I am kind of envious of kids at University today, what with the Internet and search engines and everything. Think how much more drinking time in the student union I could have had if I could have simply fired up Google and proceeded to copy and paste someone else's essay, and then submitted it as my own. All over in less than an hour, I should think, leaving me more time to be an alcoholic and a womaniser.
According to Leeds Metropolitan University professor Sally Brown, the practice of stealing otherís work from the Net for University assignments has become very mainstream, to such an extent that today's college and university students have been brought up seeing nothing wrong with stealing other people's work at all.
In her paper, Prof Brown will say that many students do not necessarily see anything wrong with copying other people's work. Students, according to Prof Brown, say things such as, "If they are stupid enough to give us three assignments with the same deadline, what can they expect?" and "I just couldn't say it better myself."
Professor Brown has advocated several steps in tackling this. She recommends better attempts to deter and punish this behaviour; to make the penalties known and try to educate the students on the issue; to try to "design it out" - her preferred option - for example by setting assignments that required personal knowledge or keeping a diary or showing work in progress; and to change the culture in which students are working.
But with companies like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft working harder than ever to try to get the right information to us when we ask for it, this problem is unlikely to go away in a hurry.