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  • Forget plagiarism: there’s a brand new and bigger threat to academic integrity.

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

    Adele Thomas doesn’t work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that will reap the benefits of this article, and contains disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

    University of Johannesburg provides funding as a partner of this Conversation AFRICA.

    The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

    Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence.

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    Academic plagiarism is no more 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 buy a completed assignment to provide because their own.

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

    Managing this newest form of academic deceit will need hard work 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 world that is academic. Its anonymous author confessed to having written more than 5000 pages of scholarly work per year on behalf of university students. Ethics was on the list of issues that are many author had tackled for clients.

    The practice continues 5 years on. At a conference about plagiarism held when you look at the Czech Republic in June 2015, one speaker revealed that up to 22% of students in some australian programmes that are undergraduate admitted to buying or planning to buy assignments on the web.

    It also emerged that the paper mill business was booming. One site claims to receive two million hits every month for the 5000 free papers that are downloadable. Another allows cheats to interview the people electronically that will write their papers. Some even claim to hire university professors to guarantee the grade of work.

    An example of one of many paper that is many that a simple Google search brings up.

    Policing and legislation becomes difficult because the company selling assignments may be domiciled in the usa while its “suppliers”, the ghostwriters, are based elsewhere on earth. The customer, a university student, might be any place in the globa world – write my essay New York City, Lagos, London, Nairobi or Johannesburg.

    No quick fixes

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

    The anonymous writer whose paper mill tales shocked academia explained when you look at the piece which types of students were utilizing these services and simply exactly how much they were prepared to pay. In the period of writing, he was making about US$66,000 annually. His three client that is main were students for whom English is an additional language; students who will be struggling academically and those who are lazy and rich.

    His criticism is stinging:

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

    Ideally, lecturers within 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 500 students or maybe more, this known degree of engagement is impossible. The chance for greater direct engagement with students rises at postgraduate levels as class sizes drop.

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

    This isn’t foolproof. Students may still use the time for you to familiarise themselves with all the contents of this documents they’ve bought for them to respond to 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 sort of remedy continues to be being developed.

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

    It has in addition been proved that cheating behaviour thrives in environments where you can find few or no consequences. But perhaps herein lies an answer which could assist 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 must certanly be role models and must promote behaviour that is ethical the academy. There ought to be a zero tolerance policy for academics who cheat. Extensive instruction must certanly be provided to students in regards to the pitfalls of cheating and they needs to 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 upon which academia is based. In addition they need to develop institutional responsibility that is moral really examining how student cheating is dealt with, confronting academics’ resistance to reporting and working with such cheating, and taking a hardcore get up on student teaching.

    If this is done well then institutional values will become internalised and practised whilst the norm. Developing such cultures requires determined leadership at senior university levels.

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