Wednesday, January 2, 2013

High Distinctions for Sale

Turnitin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Patrick O'Keeffe, Online Opinion:

The emergence of numerous sites offering essay writing services to students has universities scrambling to change policies on academic misconduct.

Within Australia, the issue of plagiarism was magnified in October 2012, when an article published by The Australian, centered on the expulsion of 9 students from Deakin University. The students were expelled for submitting essays which they had purchased online.

Detecting just who is submitting their own work is seemingly an impossible task for universities. This is made easier by software such as Turnitin, which is now in widespread use within higher education institutions.

As explained by Kelly Heyboer writing for The Star Ledger, "The Turnitin software allows professors to upload a paper and instantly check the text against 14 billion web pages and an archive of 150 million student papers. The professors are sent a report detailing any sentences or paragraphs in the student paper that appear to be lifted from other sources."

Some claim that programs such as Turnitin might actually be creating the situation where students are more likely to plagiarise.

Speaking with The Age, Dr Ruth Walker of Wollongong University stated that programs such as Turnitin had a negative impact upon student anxiety, stating that "When people are more anxious they can do bad things."

International Education Association of Australia Executive Director Phil Honeywood claimed that despite the use of Turnitin, "tracking down plagiarism is not a perfect science."

Purchasing essays, on the other hand, appears to be a relatively perfect science. Out of interest, (and as if to model the modern researching strategy), I googled 'essays for sale'. Surely it wouldn't be as easy as that, I foolishly thought.

To my surprise, a number of different websites immediately popped up offering students "first rate" essays from as little as $9 per 300 word page.

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