Students and teachers are grappling with plagiarism as the Internet is slowly replacing reference books, reports Sohini Chakravorty

Bogged down by mundane problems the self-declared genius Calvin dictates: ‘Homework, I command thee, BE DONE!' The otherwise smart Calvin probably was not aware how easily homework can be done with the help of the Internet. The secret is out. Doing school and college assignments and projects has become a cakewalk in the age of Internet, where Google is replacing the much dreaded books. However, it is a skewed version of the concept of copyleft that is becoming increasingly popular among students. A number of students use material from various websites without attribution to avoid drudgery. In fact, most of the study material is sourced from the Internet as more and more college students don't find it necessary to buy books.

“Most of our reference books are foreign editions and they are really expensive. We can't afford to buy all of them. The college library will have a single copy. Sitting in the library and taking notes takes time. So to avoid unnecessary fights, I generally google all the information,” says Kirti Vamanrao, a third-year biochemistry student. She however, admits that Wikipedia is the most used website for study material.

The lecturers don't encourage the use of Wikipedia, and instead recommend websites with credible information for course work. But students prefer Wikipedia because it saves research time, as they find it more readily available. “They tell us about websites that have accurate information and can be trusted. In fact, figures and diagrams are important in our subjects and Internet is a huge help as books are not always accessible,” another science student Litika Pachigolla.

A mass communication student Riddhi Bharwad points out, “I prefer surfing because getting information is far easier than referring multiple books. Moreover there is no scope of plagiarism as lecturers are familiar with our work.”

For project works, a bibliography at the end is mandatory but for daily assignments, a lot of students copy ideas from the Internet. “As literature students we have to write a lot of analysis. When we are pressed for time, we search for analysis online and use it for our work. It saves a lot of effort. However, we avoid copying and pasting, the lecturers are bound to find out,” says Sanjana Roy, adding that a lot of literary works are explained extremely well online.

The availability of plagiarism detection software has made the task of teachers and professors easy to nab the students. Uma Joseph, HOD of the History department of St Francis Degree College for Women, feels that making the students understand research methodology will make a lot of difference. “Students use popular websites therefore we find it easy to track down where the ideas are stolen from. At times, the attribution is vague like google.co.in. However, we try and give students the kind of assignments where a lot of analysis is required and they won't just be able to copy and paste text. Also, teaching them how to research for their assignments prepares them for working on the dissertation,” she says.

While a lot of students find ingenious ways to finish their assignments in an easy way, engineering student K. Rohit feels, “To get decent marks the one-in-all textbooks are enough. It's only the meritorius students who wants to do extra work and go online for information.”

Taking it offline

Plagiarism is not just limited to the Internet. For their final dissertation, the engineering students admit to copying from their senior students reports. There are places around the city where the students can pay and get their projects done. Because of the huge number of the students, it is practically impossible for the lecturers to check each and every students copy and check for plagiarism.

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