In the last 24 hours, two colleagues have brought to my attention cases of academic plagiarism at the professorial level, and another brought to my attention an article from The Chronicle written under a pseudonym by a man who makes a living from writing students' undergraduate and graduate research papers for them. A number of questions arise from these examples of acdemic cheating and many of them raise difficult ethical questions to which I'm sure I don't have the answers. The discussions I've had over the last day include questions like:
1. What do you do if you find out that someone else has plagiarised your work in a published article/essay? Who do you contact? The journal? The authors? What are the appropriate remedies, if any? Any how much of this is a matter of opinion ie who makes the final judgment as to whether the allegation of plagiarism is sustainable or should be sanctioned in some way?
2. Who is to blame for what appears to be a creeping growth in instances of plagiarism at all levels of the academy? Is it a result of time pressure? Economic pressure? Unreasonable expectations of academics and students? Admitting people into programs who cannot cope with the demands of the program?
3. Should there be sanctions for professional "ghost writers" who write work for those unwilling or unable to do their own work? On what grounds? Presumably a student who employs a ghost writer will be penalized by his/her institution if the cheating is discovered, but what about the people and businesses who enable the cheating by providing the required services for money?
I would certainly recommend the article in the Chronicle as both an engaging and disturbing story which may be instructive for anyone involved in supervising graduate or undergraduate papers. I would also be interested in other people's stories about how they have detected and dealt with academic plagiarism and cheating on assignments.