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Education The Internet

Cheating Made Easy 506

jefu writes "This NY Times story talks about the kinds of papers that students might find (and buy) on the web. It also mentions turnitin.com a site that will scan papers and attempt to determine if it was copied. The article uses 'The Great Gatsby' as an example and notes that for the time it takes to read the book and write a paper, buying a paper seems a poor tradeoff. However, many books (or required papers) involve much more work on the part of the student, so the question becomes that much more difficult. If you have to do a report on 'Ulysses' it takes a bit more than a few hours just to read the book - let along understand enough to do a reasonable paper on it."
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Cheating Made Easy

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  • by kdougherty ( 772195 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:04AM (#10042332)
    Check and make sure they don't copy others' work. Isn't that part of a professors/teachers responsibility? Kids are getting more sly about things, but teachers need to keep up also.
    • by eric76 ( 679787 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:43AM (#10042440)
      In some cases it is easier than in other.

      My cousin bought a research paper in high school and turned it in.

      He got caught.

      He didn't take into account that:
      1) The teacher was his nearest neighbor. He lived about 1/4 mile down the road from my cousin.
      2) The teacher was our school bus driver. We even talked about his buying the paper on the bus. I don't know if our conversation was overheard.
      3) The teacher was his Sunday school teacher.

      The teacher knew my cousin too well to know that my cousin wrote that paper.
    • by Blittzed ( 657028 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:52AM (#10042469)

      Isn't that part of a professors/teachers responsibility?

      No, it isn't actually. As a student it is YOUR responsibility to act responsibly and in accordance with the academic principles of integrity and honsety. Most institutions have such policies in place, therefore it is assumed that you are abiding by this.

      You can have it the other way if you like: we will assume that every paper has been plagiarised, and you have to prove to us that it isn't. Ring any bells? How about guilty until proven innocent... That is in effect what your statement amounts to.

      • by 404 Clue Not Found ( 763556 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:03AM (#10042511)
        Not really. The student is still innocent until proven guilty. The teacher is simply investigating the possibility that cheating may have occurred.

        If, for example, a paper seems to be way above a student's usual skill level, the teacher has good reason to suspect that some copying may have been done and there's nothing wrong with trying to make sure. If the investigation doesn't turn up anything, the student remains innocent and the teacher will just have to chalk it up to the student having studied really hard. Even sites like Turnitin.com assume that the student is innocent to start with, and they remain that way UNLESS evidence to the contrary can be found.

        It's more like searching a house or interviewing a potential suspect when a crime occurs instead of just executing them on the spot.
    • Well, yeah... that's exactly what Turnitin.com tries to help the teachers do.

      It's very difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to manually scan through all their students' works and compare it with all the possible online sources.

      If the paper is turned in as a printed document, the teacher will have to re-type the entire thing and Google each part for potential matches.

      Of course, the teacher can just choose random sections from the paper, but he'd have to hope that the student didn't mix and match pla
      • by OolonColluphid ( 591237 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @08:40AM (#10043193) Homepage

        There is another aspect to that, of course. One of my professors, Scott Nicholson [scottnicholson.com], discussed the problem on CNN. I thought there was something about it on the website, but I couldn't find it in a quick look this morning. Anyway, he did a small piece discussing how little of a phrase one actually needed to find matches on the web. Four or five words is often enough.

        He took a poll in one of my classes about turnitin.com [turnitin.com] and other sites. The students were overwhelmingly against it. Not because we're cheaters, but because we agree with the McGill student who fought the system [theglobeandmail.com]. Many of us, oddly enough, consider turning in papers to a service who will keep it on file a copyright violation.

        Dr. Nicholson's solution, and that of many others in our school [syr.edu] is to use stepped assignments. If there is a large paper due at some point in the semester, we have to submit paper proposals by a given date. For some, we need to have outlines or a short presentation for the class at a later date. Most professors will allow students to submit papers for critique in advance of the due date. All of this is to not only make it more difficult for someone to buy or obtain a paper from somewhere, but also to help the students plan and work on the assignment over the semester rather than putting it off until the last minute.

        And then, if necessary, there's always the Google trick.

    • I would say yes. And for the record IAAHSET (I am a high school English teacher).

      BUT, with 150+ students it is difficult, at best. You don't seem to understand the amount of time it takes just to have that that many students writing papers at the same time, the amount of time it takes just to run a simple Google search on suspicious phrases in papers, the amount of time it takes to document the source(s) of plagiarized papers, nor the amount of time it takes to then conference with parents.

      Parents, in

  • Easy 90% fix. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:06AM (#10042333)

    Just have the final exam include writing an impromptu essay about your class paper, and weight it enough that you'll fail the class if you don't understand your own paper.

    • Re:Easy 90% fix. (Score:5, Informative)

      by severoon ( 536737 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:35AM (#10042620) Journal

      Yea, I have to agree with you. Talk about lazy students...how about pointing out the lazy teachers? I only had a few teachers up through high school and only ONE professor in college where these rip-off papers would have worked.

      For one, my high school teachers quizzed us in two different ways. One, our ability to analyze a story, as in term papers, in-class essays, etc. Two, our ability to read a story. Usually this was simply a daily quiz on what we were supposed to have read the night before hitting several factual minor points that no summary would include. We were told this would be the case, and we were told ahead of time that we should read with a notebook open and take notes on anything we thought might be covered (we were free to use our notes on the quizzes). Some teachers that used this technique didn't want to waste class time so they'd give us the quizzes to take home. They still worked really well.

      Some teachers didn't like this because they thought it overtly communicated mistrust to the students. Instead, they opted for the multiple draft process for term papers. No paper was simply written and handed in. It was drafted, corrected by the teacher with suggestions, handed back for rewrite. This process would usually go three or four times, and you'd be asked to analyze how your thesis applied to specific small events in the book, again, not covered by any summaries. By the time you were done writing the paper, if you had tried initially to avoid reading the book you eventually had to go into it pretty deeply. Using the custom-written papers on these rip-off sites would cost several thousand dollars, one custom paper per draft. (And how would you communicate with the paper writer what they were supposed to do? Would you fax in the first draft with all of the teacher's margin notes?)

      Finally, there was a teacher who I did not personally have but taught in my high school that required students to compose one essay per reading that was more or less primarly composed of direct quotations strung together. This sounds silly, but it was a very good way of seeing if your thesis held water against the actual text of the book. At the beginning of his course, something like 90% of the theses handed in were rejected and rewritten because it would be painfully obvious that the student didn't have a clear idea of what the author was saying (after all, not a lot of interpretive wiggle room when it comes to using direct quotes).

      Yet another technique, the in-class creative essay. The teacher would simply ask the students to write an essay that compared/contrasted some element of two specific readings. Try to do this based on cliff notes of both works and you'll see it doesn't really work that well...the success of this kind of essay requires a knowledge of the texts more intimate than summaries provide.

      These are just the ways I've actually had teachers ensure that students read the material. I could probably think of a dozen more if say, oh I don't know...it was MY JOB. What exactly are we paying teachers for if they can't solve this fairly simple problem?

      Having said that, I will say that I have used what I considered to be ethical techniques that my classmates did not consider ethical (though I doubt my professors would have had a problem with it). I found it works particularly well for philosophy courses for some reason, but I see no reason why it wouldn't work just as well in literature for most people. Before I read anything for a particular college level philosophy course, I'd go to the library and do some background research on the philosopher, what he thought, what he was trying to say, and then do the same kind of research on the particular work itself. This way, I'd know what all of the later philosophers, professors, and graduate students thought about various aspects of the work. I found this much research was often sufficient to gain a true understanding of the material without having to read the material itself, which was very useful when I was in a ti

      • Re:Easy 90% fix. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gilroy ( 155262 )
        Blockquoth the poster:

        No one has been able to convince me yet that it's somehow more valuable to slug through Nietzsche word by word, one of the most misunderstood philosophers of all time, without at least first getting some idea of what he was saying first.

        But you're conflating two things here. I wouldn't argue against pre-reading some things (although that can bias your own reading) but I think you should in the end read the original as well. What's more, you say you never cracked the original book

  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:07AM (#10042338) Homepage
    When getting good grades is more important than actually understanding the subject.
    • Have you ever worked with a recent graduate, just out of college? They're astoundingly inept at everything, while thinking that they're actually pretty good. I submit that college is a load of crap, mostly, and makes no difference in the quality of new hires.
      • Could have other reasons:

        The company you work for doesn't pay enough to get the good graduates.

        You don't know how to work with people that are new to the workforce.

        It doesn't matter. Skilled or inept, the company processes them all the same.
      • Most colleges are not intellectual instituions, but economic:
        • A college degree differentiates those who can and will learn, from those who won't. Though programmers take learning for granted, you'd be surprised the number of workers in other professions (particularly the blue-collar types) who have a steadfast refusal to learn anything new. Not as in, its-too-hard-for-me-to-learn, but as in, why-do-I-have-to-know-this-crap-let's-go-watch-fo o tball-and-drink-beer.
        • Colleges regulate the supply of skilled
    • So, how do you get those good grades? Ideally, through understanding. How do you measure understanding? Ideally, through good grades.

      The era of small classes with the mentor leading the students through 'self-discovery' has been dead for centuries. Too bad, tuff.

      Those who cheat now will fail and pay later. Again, too bad, tuff.
    • by miskatonic alumnus ( 668722 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @09:03AM (#10043376)
      becomes the primary goal when "no child gets left behind." Now I know it is non-politically correct to say this, but not everyone is college material. Back in the day, college was intended for the cream of the intellectual crop. Now it's been watered down to job training and high school remediation. Everyone wants a college degree. Is it mere happenstance that the rise of grade inflation on the part of the teachers and cheating on the part of the students coincided with swarms of people enrolling in college?
      • by sqlgeek ( 168433 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @12:04PM (#10045735)
        Back in the day college was intended for the privileged. That is how we see a C high school student get into Yale. That is how we see a C Yale student get into Harvard Business School. That is how we see a C Harvard student founding multiple companies. That is how that founder of multiple failed companies gets sweetheart deals on Texas Rangers stock.

        And that, dear friends, is how we get a recovering alcoholic, recovering cocaine addict, President.

        When you say "back in the day" I am all but certain that you are a privileged, well-educated, white kid.

        • That may be why he pushed a law through that took management of the UT endowment from a public, transparent process (that did a fine job) and turned it over to a secret, private company (surprisingly, a major contributor to W's political career!) that churned and burned like a low grade spamming boiler room operation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:08AM (#10042339)
    If you're ripping off a paper about Gatsby just be sure to mention where he cleaned the dried bit of shaving cream off the other guy's cheek. English teachers love that part. At least I do, and now, if I see it in a paper, I'll assume you're a /.'er and I'll give you an A for the semester so you can sneak out and go drinking.

    That way, when it's 1:06am and I'm up grading papers and slacking off reading /., I can think back of Daisy saying, "I know. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything... Sophisticated -- God, I'm sophisticated!"
  • Even if you are taking 18 credits that semester... sheesh, the professor sure thinks that's the case after he hands out a midterm paper assignment 5 days before it's due -- he did it when he was a whippersnapper, and so should you!
    • Pfft. Last year, I had a class in verilog [wikipedia.org]. We would be given modules of his code (he would write the RAM, for instances), and we would have to write a module to interact with it (a cache, for example). His code was so damn buggy, THE NIGHT BEFORE one of the projects was due, he sent out no fewer than 6 major corrections to his code. I would have *killed* for 5 days notice.
  • by Zorilla ( 791636 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:09AM (#10042345)
    ...the cheat I could have really used in school was a wallhack into the teacher's lounge.
  • by dncsky1530 ( 711564 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:10AM (#10042347) Homepage
    I use Sparknotes.com [sparknotes.com] often and it really helps you understand books and better prepare for tests. I also use myBiblio [brimonet.com] for bibliographies which works pretty well too. tutors arent consideredd cheating so why should study aids?
    • Because copying a paper word for word is hardly a study aid. Sure anyone can go online and read what a book is about and what its main themes are, that won't ever be stopped by turnitin.com's service. Turnitin is designed to penalise the people who are too lazy to even do that. AFAIK it's mainly a tool which compares your paper to other papers in the database and looks for similar phrasings.
      • Turnitin is not a foolproof way of finding plagerism. It is concievable that two people can come up with very similar results independently.

        Case in point: in college I wrote a paper for english class - which my professor liked so much that he circulated among the faculty. Several faculty members accused me of plagerism - because my work was very similar to another essay on the subject by a 'professional' author. I stuck to my guns and eventually they caved. I did not plagerize - but there was nothing I
  • Best dupe ever (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:13AM (#10042352)
    This story was already posted [slashdot.org] three [slashdot.org] times [slashdot.org].
  • by random_culchie ( 759439 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:13AM (#10042357) Homepage Journal
    I have also seen sites that advertise (for greater expense) to write papers individually for you. These (if they are individually written) will NOT be caught by any technical means. Its still down to the professor/lecturer to make a judgment based on the persons grades.
    • by Slurpee ( 4012 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:58AM (#10042491) Homepage Journal
      I have also seen sites that advertise (for greater expense) to write papers individually for you

      I would bet that they don't really write individual papers. They possibly have a stash of papers ready to go, and just "individualise" them to some degree.

      Remember...what they are offering to do is ethically questionable anyway.
    • Actually, the author of the article did just this - she bought 2 papers on Gatsby, one pre-written and one written specially for her. (At an appropriately higher price, of course).

      The pre-written one was apparently pretty badly written (arguably like your average high-school student would write it), and the custom one was written with such excellent language that it was very well done. However, as she points out, most students can't write nearly as well as this paper was written, so in fact using an indivi
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:15AM (#10042365) Homepage Journal

    Rather than spending money on a paper, just run around the 'net picking up term papers on many and varied subjects. It's easy to do. Then trade with your friends and build up an immense collection. Finally, skim all the papers on your subject which you have collected, stitch together one term paper, edit it into your own personal style (even if this means it is less polished) and do minimal research to pad it out. You can do all of this research on the internet if you are careful, especially if your instructor does not demand that you provide citations for every last thing.

    This will not work for a thesis, but if you don't understand your thesis, fuck you anyway.

    This does take a lot longer than just buying a paper, but the risk with that is that you might be buying someone else's paper, and it might be detected. If you're willing to live with that risk, that's fine and dandy. Otherwise this should get you through it with a minimum of work expended, while producing a paper which will not show up as being copied, and even teaching you a little tiny bit about the subject matter.

    I have never done this because I have never had a class which required a term paper which I found demanding. Then again I've mostly been taking applied arts classes recently, and they have had practical examinations.

    • by shish ( 588640 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:37AM (#10042421) Homepage
      Copying one person is plagarism, copying many people is research.
    • What the hell? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by starsong ( 624646 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:52AM (#10042466)
      I mean seriously, what the fuck? You're willing to build up an "immense collection" of other people's papers, skim them, synthesize the pieces and bolt them together like an origami Frankenstein, but not willing to READ THE DAMN BOOK(S) AND THINK FOR A WHILE? Seriously. It's easy. If you're really lost, look up some published scholarly papers on the subject and use them to give you ideas. THEN CITE THEM.

      You know all that droning on the professor did in class? All that stuff about "themes" and "tropes" and "methods of analysis?" Guess what. The professor has already given you the tools you need. Look at your notes, then look at the book. Then hit yourself in the head with either/both until you make the connection.

      In the humanities, as long as your argument (you do have an argument, right? as in a thesis statement?) holds water and is even remotely logical and grounded in the book, you're golden. Oh, and at the end you'll actually understand the subject, more than "a tiny bit;" as in, you'll be able to apply the things you've learned elsewhere. I hear there are still some idealistic flower-people wandering about who think that's the whole point of college. Damn hippies.

      Plagiarism is like cheating at solitaire. It's not even solitaire anymore. You might as well be throwing cards around randomly. Why the hell would you want to spend four years doing that?
      • A very good post, I agree totally. The grandparents idea appears to be just as much work as doing a proper paper in the first place. What I fail to understand is why do they create such elaborate plans to avoid doing the work, when it's quite clear they a) do not learn anything on the subject and b) is almost just as much work.
        Cheating doesn't pay off in the long run, if you don't know what you're talking about, the chances are an employer will find out pretty fast.
  • by Ev0lution ( 804501 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:24AM (#10042394)
    My wife teaches at a university, and each year many of the first essay assignments she sets are copied straight off the internet, maybe with a bit of cut'n'pasting but often just a straight copy. We spend half an hour Googling phrases that the students were unlikely to have written (look for the long words!) and i'll bet we find 9 out of 10 sources. A written warning and a lecture from the head of studies and the problem is solved until the next year. Maybe 1 in 10 are smart enough to cover their sources so we can't prove they cheated, but, hey, that almost counts as research... ;-)
    • My wife ran across something similar while teaching at a community college. One of her students turned in an essay about the wrong topic, that wasn't really complete (ended suddenly).

      I happened to notice that when the student printed it, she had left the URL on the bottom of the pages, she had just printed straight out of Internet Explorer.

      I'm not sure which is worse:

      1. The Plagerism
      2. The fact that she was too lazy to see if the paper was complete
      3. The fact that she didn't even try to cover

    • My wife teaches at a university, and each year many of the first essay assignments she sets are copied straight off the internet, maybe with a bit of cut'n'pasting but often just a straight copy. We spend half an hour Googling phrases that the students were unlikely to have written (look for the long words!) and i'll bet we find 9 out of 10 sources. A written warning and a lecture from the head of studies and the problem is solved until the next year. Maybe 1 in 10 are smart enough to cover their sources so
    • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @12:46PM (#10046315) Journal
      My father recently retired from teaching high school. Although he taught in the maths and sciences (with many an interesting tale of cheating there) his best plagiarism tale comes from a coworker who taught French. We will call the teacher Mrs. Smith, and the student Billy. Names have been changed to protect the amusing.

      Billy was to write a brief essay on some topic--I forget what. A few paragraphs. No big deal, right?

      Billy didn't hand in the essay all term. Mrs. Smith allowed him repeated extensions, hoping to get Billy to turn at least something in. Billy performed poorly on tests, but survived some of the assignments, probably through the assistance of his fellow students.

      Mrs. Smith fully expected Billy to wash out during the exam, but was willing to give him every opportunity to get his act together. Finally, on the last day of French class, Billy proudly presented his paper, then dashed off to his next lecture.

      After the exam, Mrs. Smith sat down with Billy.
      "Billy," said she, "I'm a little bit concerned about the paper you handed in."
      "Really, Mrs. S? What...what seems to be the trouble?" Billy plays it cool.
      "Well, I'm a bit worried that it might not be entirely your own work..."
      "Why would you think that?"
      "For one thing, the language seems awfully advanced in places. I'm wondering if you perhaps had some help for parts of it...?" Relief bloomed on Billy's face. He was saved. He had an out.
      "Well, yes, Mrs. Smith. I did..um..have someone help me..put a few words down...but I pretty much wrote it."
      "And then there's the second thing. The paper is in Spanish."

  • Better 95% fix (Score:5, Interesting)

    by boots@work ( 17305 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:27AM (#10042399)
    If universities are concerned about cheating, they should give more weight to exams, where it is harder to cheat.

    Exams alone put too much weight on memorization and performance under pressure, rather than research and long-term thought.

    Therefore, tell people ahead of time what the broad area is, though not the specific topic. Let them bring in a few pages of notes, but those notes have to be submitted with the exam.

    • And that's why I don't care about degrees when evaluating prospective employees. I don't care how well you memorize things and work without reference materials.
    • I agree to a certain extend, BUT.. For classes such as programming classes, I feel I can't show just how good of a programmer I am by writing something on paper in 2 hours. A 2 hour written exam is just memorizing a shitload of stuff, but do you really LEARN what you're memorizing? I know people who's read a book the night before an exam and done pretty well, but they haven't learned jack shit..

      I prefer to have assignments during the year to see for myself what I know and what I need to lear as well as pr
      • Re:Better 95% fix (Score:3, Interesting)

        by boots@work ( 17305 )
        You can't do anything useful in two hours? I think if you're a good programmer, it ought to be possible.

        Doing programming exams on paper is pretty pointless, but that's a separate problem. Do them in a computer lab. Some examiners might want to cut off net access.

        What could you do?

        - here's a small problem. write a solution.

        - here's a mid-size program. find the bug in it.

        - here's a large program. add a new feature.

        - here's a large problem. write a design document on how you'd solve it.

  • And it only cost me a reasonable $20! Here's my new business plan:

    Write "Insightful" SlashDot posts for losers



  • Turnitin.com (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The ONE thing that really pissed me off about turnitin.com is that it gives your paper a "rating" on how many quotations you have, how common those quotes are, how many "similar" papers have been turned in etc, and it send the teacher a report that basically says whether your paper has a "green," good rating, eg you PROBABLY didn't cheat or improperly cite something, or "red," if it thinks you're cheatting.

    Can someone tell me how a "green" to "red" rating can really tell a teacher whether or not you're che
  • I do not know much about term papers and other things like that in English, but in Russian there are thousands of them in the Internet. For free.
    Hordes of students are downloading them in huge amounts that allows the site owners to sell not papers themself, but advertisement only. How do they get it ? Easily. Students nowadays are writing they papers using computers, so it is not a problem to share their work. Also some sites provides more detailed information - the name of the college(s) and of the profess
  • by whimsy ( 24742 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:37AM (#10042422)
    That people have this attitude that "it's a waste of time," "he thinks its my only class!," "it's just too much work!," etc. My best experiences in undergrad were when I had a huge workload, knocked everything out, even the bullshit work, in incnredible fashion, and reveled in it sleeplessly the next day.

    Word to the wise: this is how the real world works. No, it shouldn't be the way it goes, but it is. In upper division hard sciences and math, I pissed away more time googling for examples online that were like problems I was doing than really learning them sometimes. I paid for these times. Bide your time, do your work, but most importantly, carve out at least 5-10 hours a week for side projects you really enjoy. In an 18 credit semester where I was taking PChem, researching 20 hours a week, taking a 2 credit lab (read: 6 hours in lab, 4 hours writing lab reports, and I work quickly), I still had time to work on a software project, do sculpture, AND go out with my slacker buddies like it was my job. You. will. always. have. bullshit. work. Learn to live with it and quit bitching about the system; it's not some nebulous entity that's out to get you.

  • by Savet Hegar ( 791567 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:44AM (#10042441)
    several of the teachers subscribed to a lot of the websites where you can buy term papers and reports.

    While this doesn't stop the people who pay to have one written for them, or the ones who do a fair amount of tailoring their "store-bought" essays, it at least helps eliminate the stupid cheaters.

    I actually enjoy reading, so in my opinion, it's a waste of time and money to buy your reports when you learn so much more by doing it yourself. Not to mention the fact that you know you earned your grade honestly.

    I actually feel sorry for the people who short themselves by not doing the work themselves.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:46AM (#10042446)
    ...the importance of college. Middle American society is now at a state where college doesn't mean anything over just having completed some education. My college sociology class (jeez, that was 6 years ago now) touched on the phenomenon of credential inflation, wherein baccalaureate degrees become increasingly meaningless because everyone's got one.

    Really, the glut of colleges in the US makes attending one the duty of anyone who wants a decent job. Students go to college out of a perceived need for the result, so small wonder that most of them want to do as little as possible in their time there.

    In one sense it mimics the situation in east Asia where companies will hire any student who's gone through a good college; once you make it there, it behooves you to do just enough work to graduate, and spend the rest of the time unwinding (ok, partying) from the stress of having had to pass the entrance exams. Take the entrance exams out of the equation and you still pretty much have the same deal -- kids coming out of high school with more freedom but even less sense of purpose.

    From my college experience, it's apparent that students in liberal arts majors (not sciences or engineering -- class by themselves there) really have to try to fail, in order to fail. That doesn't mean self-sabotage so much as willful negligence of requirements. It's my humble opinion that failure to attend class with semi-regularity, to turn in homework at all (not necessarily on time), and to be in class on exam days really requires a conscious effort. More than likely its conscious reallocation of time and resources to such noble pursuits as binge drinking or playing Everquest.

    I think it could be time to nudge the bar of standards up, and get a handle on which students actually care enough to do the work. If there wasn't this giant push for everyone to complete college, the smaller number of college-educated people could actually make decent salaries. We've kind of lost the incentive -- now instead of going to college to get good jobs, we go to college to not get bad jobs. Hell, I'm going to grad school to get a good job. I often feel that I'm wasting my youth on it, but being as free of the machine as possible is a pretty strong motivator.

    My case for bringing apprenticeship back and giving it some respect is still fairly strong. However, overcoming the five-year itch culture is an entirely different matter which would fill volumes.
  • cheating (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Blittzed ( 657028 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:47AM (#10042450)
    Having been a professor for 4 years, it still amazes me to the length that students will go to, and the time they will waste in trying to get out of having to do the work assigned to them!

    One case in particular comes to mind afew years back where we set them an on-line tutorial to go through and answer some questions at the end. The questions varied, so this particular group spent DAYS going through the exercise and screen dumping all possible answers to the question, so they could answer any question given as an assignment. If they had just done the task given, it would only have taken them a few hours! I see similar examples all the time of students spending more time trying to "beat" the system, rather than just "extracting the digit" and getting on with it.

    • Re:cheating (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:25AM (#10042581)
      My favourite two were during my undergrad engineering degree

      - One girl got so carried away copying somebody else's problem sheet answers she copied the name off the top as well and handed it in with the other girl's name on it
      - For another problem sheet, several of the questions had been changed from the previous year's version. About 25% of the year still copied verbatim the answers from papers they got from people in the year above us, without even checking the questions.

      These people are probably running an oil refinery near you right now. Be afraid.
    • Re:cheating (Score:4, Informative)

      by Prof.Phreak ( 584152 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @06:03AM (#10042690) Homepage
      Having been a professor for 4 years, it still amazes me to the length that students will go to, and the time they will waste in trying to get out of having to do the work assigned to them!

      It amazes me that people bother paying for such education in the first place! I mean, if you're not here to learn, why bother coming?

      I also teach, and my solution to cheating is to allow students to bring in 1 sheet of notes to tests. Write anything you want on it. I've noticed that many students spend a lot of time preparing that sheet than actually studying---but while preparing the sheet, they tend to read through the material, etc., and during the exam, tend not to use that sheet ('cause I'd never ask questions that just require a simple right-out-of-the-book answer).
  • by sshtome ( 771249 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:54AM (#10042473)
    When you can just buy the damn degree! (itll take you 5 days). [degree-in-5-days.com]
  • Maybe the answer... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xugumad ( 39311 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @04:56AM (#10042482)
    ...would be to give out more original essay questions? Rather than telling students to do the same paper every other student at every other university is doing, have a little more creativity. Ask about more modern, ideally relatively recently released books. In the case of "classics", ask obscure questions.

    I did a degree in Computer Science, the only essays we had were on topics that were either relevant to that point in time, or were on lectures we had attended. Getting anything close online would have been next to impossible...

    Thoughts anyone?
  • by ImaLamer ( 260199 ) <john.lamar @ g m ail.com> on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:08AM (#10042528) Homepage Journal
    At my school (some of) the text books often times have an advertisement for turnitin.com on the backs of the books (composition class text books). This lets you know day one that the teachers are aware of this service - and makes you aware such a thing exists too.

    Problem is however I once was looking up something on the Windows 2000 architecture and noticed a site had the same word for word definition of "kernel" as my book. So I googled the exact phrase.

    Seems there were 100+ sites using the same exact definition. Well, by looking at the pages I noticed they all had the same author. Basically the page was on 100+ free hosts (and a few paid hosts).

    Well, I wondered who copied it first. Was the book the original or the website? After further investigation I found out our books are made in India. Likely it was the same person writing the book and decided to make a web page out of his work. Then I stumbled across someone who claimed to work for the company writing the books and he said the deadline for the books is 20 days!

    You must write a book on Cisco routers in 20 days too! Well, Sybex should sue the book writers because they not only stole text but diagrams right from their CCNA texts. Our Novell Netware book said that ARP was responsible for name-to-ip address resolution too!

    Extra mod points to the person who can guess which crappy school I'm stuck at...

    Hint: The text books are written by NIIT.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:09AM (#10042533)
    If a teacher submits a student's original paper to turnitin.com, doesn't that violate the student's copyright on the paper? (I believe turnitin.com stores the student's paper indefinately to check future papers against.)
  • erosion of quality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lutefish ( 746659 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:10AM (#10042540)
    IANAL, but I am a university professor of English. Admittedly, I have the advantage of teaching thousand year old books at a world-class university, which definitely narrows the options for 'buy em' papers to be submitted, but beyond that, avoiding/catching the 'purchased paper' all comes down to proper teaching. First, one can always assign particular paper topics: what sort of cow-town university assigns a paper, even for Freshman intro to composition, on 'Gatsby' without providing further guidance - themes and topics discussed, already, in class, issues examined and developed throughout the class, etc. This in itself gets rid of the ex nihilo aspect of purchased papers: 'gatsby as hero', 'gatsby as anti-hero' don't hack it when you've been discussing 'daisy as hero' or 'novels of social disfunction', for example.

    If you do choose to give students freedom in choosing paper topics, which I prefer, at least know your students and their work. Although it can be more problematic in large survey/lecture classes, somebody should know them and their abilities - you, TA, GSI, somebody. Again, the relevance of the paper to at least some of the ideas discussed in class is an obvious tip-off, as is a comparison to the students' interests exhibited in previously submitted work. It's not hard to spot a purchased paper, at all, if the professor/teacher is doing their job of teaching properly. 'Book reports' and cliffs' notes at the university level? Pah.

    All of which brings me to the point of my rant - this kind of stuff only happens at institutions that employ crap teachers. Not necessarily lousy universities, but ones that permit shoddy, sub-standard teachers who should be teaching elementary-school english to pose and parade as 'professors'. Even with a 4/4 brutal teaching load at a large public institution, this kind of thing is simply a non-issue for teachers that actually work at it, rather than treating academia as if it were some sort of sinecure. It's an ivory tower only if you let it be, and if purchased essays are proliferating throughout academia, it reflects far worse on the professors who are too thick and lazy to preclude such submissions (or identify them, without google or a paid service, on the strength of their knowledge of the student and his/her work), and the institutions employing them, than students, of whom there will always be a few willing to try and cheat their way around substandard interest, intellect, or discipline. /rant.

    • I also teach at a large public institution, and I don't think the cheating is that bad either. It is much worse at the more prestigious research universities. I once had a rash of cheating -- this was blatant plagiarism from websites -- from U Michigan students at a summer course I taught. I got to talk with a few of them after they were caught and they said that it was simply rampant where they went to school and that teachers there never catch them cheating. I can say at my university it happens a lot
  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:17AM (#10042562)
    If the goal is a good grade, the issues mentioned are relevant. If the goal is to learn something, there's no substitute for spending time learning it. Keeping this in mind, the usual idea of cheating can be understood as a confusion of these two issues. There's no way to cheat the learning process, and the grading process is just an algorithm which gives useful feedback to the student when the input is constrained to a certain domain.
  • by Potor ( 658520 ) <farker1@gmai l . c om> on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:22AM (#10042572) Journal
    I worked at a Belgian University and our program used to catch many cheaters (although some no doubt went undetected). Our method was simple: students had to hand in drafts as the semester wore on, and many professors would make an oral examination of the paper part of its evaluation. You cannot speak convincingly of something that you did not write.

    One professor had an even more radical method: he would only allow students to write about books that had just appeared, and the students had to structure their essays around specific questions that the professor posed. Impossible to get around this, unless you hire someone to write it to spec.

    cheers, potor

    • by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:44AM (#10042645) Homepage
      You cannot speak convincingly of something that you did not write.

      Politicians do it all the time.

  • Actually... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArbiterOne ( 715233 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:28AM (#10042593) Homepage
    I visited UCSD recently, and it is possible to legitimately buy exams, lecture notes, and past papers that people have written through a student-run office. Since they mentioned it in the tour, apparently it is widely used. However, it is also immediately obvious when a student has copied, due to the limited subset of papers available. Wouldn't this be a better solution than being Nazistic about it?
  • by Anonumous Coward ( 126753 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @05:31AM (#10042599)
    From turnitin.com [turnitin.com]:

    All work submitted to Turnitin is checked against three databases of content:
    3. Millions of student papers already submitted to Turnitin.

    So the teachers commit copyright infringement by submitting their students' works to turnitin and turnitin commits grand scale copyright infringement by copying, preserving and capitalising on "millions of student papers" without the students' permission. Great business!

    • So the teachers commit copyright infringement by submitting their students' works to turnitin and turnitin commits grand scale copyright infringement by copying, preserving and capitalising on "millions of student papers" without the students' permission. Great business!

      By submitting their papers to Turnitin, the students agree to allow Turnitin to use their papers in such a manner.

      Furthermore, you can't view any papers submitted to Turnitin unless you are the author, you are the author's teacher, or you
  • by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @06:52AM (#10042808) Homepage
    I took a bunch of free hosting accounts, plus my personal site. And posted my papers online. Sometimes each word in the paper linked to another copy of the paper (which did the same thing).

    So when the paper's due date had enough time to let me pull this little prank... it was normally never returned to me.

    A few times the teacher exempt me from what was a terrible paper, simply because they never got it back from the librarian running the plagarism check.

    Sometimes my name would be on top of the line copies, sometimes on the bottom, sometimes even in the HTML (when I wanted to really tick them off).

    Other times I would break up my paper, and post a sentence on each page.

    No rule against doing stuff like this. And it's a boatload of fun knowing your wasting someone's time!
  • by man_ls ( 248470 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @07:42AM (#10042949)
    My High School english classes were often irrelevant and pointless. We'd read feminist literature or classical Greek myths.

    College, on the other hand, was much more interesting. We read Fight Club and the Last American Man, watched Family Guy, etc and plotted their significance in society.

    Really a fascinating class.
  • by Coppit ( 2441 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @08:28AM (#10043106) Homepage
    A few years back I was a teaching assistant for a lab for CS 201 at the University of Virginia. This is a tough weed-out class that all the CS majors had to take. We had an undergraduate TA working with us--undergrads who had taken the class before often are a lot better than the grad students.

    This one time he was helping some students with their code, and was impressed how they had done it.

    That is, until he realized it was his code! Apparently someone had stolen his code from when he had taken it and kept it archived for later.

  • by happyduckworks ( 683158 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @08:55AM (#10043307)
    How many of you have ever helped or been helped by a boyfriend/girlfriend? I know of several instances of advanced degrees that were really earned by significant others. (It only seems to be possible in soft subjects, like English or Social Sciences.)

    Love makes people do strange (and unethical) things.

    I once wrote all of the essays for a g/f in a college-level English class. I was proud of them. They were really good - too good. One time, her laziness saved her from being caught: she skipped a class after having turned in one of my best efforts, and, luckily, therefore missed having to read it aloud to the rest of the class. I'd put too many words in that she didn't know and couldn't pronounce properly. The close call told me I had to dumb my stuff down a bit.

    How the teacher never caught on, I'll never know, though it may have had something to do with how hot she was. There are certainly many ways to catch this kind of thing (as the above discussions show). He gave her an A+ and a glowing recommendation that helped her to transfer to a better college. I felt bad about aiding and abetting. That g/f is long gone, but I believe her lack of a good foundation in English eventually caught up with her (I'm now married to someone who'd not have needed nor would have sought such help).

  • by nasor ( 690345 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @01:23PM (#10046733)
    Although the iParadigms corporation (the parent company of turnitin.com) likes to scream to anyone who will listen that there's nothing wrong with turnitin.com, the truth is that by using it schools are almost guaranteed to violate both copyright laws and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

    When a teacher submits a paper to turnitin.com the paper is archived indefinitely in their database for comparison to future paper submissions. In nearly all cases this is done without the student's knowledge or permission, which violates that student's copyrights. Remember, YOU own the rights to any school papers that you create, even if your only purpose in writing the paper is to fulfill a class assignment. There are certain instances in which a school will require a student to sign an intellectual property rights waver that gives up the copyrights on anything that they create to the school, but this happens almost exclusively with university graduate students - not the undergrads and highschoolers that turnitin.com is aimed at. Turnitin.com is using your copyrighted material for commercial purposes without your permission.

    All copyright issues aside, use of turnitin.com also violates FERPA, which is a federal law prohibiting schools from sharing student's records, coursework, or pretty much anything else with anyone outside the school system (like, say, a for-profit corporation) without the student's explicit permission. The entire turnitin.com company is based around violating federal law.

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.