Sunday, 2 November 2008

Cambridge Students Cheat

The other bit of news that caught my attention today was that a report published by Varsity, Cambridge's Student Newspaper (no where near the standard of the Ox Stu or Cherwell), found out that half of all Cambridge University students admitted to cheating by plagiarism.

Although I might be a little biased against the light-blues (lighter in colour and intellect!), I cannot say I am surprised. The pressure placed upon today's Oxbridge students to produce high quality original work around the clock for 3-4 years is unbelievable. Even though this pressure will have been around for many years (perhaps even centuries), it is only in the last 10 years or so that it has become much easier to copy the work of others.

With Google aiming to index ALL of the world's information it does mean that students will be able to increasingly "copy and paste" the work carried out by the lesser known writers and make it even harder for the experts marking the work to spot the plagiarism. Obviously this is more true for some subjects over others. Lawyers, for example, were found to make up 2/3 of those that admitted to cheating. Law, by it's very nature, is based upon the work carried out by those before them. Whereas a subject like Physics requires complete understanding of a topic in order to apply it to a completely NEW situation. This makes day-to-day plagiarism impossible (again a small bias on my part).

The only thing that worries me about this report is that 82% of those that admitted to cheating used Wikipedia as their main source of information! Although Wikipedia is a wonderful resource and often correct, I would never feel confident at using it as a main source of reference. My favourite example of Wikipedia at its best can be found here. The last sentence in the first paragraph says so much about what Wikipedia is:

"[Earth] is the largest planet in the world."

Although not technically incorrect, it could be very easily misread and misconstrued. Genius.

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