World Wide Web computer sites where students share term papers are drawing mixed opinions from school officials who say the libraries can serve for or against students.
“It’s a new form of a very old problem,” University of New Mexico English professor Scott Sanders said.
The problem is plagiarism - and it’s been around as long as schools.
But educators say that if the electronic paper mills continue to grow, they will be forced to pay much closer attention to such Internet sites and to the assignments they give and receive from students.
In plagiarism’s dungeon days, students had to look for someone to write their term papers. Sometimes it was a roommate, sometimes it was a paper network rooted in fraternities, sororities or in the classified pages of Rolling Stone magazine.
Now, finding a ready-made essay or research paper is as easy as a few clicks of the mouse and a topic.
This past summer, Florida International University student Kenneth Sahr, 25, created a Web site that he says will eventually include thousands of college-level research papers on various subjects - all free.
The site, “School Sucks,” is readily accessible to anyone who logs on and punches in the address, said Sahr, a sophomore journalism student.
The site offers a database of research papers and essays on almost any subject, many of which are targeted at introductory English and science classes.
The site’s slogan, “Download your workload,” suggests that students need only save certain text and copy it on to their computer, put their name on it and turn it in.
But Sahr says the slogan is “nothing more than a … rhyme. And anyone that uses this for plagiarism is a fool.”
He says he created the site purely for research purposes, so that students could share cited resources and background on topics.
University of New Mexico officials say they haven’t heard of a student downloading and plagiarizing a term paper this semester.
But some say that the possibility of misuse of the site and others like it could make instructors rethink the topic papers they assign and how they are graded.
“I’m hoping our faculty will make their assignments to students in such a way that this ‘research’ is not useful to them,” said Richard Holder, Associate Provost of Academic Affairs for UNM.