Forget plagiarism: there’s a unique and bigger threat to academic integrity.

Forget plagiarism: there’s a unique and bigger threat to academic integrity.

Adele Thomas does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any organization or organisation that could take advantage of this article, and contains disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

University of Johannesburg provides funding as a partner associated with the Conversation AFRICA.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

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Academic plagiarism is no longer just sloppy “cut and paste” jobs or students cribbing large chunks of an assignment from a friend’s earlier essay on the topic that is same. These days, students can simply visit any one of a number of paper or essay mills that litter the world-wide-web and get a completed assignment to present as their own.

These shadowy companies are not going away any time soon. Paper mills can’t easily be shut or policed down by legislation. And there’s a trickier issue at play here: they provide a site which an number that is alarming of will happily use.

Managing this form that is newest of academic deceit will require time and effort from established academia and a renewed dedication to integrity from university communities.

Unmasking the “shadow scholar”

In November 2010, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article that rocked the academic world. Its anonymous author confessed to having written significantly more than 5000 pages of scholarly work per year on the behalf of university students. Ethics was among the issues that are many author had tackled for clients.

The practice continues 5 years on. At a conference about plagiarism held in the Czech Republic in June 2015, one speaker revealed that as much as 22% of students in a few Australian undergraduate programmes had admitted to purchasing or going to buy assignments on the web.

In addition emerged that the paper mill business was booming. One site claims to receive two million hits each month for its 5000 free downloadable papers. Another allows cheats to electronically interview the individuals that will write their papers. Some even claim to employ university professors to guarantee the grade of work.

An example of among the many paper mills that a simple Google search brings up.

Policing and legislation becomes rather difficult since the company selling assignments may be domiciled in america while its “suppliers”, the ghostwriters, are based elsewhere on the planet. The client, a university student, could be any place in the world – New York City, Lagos, London, Nairobi or Johannesburg.

No fixes that are quick

In the event that ongoing companies and writers are all shadows, how do paper mills be stopped? The answers most likely lie with university students – along with the academics who help them learn.

The writer that is anonymous paper mill tales shocked academia explained within the piece which kinds of students were utilizing these services and simply exactly how much these were ready to pay. In the right time of writing, he was making about US$66,000 annually. His three main client groups were students for whom English is a moment language; students that are struggling academically and the ones that are lazy and rich.

His criticism is stinging:

I live well regarding the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your particular system that is educational has.

Ideally, lecturers when you look at the system of which he’s so dismissive should know their students and be able to therefore detect abnormal patterns of work. However with large undergraduate classes of paper writing service 500 students or more, this amount of engagement is impossible. The chance for greater direct engagement with students rises at postgraduate levels as class sizes drop.

Academics must also carefully design their ways of assessment mainly because could serve to deter students from buying assignments and dissertations. Again, this method is more feasible with smaller numbers of postgraduate students and live dissertation defences.

This really isn’t foolproof. Students may still make the time to familiarise themselves using the contents of this documents they’ve bought so that they can answer questions without exposing their dishonesty.

Some academics suggested that students should write assignments on templates supplied by their university which will track when work is undertaken and when it’s incorporated into the document at the conference. However, this kind of remedy is still being developed.

There was another nagging problem with calling on academics alone to tackle plagiarism. Research suggests that many may themselves be guilty of the identical offence or may ignore their students’ dishonesty because they feel investigating plagiarism takes too much effort.

It has also been proved that cheating behaviour thrives in environments where there are few or no consequences. But perhaps herein lies an answer that could aid in addressing the dilemma of plagiarism and paper mills.

Universities exist to advance thought leadership and moral development in society.

As a result, their academics should be role models and must promote ethical behaviour within the academy. There should be a zero tolerance policy for academics who cheat. Extensive instruction must certanly be provided to students concerning the pitfalls of cheating in addition they must be taught ways to enhance their academic writing skills.

Universities must develop a culture of integrity and continue maintaining this through ongoing dialogue in regards to the values by which academia is situated. Additionally they want to develop institutional moral responsibility by really examining how student cheating is dealt with, confronting academics’ resistance to reporting and dealing with such cheating, and taking a challenging get up on student teaching.

Should this be done well then institutional values will end up internalised and practised due to the fact norm. Developing such cultures requires determined leadership at senior university levels.