A study published on March 7, 2007 by UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, found that five percent of the 50,000 personal statements[in university applications] surveyed at random contained "borrowed material", lifted mostly from one free Web site: www.studential.com. Most of the material plagiarised, however, was adapted by applicants with direct copying from online sources standing at less than 1 percent, the study revealed. "There is a small problem but we're looking at ways to address it," said Byron Price, communications officer of UCAS.
The "red flag" was the appearance of hundreds of applications mentioning "burning a hole in pyjamas at age eight" working with a chemistry set.
Here's the spin that TechDirt put on the story:
However, a more reasonable way of looking at it, is that it's teaching students the value of collaborative work, and building on the ideas of those who have come before them. That's a valuable lesson. None of this, of course, excuses passing off someone else's work as your own -- especially in a situation like a personal statement to gain admission into a university. However, it could help to explain the issues of plagiarism in students that shows it's not all about just getting off easy by copying content, and more about a more collaborative approach to content. If that's the case, the response shouldn't be to focus on the moral or ethical issues of "copying," but simply doing a better job of teaching students the borderline between collaborative work and independent work.
IPBiz notes that the Harvard Business Journal tells one to "Plagiarize with Pride." The issue is not between "collaborative" and independent work, but rather avoiding some kind of brutish, Hobbsian world wherein original thinkers are literally devoured by those "collaborating" with them.
Plagiarism May Be Rife in Higher Ed Applications