What’s the Buzz? – The Shadow Scholar (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

7 Apr

The Shadow Scholar – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The topic of plagiarism is one any information professional should be well-versed in; however, that does not change the fact that companies selling essays (individually written ones, not mass-selling the same ones) can get around the law, and that students use them.  I’d venture a guess that in some colleges, this service is wildly popular.  Clearly this is legally and ethically wrong on the part of the student: where do these companies fall, and how do we address them?

As I said, the companies can get around the law by stating they sell these essays for “research”, and that the essays are not meant to be turned in.  Often they offer other services as well, of the benign variety: editing, reviewing, peer reviewing, and tutoring, as well as legitimate research assistance.  Ethically, it’s obvious they are doing wrong, but there is little we can do to prevent it.  I personally am also hesitant to restrict access to these sites from a network because of the legitimate services.

Paramount is the responsibility of the student to do his or her own work.  Next comes the responsibility of the instructor to investigate, if the paper seems out-of-keeping with the student’s previously demonstrated ability.  The university/college has a responsibility to enforce the plagiarism policy.  Should a business do the “right” thing and only engage in ethically acceptable practices?  Ethical by whose standards, by what philosophy?  In my opinion, a business has the right to operate in any way it can, within the bounds of the law.

My other concern with restricting access to this type of site, assuming there are legitimate services being offered, is that in the ever-increasing technology era, the library faces a struggle to prove itself relevant to users, and to move into their space.  We want to create an environment conducive to the exchange of ideas and like the idea of “learning commons” as a way to structure ourselves.  We shouldn’t pass up any opportunity to do this, even if it means the patrons may do something we disapprove of.  Personal responsibility matters, and we cannot take the burden of the patron as our own, ensuring the use all materials in ways both legally, and ethically correct.

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