He offers what he believes is perhaps a more comprehensive method: collaborating (42). Clabaugh suggests assigning more than one student to a research assignment, and thereby creating a shared result of success, or, in the case of plagiarism, a shared responsibility and shared consequence (42). This is one suggestion, but it also deprives the student of individual success and credit. Also, Clabaugh's contention that electronic means of identifying plagiarism as being largely unsuccessful, would perhaps be disputed by the many universities and colleges and even professors who require students to submit their papers to those entities for electronic review before submitting the paper. The hope is that identifying plagiarism before the work is turned in to the professor would serve as a deterrent for that assignment, and for others if plagiarism is discovered.
Many colleges and universities also require that students submit writing samples, and those samples serve to demonstrate the student's abilities in writing and research. Unfortunately, the universities and colleges also provide writing labs, where students earn work study credit by working with their peers providing editing and writing assistance. The writing samples become moot when students use the legal and available college services, and there is no way to prove or disprove that the student's improved writing abilities were not as a result of using the college services.
At the end of the day, again, the best approach is perhaps that approach that appeals to the student's own sense of right and wrong, and creating a system that recognizes and rewards the student for their work at an undergraduate level.
A Lost Cause
Putting businesses out of business has proven much more difficult, and probably more costly, than many academic institutions had hoped. The sheer number of web sites selling student papers demonstrates that it would be a lost cause to attempt to put those sites out of business. Also, as Lathrop and Foss pointed out, lawsuits have thus far been unsuccessful, and the sites carry clever disclaimers and terms of agreement that specifically advise clients not to plagiarize their papers.
In 1998, a federal judge threw out a suit brought against five term paper mills by Boston University (USA Today 2009). USA Today online reported that "some of the companies not to sell papers in the state and specifically to Boston University students, says attorney Robert B. Smith, who represented BU (online at http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-11-19-termpapers19_VA_N.htm)."
This supports Lathrop and Foss' statement that such lawsuits have thus far been unsuccessful. It takes us back to the student, and appealing to the student's sense of conscience and integrity.
It could well be that there is no solution to this problem, and that to the extent that institutions and professors are able to prove plagiarism, such cases will have to suffice and to stand as cautions to other students who have not yet bought internet papers. It is, after all, in the best interest of all students to do their own work. It affords them the opportunity to look beyond their scope of expertise, and to challenge their selves in ways that they might not otherwise have an opportunity to do once outside of the academic setting. There are, after all, great benefits for the scientific mind to gain from the study of philosophy, history, and especially business courses that might be required of them to complete their undergraduate degrees.
By the same token, it might be unreasonable to expect the student who has achieved academic success in the coursework directly related to his or to her major, especially when the major is a science one that is preparing the student for a career in medical disciplines, to endure what might seem to them unnecessary study of Kant, Plato, the World War II, or art history. Even as that sentence is written here, the absurdity of the idea that anyone one student would not benefit from the study of these subjects, regardless of their expertise, or the notion that these subjects might strike them as empty or boring negates any argument in the direction of eliminating those courses from the curriculum of the undergraduate study program. Nor does the argument that some students simply have no gift for writing suffice, because it is a necessary skill in whatever major or life path they might choose.
Eliminating plagiarism is about preparing the student for success in their career and in their personal life. Meeting academic deadlines is but a prelude to the expectations they will have to meet in their chosen careers, and it is better to face the penalty of being late with a paper than it is to suffer the loss of personal integrity and the possible humiliation of academic suspension for choosing plagiarism over being late and perhaps having to accept a penalty in a grade mark down for not making the due date.
For the institution, policing integrity could be all consuming of time and resources in a very harmful way, and in a way that proves inefficient and unproductive. Integrity is a personal characteristic, and perhaps it is enough that we leave it at that, and we should leave the student to wrestle with the choice and the burden of conscience. We can set goals of excellence for students, but we cannot force them to accept those goals if they lack the personal integrity to do so. That lack of personal integrity will surely become a stumbling block to them as they move through life; which will probably be a greater punishment for them than any punishment the institution can impose upon them.
Clabaugh, Gary K., 2001. Preventing Plagiarism and Cheating: An Instructor's Manual,
New Foundations, found online at http://www.newfoundations.com/.
Lathrop, Ann and Foss, Kathleen, 2000. Student Cheating and Plagiarism in the Internet
Era: A Wake-Up Call, Greenwood Publishing Group, Englewood, CO. Print.
Lathrop, Ann and Foss, Kathleen, 2005. Guiding Students from Plagiarism and Cheating
to Honesty and Integrity, Libraries Unlimited, Westport, CT. Print.
Robin, Ron Theodore, 2004. Scandals and Scoundrels: Seven Cases that Shook the Academy, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, CA. Print.