Issue Students and teachers are grappling with plagiarism as the Internet is slowly replacing reference books, for their study needs reports SOHINI CHAKRAVORTY
B ogged down by mundane problems the self-declared genius Calvin dictates: that ‘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 getting projects done has become a cakewalk in the age of Internet, where Google is slowly replacing the much-dreaded books. However, it is a skewed version of the concept of copy left that is becoming increasingly popular among students. A lot of students are found to use material from various websites without proper attribution to avoid the drudgery of research work. In fact, most of the study materials are 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 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 her study materials.
Though lecturers don't encourage the use of Wikipedia, they recommend websites with credible information for the course work. But most students prefer Wikipedia because it saves research time, as they find it more readily available comprehensive. “They tell us aboutwebsites which 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,” says another science student Litika Pachigolla.
A mass communication student Riddhi Bharwad points out, “I prefer surfing online because getting information is far easier than referring multiple books. Moreover, there is no scope for plagiarising as the lecturers are familiar with our work.”
For most of the project works, a bibliography at the end of it is mandatory but for the 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 look for it online and use it for our work. It saves a lot of effort. However, we avoid direct copy 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. But 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. “Most of the 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. 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 students like K. Rohit feel, “To get decent marks the one-in-all textbooks are enough. It's only the meritorious student who wants to do extra work and go online for information.”