Net Reference or Net Copy???


Prof. M. Selvalakshmi
Thiagarajar School of Management
Madurai-625 005


The plague that is fast spreading among the college goers today is Plagiarism. While any upcoming institution may boast of the use of technically advanced tools for education support system, the outcome is far more devastating.

With the Net generation anything is possible with search engines. The search engines like Yahoo, Google, Altavista when typed with appropriate keywords, pour data about "Web paper mills," sites that collect and distribute papers on the Web, either free or for a fee. The student has practically no difficulty in doing a cut and paste work without worrying about the source or its credibility. This habit has got to the roots of the education system of the 21 st century. School going children, when given a home assignment consult first with the search engines before discussing with their friends or colleagues. This would practically mar their learning process.

Plagiarism is a serious matter in academia and the professional world. Penalties for plagiarizing is rather dependent upon the concerned teacher based on his/her awareness about the drawback in Net reference. The student may receive anything from an 'F' grade for the class, academic probation, expulsion, or even degrees being withdrawn. In the professional world, legal suits and professional humiliation have ensued.

Plagiarism Defined:

The following is quoted from the Office of Student Life's Academic Dishonesty Policy:

"Plagiarism is the inclusion of someone else's product, words, ideas, or data as one's own work. When a student submits work for credit that includes the product, words, ideas, or data of others, the source must be acknowledged by the use of complete, accurate, and specific references, such as footnotes. Expectations may vary slightly among disciplines. By placing one's name on work submitted for credit, the student certifies the originality of all work not otherwise identified by appropriate acknowledgements. On written assignments, if verbatim statements are included, the statements must be enclosed by quotation marks or set off from regular text as indented extracts....

The irony is that many students are not aware of the blunder that they commit. They are not found guilty of their work and are puzzled when an issue is raised. When penalized for their mistake they handle it as an unforeseen crisis and are much perturbed emotionally.

Threats due to Plagiarism:

1. It totally inhibits the student from thinking about the topic.
2. It undervalues the importance of uniqueness in thought process and approach.
3. It prevents the student from moving on to the field to collect first hand information.
4. It provides a westernized context to any topic of discussion.
5. It prevents the student from understanding the local scenario.
6.  It prevents the students from entering into a healthy discussion about the topic   with his colleagues and friends.
7. It results in a laziness condition called "cyber-sloth" among the students.
8. Above all it shakes the faith on the value of Honesty for there are many who are not guilty of their work.

Case histories:

Kaavya Viswanathan, a student of Harvard University was penalized based on a Crimson report that revealed that her first book, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, Got a Life", contained passages similar to those in a 2001 novel "Sloppy Firsts." Further to this her first book was withdrawn from hundreds of bookshops across America and her lucrative second book contract was also cancelled.  She was more or less swept by the worldwide media storm over plagiarism charges.

Balwant Singh Rajput, head of Kumaun University in Indian, resigned after an investigation committee found him guilty of "word by word" plagiarism. The panel found that large sections of an article by Rajput and his research associates were taken from a paper written by Renata Kallosh, a particle physicist at Stanford University.

The U.S. Naval Academy demoted the history professor, Brian VanDeMark, from associate to assistant professor slashed his salary from $73,000 to $63,000, after an internal investigation found that he had plagiarized material in his book about the development of the atomic bomb. A written statement from the Naval Academy said that Mr. VanDeMark's actions were the result of "gross carelessness" but did not "constitute a deliberate effort to pass off the works of other authors as his own."

Plagiarism when done at the professional level may ruin the career of an individual.

How to sensitize the students?

Bhaskaran Raman, an Assistant Professor at IIT Kanpur, insists on the submission of a handwritten declaration with the text as below. He believes that the stress on the handwritten aspect is to ensure that the thought delve on the students' mind for at least the time it takes to write it by hand.

But the real solution is in the hands of the teachers who raise the questions to the students. Jamie McKenzie, the Editor of From Now On - The Educational Technology Journal (May, 1998) suggests seven antidotes to the teachers to prevent electronic robbery.

1. Distinguish levels/types of research:

The students should be asked to do research at various levels from "just facts" to "conventional thinking" to the stage of working on "new ideas and synthesis". 

2. Discourage "trivial pursuits":

The teachers should emphasize questions which challenge students at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy rather than engaging them in trivial aspects.

3. Emphasize essential questions:

Essential questions are those that would invoke an investigation that would shed light on the darker side of the field of study.

4. Require and enable students to make answers:

The students must be taught to find out the underlying structure and then construct or deconstruct the original until it shimmers with originality.

5. Focus upon information storage systems:

The students should go beyond collecting information using net. They should b prudent enough to store the information in a retrievable mode.

6. Stress "green ink" and citation ethics

The students should be taught to differentiate the ideas they have collected from others and those ideas which they have generated in reaction to the ideas of others.

7. Assess progress throughout the entire research process

The students should be continuously assessed to check and fine tune their ideas and thoughts during the research.


Though it is heart warming to learn about the exposure levels of the Net generation, the little value placed upon questioning and original thought sends alarming signals. What is more important in the utilization of technology is that, it should never drain the human brains and its inherent capability to weave a new network based on previous ideas.


* From Now On- The Educational Technology Journal, Vol. 7, No 8, May 1998.
* Kim McMurtry, Nov.2001, "e-cheating: Combating a 21st Century Challenge"

About the author: Prof.M.Selvalakshmi
The author is a Professor at Thiagarajar School of Management, Madurai, handling papers for the MBA students in Behavioral sciences and Marketing. She may be reached at

Prof. M. Selvalakshmi
Thiagarajar School of Management
Madurai-625 005

Source: E-mail December 28, 2006


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