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Penn State Seeks Answer to Students Who Plagiarize

June 23, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

An obvious increase in the number of students who submitted plagiarized essays as part of their applications to Pennsylvania State University’s business school this year has forced the college to go public about their use of plagiarism detection software.

An article in Inside Higher Ed today described how admissions officials at the college discovered they may have a problem, and how bold students have been getting when it comes to turning in essays lifted from Internet sites and elsewhere. Essay answers on the topic of “principled leadership” as part of the college’s M.B.A. program application led admissions officials to discover at least 30 essays that “borrowed” from outside sources without the proper attribution. According to the article, a number of students plagiarized the same article on the term, lifted from a business school association’s newsletter.

In the article, the school’s admissions director says students have surprisingly only gotten worse at plagiarizing. One year, she said she looked over an application that included an essay lifted in its entirety from another source. The applicant didn’t even change fonts before sending in their essay.

According to Inside Higher Ed, a number of schools across the country already use software to detect plagiarism when evaluating students’ college applications. (The article mentions that it’s typically used by graduate and professional schools that often have multiple essay requirements.) But Penn State is the first to be so vocal about it. Faking one’s way into college has been a popular topic lately, thanks to the efforts of former Ivy League student Adam Wheeler, who faked his way into Harvard University and was able to nearly transfer to Stanford University before his deception was finally discovered.

Plagiarism software is more commonly used in the classroom by professors and instructors on high school and college campuses. Being found out typically means at least a failing grade on an assignment, and depending on the school’s policy, may mean expulsion as well. So, there’s only one way to avoid getting yourself into trouble. Don’t do it, even if you’re struggling in an essay-heavy course. Don’t try buying term papers online, either, as that won’t keep you from being detected by the software. (You didn’t think you were the first one to use that paper, did you?) If you’re concerned about attributions or references, talk to your instructor about properly citing sources. And if you need help on where to start with your application essay, check out our tips on how to do so.


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