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John Buckley

One of the questions every blind teacher must answer, regardless of their specialty or grade level, is: "How will you prevent students from cheating?" It is a reasonable question, and one that is taking on a new dimension.

Access to the Internet is not only making a wealth of research accessible but also opening a treasure trove of possibility for plagiarism. Search engines and "cut and paste" make old temptations easier. Over 1,500 Web Sites, either free or at a nominal cost, offer essays and papers on almost every conceivable topic. If this weren't bad enough, e-mail makes it easy for even the technologically unsophisticated to borrow from other students' work. Surveys of thousands of high school and college students suggest the problem is significant. Some of the representative findings are: Over 70 per cent of high school and 75 per cent of college students admit to one or more instances of "serious cheating." More than 30 per cent of students admit to "repetitive or serious" cheating. More than half of the high school students and More than 10-20 per cent of the college students acknowledged downloading a paper from a Web Site or submitting a paper from a paper mill. Half of college students admit to "serious" cheating on written assignments.

Although research consistently indicates the level of student cheating has increased in the last quarter century, documenting it is a little like denouncing original sin. There are, however, two elements of the current research that are of special interest. First, the Internet makes it easier to cheat and detection more difficult. One researcher quotes students as saying, "We're way ahead of our teachers when it comes to the Internet." Second, cheating flourishes when students believe their teachers don't consider it an important issue. Almost half of students surveyed felt teachers "sometimes ignore cheating." Often, this is a correct impression. In a 1999 survey of over 1,000 faculty on 21 campuses, one-third acknowledged they had done nothing when they were aware of cheating in their classes. Student respondents agreed that cheating is higher when it is well known that teachers ignore cheating.

It is one of the dirty little secrets of teaching that, while no one wants to encourage plagiarism, detecting cheating is a thankless, time-consuming task that siphons off time and energy from activities that are rewarded by superiors. Obviously, the statistics cited above underscore that sighted colleagues aren't doing very well at preventing online plagiarism either.

So, how can we maintain academic integrity while having time for the rest of our work? Some University of Wisconsin faculty have compiled the following practical list of suggestions. The purpose is not so much to catch cheaters as to prevent plagiarism by teaching students about intellectual property and academic integrity. While it is intended for the college class, it is equally useful for the high school or middle-school teacher.

General suggestions:

1. Be familiar with the Internet and convey this impression to your students.

2. Put up a Home Page.

3. Include assignments that draw on Web resources.

4. Use terminology common to Web users--"home page," "Web sites," "search engines," "html."

5. Discuss criteria for evaluating Web resources.

6. Add citation of Internet resources to hand-outs on bibliographic style for papers. MLA, APA, and other style manuals have e-sections. See "Internet Citation Guides,

7. Learn how to use one or more search engines effectively and do your own spot checking of titles and phrases.

8. Find a Web mentor.

Suggestions for assignments:

1. Put papers through drafts/revisions whenever possible.

2. Try to avoid "write on any topic you want."

3. If you post student papers as part of a class Web Site, limit access to the Site to class members, or remove the papers at the end of the semester. Otherwise, you are posting papers with the "Good Housekeeping" seal to plagiarize.

4. Have students explain their search strategy. Where did they find the actual material? Which periodical databases did they use? Which search terms in those databases did they use? If they used Web sources, which search engine and search terms did they use, etc.?

5. Have students exchange papers (or redistribute anonymously) and ask them to locate all the articles cited on the bibliography. This may seem extreme, but I have used this assignment and it not only greatly minimizes plagiarism but is an excellent lesson in researching.

Suggestions especially for college:

1. Incorporate Web resources and add URLs for databases and individual journals for (relatively recent) articles that you list on any bibliography you hand out.

2. Attend intro. or subject-oriented workshop(s) offered by the campus library.

3. Find a meta-site for your discipline and browse it from time to time. Such sites are frequently updated, often annotated, and taking a look at them from time to time can keep you up to date on Web developments in your field. To find such a meta-site, ask a colleague who is a Web groupie, or use the Internet Scout Project,
The Project includes e-mail newsletters about new sites of interest to academics.

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