A survey of around 350 undergraduates found nearly 25% had copied text from another source at least once. A new service that can scan 4.5 billion web pages is now online so that lecturers can check the originality of the work submitted by students.
I wonder how much of this plagiarism would be avoided if there were a simple, easy way to automatically cite sources retrieved from the Internet and encyclopedias. I mean, there’s BibTEX for scholars, and Encyclopedia Britannica has started providing MLA style citations for articles, but after 15 something years of the Internet, why isn’t this automatic?
I think what we need is:
- a combination of a bibliographic tool, like the one proposed for inclusion with the OpenOffice.org office suite
- some kind of browser plugin or feature designed to automatically capture site meta-data like URI, author, date created, date updated/accessed, etc.
There’s been some interesting work in the blogging space with bookmarklets that automatically fill in the cite field in blockquotes and stuff like that, but if there was an easily available set of student tools, I think you’d see plagiarism drop. Not in the “I grabbed a paper of the Internet” sense, but in the “I got this somewhere, but don’t know where and I’m to lazy to find it again” context.