Plagiarism: The Speed of Google

You will notice that in addition to telling us how many search results it has discovered, a search engine like Google will also tell us how long it took. Depending on what you have searched for, you are likely to generate millions of results in less than a second. That's a lot of material very fast.

And maybe because search engines like Google offer up so much so quickly, some students—though only a minority, in my experience—are enticed to "borrow" from the Web, cutting and pasting from whatever Google has produced. It's a fast way to do research, but as we all know, it's also plagiarism: using the ideas or words of another as if they were your own. Plagiarism is dealt with severely at most schools.

The fact is, as fast as you can find something on the Web, your professors can find it just as quickly. If I am reading a student's work and I discover a phrase or a few sentences—or sometimes more than that—of writing that just doesn't fit with everything else the student has written, I type that material into Google, and in a split-second it shows me if the material was plagiarized by producing the original source.

Actually, the saddest case of plagiarism I have ever personally encountered as a professor has to have been the student who cut and pasted from some online source but then forgot to remove the hyperlink that was embedded in the text. This saved me the half-second of having to use Google—I just clicked the hyperlink.

But regardless of how many warnings professors give, some students—again, a minority, in my experience—will continue to plagiarize in this blatant way: lifting material verbatim from the Web and inserting it into their own written work.