Search the Site

The Truth About College Plagiarism

Despite all the concern over increased plagiarism in the Internet age, concrete figures on the trend are hard to come by. In a new working paper, Brian Jacob (an occasional Levitt co-author) and Thomas Dee conducted a natural field experiment at a “selective post-secondary institution” to shed light on the determinants of student plagiarism. Five hundred seventy-three students wrote 1,256 papers, and approximately half of those students were also required to complete an anti-plagiarism tutorial before submitting their papers. Jacob and Dee then analyzed all 1,256 papers. Students who participated in the tutorial were less likely to plagiarize; the effect was particularly strong for students with lower SAT scores. The authors conclude that their results support “a model of student behavior in which the decision to plagiarize reflects both a poor understanding of academic integrity and the perception that the probabilities of detection and severe punishment are low.” [%comments]