Cut and paste
March 21, 2004 9:00 p.m.
Finals week is here, and the pressure to do well on final exams
and papers can push some students over the edge.
With the availability of several paper databases and student
networking capabilities, the pressure to perform may cause students
to look to plagiarism as an option.
Several students in recent weeks have received e-mails
soliciting old papers they may have written or may be willing to
Michelle Singer, a third-year political science student and
former Daily Bruin columnist, received an e-mail from another
student who wanted to buy one of her old papers, but she said she
did not want to notify the administration for fear of being
implicated in cheating.
“The student who was trying to buy my paper said that she
had (gotten) my e-mail from a mutual friend in the class, and she
was interested in buying a paper from me that I had (written) for a
class last quarter,” Singer said.
“I know that cheating is rampant here, but I still
thought, “˜How could a student be so bold as to send an e-mail
with her entire name in it?’ I’ve never seen anything
like this before,” Singer said, adding that she did not know
from whom the student had received her contact information.
One student discovered that taking this risk has its
A fourth-year student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was
caught for posting a listing on the Internet soliciting someone to
write a paper for him. He believes students who buy papers
don’t always have the intention of plagiarizing.
“I was taking a graduate-level class, and I had all this
other work … it (had gotten) down to the wire, and I needed a
topic ““ I needed a paper. I was hard-pressed to find one, so
I decided to post a listing,” the student said, adding that
he received a few responses from students interested in the
“I ended up not using any of them, because I knew how
stupid of an idea it was after I did it,” he said.
Soon after, the student was called into his professor’s
office and then the dean’s office to discuss his post.
“I had no idea how serious it was. I explained to them I
only needed a paper topic, and after several meetings, they decided
to let me go,” he added.
He also said he believes all students who purchase papers online
do not have the intention of using them as their own, adding that
reading someone else’s work will only enhance what they
“I think you should be exposed to all pieces of
information you think are important to what you’re writing.
If you believe you need to see someone else’s paper on the
same topic, then you should be able to look at that. It’s the
same thing with books ““ sometimes the idea is the same as
yours, and you have to buy it in order to read it,” the
Students offer mixed opinions as to whether purchasing a paper
leads to plagiarism.
Some Internet services sell papers to students and maintain that
students are using the papers solely for research purposes.
Diana Sedano, a fourth-year microbiology, immunology and
molecular genetics student, thinks purchasing a paper is likely to
lead students to plagiarize.
“If a student wanted to borrow someone’s paper just
to look at it, they wouldn’t need to buy it. If they were
legitimately using it to know what the format was like, they
definitely wouldn’t pay for it. If you buy a paper, you
definitely have the intention of copying it,” Sedano
Students and professors at UCLA are equally bothered by the
amount of plagiarism and cheating that occurs not only during
finals week, but throughout the rest of the quarter as well.
“It’s frustrating as a hardworking student to see
someone here get good grades for something they didn’t
do,” said Alejandro Escalante, a third-year microbiology,
immunology and molecular genetics student.
Political science Professor John Zaller believes that he
approaches plagiarism and cheating in a way that deters students
from thinking it is a possible solution.
“I make a conscious effort to trade off between different
types of testing ““ although students are able to express
themselves better during take-home exams, I know the possibility of
plagiarizing is higher. Therefore, I do a trade-off between
take-home exams and in-class exams,” Zaller said.
Zaller, like some professors at UCLA, has looked to the Internet
as a means of attempting to eliminate plagiarism.
UCLA obtained a site license to use a service called
Turnitin.com, a Web site launched in 2001 which enables students to
submit their work to the Web site and have their assignments
compared to other documents, such as encyclopedias, books and even
previously submitted student papers.
Each assignment is graded with an “originality”
percentage, and each instructor may decide to investigate the
low-originality papers for possible plagiarism.
Many students think cheating is wrong, but they still question
whether it is their responsibility to report another student who
they suspect might be practicing academic dishonesty.
“As a student, I think the only thing I can do to stop
cheating is report it when I see it. I don’t know what the
answer to this problem is, and I don’t think a lot of other
people do either. Cheating bothers me, and I think it bothers a lot
of other people, but a lot of us don’t know how to deal with
it,” Singer said.
The Office of the Dean of Students penalizes hundreds of
students each year for academic dishonesty.
Hundreds more go undetected, but Escalante said if he cheated,
he would be acting against his principles.
“If I cheated, I know that I would be failing myself as a
person, and in the end, someone will find out. If you take the easy
way out, you’re going to fail in the long run,”