Canada

Carleton students caught in plagiarism scandal

Twenty-nine Carleton University students have been caught in a plagiarism scandal.

Carleton University is dealing with the largest case of student plagiarism in the university's history.

Twenty-nine engineering students got 0, after professors caught them cheating on essays about professional ethics.

Don Russell, the associate dean of the university's engineering programme, has spent the past five months investigating the charges.

"When you read the essays you can sense an indication of a change in writing style, a change in word usage, a change in grammar. It's like changing from my writing to Shakespeare," he said.

Using the Internet to cheat is easy. In this case the students used online search engines to find other people's work, then lifted the text from the web and tried pass it off as their own.

They were caught when their professors used the same search engines to look for key words in the suspicious papers.

Melissa Armstrong of the Carleton Student Association says using the Internet to cheat can be tempting, especially for students who are facing increased pressures.

"It's costing a lot more for students, so students are forced to work full or part-time while they are going to school. So the hours that they can dedicate to their schooling are less. So then it becomes the easy route, 'I'm just going to do a search on the Internet see what I can find.'"

Internet plagiarism has gotten so bad, finding it and stopping it has fostered its own industry. Last fall the University of Western Ontario hired a California-based company called turnitin.com to check their students work for plagiarism.

The online service compares submitted essays to a data bank of term papers, academic journals, and other sources.

Librarian Walter Zimmerman says it appears to be working. "It put enough of a fear into the student to make them, hopefully, honest. And if they're not, they'll perhaps get caught."

Western doesn't keep a central record of every case of academic fraud that's uncovered. But Zimmerman says about 100 professors are using the service, and most have reported a drop in plagiarism.