As innovations in technology allow students easier and faster access to information and ideas, the line bordering plagiarism becomes blurred and professors have a harder time determining a clear case of academic dishonesty. Now there is software to combat the growing problem.Turnitin.com is an online resource being used by Southwest Texas State University professors and students designed to inform students and teachers on instances of plagiarism.Milton Nielsen, director of instructional technology, said the reason most professors are using the program is to teach their students the proper way to cite and quote sources. “The emphasis at Texas State is on education,” Nielsen said. “The department wanted some tools to help students.”The software allows students to electronically submit their work and scans the Internet and other submitted papers for similarities. The program then returns the percentage of plagiarized or uncited work.”We want to help students understand what plagiarism is and how easy it is to do,” Dean of University College Ron Brown said.Brown intends to allow students to submit their papers prior to turning them in order to rewrite the paper to correct errors in citing and quoting sources. Turnitin.com allows the student to submit the paper as many times as needed to eliminate any plagiarism and citation errors.”I’m not interested in catching students plagiarizing,” Brown said. “I’m interested in students not plagiarizing.””The fact that students know that we have it will help me out,” mass communication assistant professor Jon Schmitt said. “Hopefully, [plagiarism] won’t happen again.”Assistant professor of health, physical education and recreation Beth Erickson has also received plagiarized papers. She plans to use the program to prevent future violations of the student handbook, but has not worked out the details.”I’m tired of having to spend exorbitant amounts of time trying to eliminate plagiarism in my classroom,” Erickson said. “This makes it easier for us because we don’t have to go searching.” Plagiarism is not a new practice at Texas State.As one example of the problem of plagiarism, mass communication assistant professor John Schmitt remembers 13 students in a media law course caught turning in work that was not their own in the spring of 2003.Schmitt said that although the questions for his papers are geared specifically to his course material so that students cannot easily find and duplicate online sources of information, he will probably use the program and test it out.
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