How do high school students justify internet plagiarism?

Ethics and Behavior 17 (3):215 – 231 (2007)
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Internet plagiarism continues unabated and may even be increasing. Questions pertaining to the ethical-moral construct employed by students to justify Internet plagiarism among high school students have remained relatively untouched. Understanding not simply the prevalence of Internet plagiarism but also the variety of explanations used by students to justify their plagiarism seems crucial to curtailing its practice. In this study, I surveyed 160 high school students and endeavored to understand and describe the practices of students who use the Internet for schoolwork and who engage in copy-paste plagiarism or paper-buying practices. The results indicate that students are more easily able to justify copy-paste plagiarism for a variety of reasons that mirror justifications of other forms of conventional plagiarism. Most students indicated they would never purchase a paper for reasons ranging from fear of getting caught to more principled and nuanced ethical claims. Based on these results I also offer educators suggestions for refining assignments and evaluation methods.



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Dominic Sisti
University of Pennsylvania