Plagiarism has always been considered unacceptable in school but computers and the Internet are making it easier for students to "cut and paste" ideas and writings of other people into their own document. It is also possible to find research papers for sale or provided at no charge on web sites. Educators should be concerned about two kinds of plagiarism -- intentional and inadvertent. Teachers can most effectively handle issues of plagiarism by the manner in which they structure learning activities.
There are two ways that students use the Internet as a tool to intentionally plagiarize. The first is to find a paper on a site that sells or provides research papers specifically for students to copy and submit as their own. The second is to find a paper that some other student has written and posted on their personal student web site.
Teachers should be aware of this kind of plagiarism, discuss the issue with students, and look closely at the papers they receive for evidence of intentional plagiarism. If a teacher has concerns about the source of a paper, conducting a search on a particularly distinctive phrase contained in the document will frequently lead to the original paper. On those occasions when plagiarized papers are discovered through the use of such search techniques present excellent "teachable moments" to raise the awareness of all of the students in the school about how teachers can easily identify such plagiarism.
Inadvertent plagiarism is more accidental. Students sometimes inadvertently plagiarize because they do not understand how to incorporate the ideas of others into their paper and provide appropriate citation. They may also lose track of their sources as they are conducting their research, especially as they "surf" the web.
If teachers assign students to write papers that involve merely the recitation of facts, they are laying the groundwork for a greater amount of either intentional or inadvertent plagiarism. Students can easily copy major portions of material from other authors or find whole papers on a particular subject. It is not as easy to plagiarize when assignments call for creativity and integration of ideas.
Ensuring that students have the skills to paraphrase and summarize the ideas of others into their own words, engage in effective note-taking, keep a bibliographic record, and understand proper citation formats will reduce inadvertent plagiarism. Requiring students to turn in their work-in-progress on the term paper during the term -- research notes, outline, first draft, etc. -- will generally prevent intentional plagiarism.