CUT-AND-PASTE CHEATERS PROMPT FACULTY TO CLICK AND COMPARE
Amy Weldon ' 99 (MA) was in her
apartment grading her English 12 stu-
dents' eighth assignment of the semester
when alarm bells began going off in her
head. ''There was one paper in particular
where something about it struck me as
being not quite right - it didn't seem to
belong to the student," she said."The
facility with words ... the way the sentences flowed seemed like they weren't
quite his, and the point being made was
more sophisticated than any in his previous assignments."
So Weldon logged on to her computer
and went to a Web site that catalogues
papers available for sale over the Internet
that a fellow teaching assistant had mentioned to her. She searched for a few key
phrases from the student's paper. Sure
enough, the site pulled up a few exact
The student eventually pled gUilty to
the plagiarism charges and apologized to
Weldon for cheating on the assignment.
Although that case is closed, Weldon's
cheating scenario illustrates an important
new truth about cheating at colleges and
universities. Technology - particularly the
Internet - is making it both easier for
students to cheat and for instructors to
catch them in the act.
"I think two ofthe bigger dangers [of
advances in technology] are: I) how easy
it is to plagiarize via the Web - just cut
and paste; and 2) that it can be done so
anonymously;' Rutgers professor and
cheating researcher Don McCabe told the
Review in an e-mail. But as professors, too,
become more technically savvy, the number of such cases may increase as more
cheating is detected.
This truth received a lot of publicity in
May when a professor at the University of
Virginia, which also has a strong honor
code system, did a computer search of
assignments that students in his popular
physics course,"How Things Work," had
submitted in the past two years. Professor
Louis A. Bloomfield had asked students to
turn in their papers in electronic format.
He designed a computer program to
detect six-word strings that the papers had
in common - ultimately more than 100
students appeared to have copied their
assignments from each other and were
referred to UVa's Honor Committee.
Newspapers covering the scandal
noted that the UVa case was the first significant example of a professor turning
the technological table back on the students attempting to use computers for
less than noble purposes, perhaps giving
some potential cheaters pause.
- Rebecca Morphis ' 97