librarian taught this course offline. Some academic libraries only partially teach citation and reference works. There are many other libraries that never even teach it at all.
Dr. Rhee claims that the definition and types of plagiarism and reference works on websites were not appropriately covered. Academic libraries teaching citation and reference writing should grow, and contents of the course should be more systematically organized.

As a child of the Internet Age, I do agree that the Internet made both the access to information and the stealing of information a lot easier. However, it does not mean that the Internet only plays the devil’s role. There are also many Internet programs that help people to be academically honest. Websites such as easybib.com help people to accurately and easily cite the references they use. Turnitin.com allows universities to detect plagiarism by comparing the submitted works with its database.

The current situation calls for stricter rules regarding academic dishonesty. Systematic education of plagiarism is needed in order to increase awareness of academic honesty. Universities should have zero tolerance to plagiarism. As universities are where true intellects are fostered, they should make the students have true scholarly attitudes.  

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