Social Media – Students’ Latest Source of Plagiarized Content

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Austin Rinehart.  Please read more about Austin in the bio footer.

The rise of the Internet in the last 15 years drastically changed the way students search, use and source the content they find for their writing assignments. The information they now have available is dramatically larger than what the generations before could ever have, but sadly with such quantity doesn’t necessarily come quality.

While the students have easy access to lots of diverse educational content on the Internet, there’s always the risk of it leading to poor or dishonest writing practices that will discourage their learning process. If the teachers and educators fail to properly address detected plagiarism, the digital content may get in the way of students ability to write and think critically.

A research done by Turnitin in 2011 of over 40 million submitted student papers examined the web sources the students use when searching for material for their written work, and which are the websites they rely on for plagiarized content. This study revealed that students’ research and writing practices are mostly guided by the trends on the Internet, and they are increasingly using user-generated content shared on popular social media networks and question-and-answer websites to find materials they can use in their papers.

These social and content-sharing websites where users contribute and share content, like Facebook and Twitter, or Scribd and SlideShare, Yahoo Answers and, are one third of all the matched content in the study, which shows that the students today are less relying on professionally published content for their school papers.

Knowing the times in which these children are growing, it is easy to see why they can’t truly understand the originality principle in research and writing. The digital era in which they live has enabled them to freely enjoy sharing music, downloading software, or retweeting other people’s thoughts, so it is absolutely essential for the teachers and educators to help their students and draw a clear line for them between sharing and originality. Otherwise, we are risking our children to not develop communication skills and ability for critical thinking, which are absolutely necessary for them leading a productive life.

What educators can do to ensure their students will use and cite the right sources on the Internet?

  • Teach proper citation. The students must clearly understand what can be reproduced and what must be created. The teachers are there to explain to them how to use what they’ve learned from the sources on the Internet, and then either summarize, paraphrase or quote it. The students’ parents can also help promote original work by instilling the value of academic integrity in their children from the young age.
  • Use PlagSpotter to detect plagiarism. The educators cannot copy and paste their students’ papers sentence by sentence and check it on Google. Not only that this technique will overburden the teachers, it also does not provide them with information how much of the content is unoriginal and which are the sources the students have used to plagiarize their papers. PlagSpottet is a plagiarism checking tool that enables educators to quickly scan and analyze the submitted written work from their students and instantly detect eventual plagiarism.
  • Teach plagiarism before it occurs. Teachers can introduce their students with the technology they’ll use to check for plagiarism at the beginning of the semester or school year, and also enclose them with a detailed plagiarism report for every paper they submit. This will put the students’ work at the center of the writing and assessment process, and hopefully deter them from improper research, citation and writing practices.


  1. Absolutely Right Austin
    But Plagiarism also affects blogs and websites. For example Google Panda and Penguin Hits .. Google strictly omits such blogs and websites as they are very strict about copy paste Articles.. Thank you for telling another adverse effect of plagiarism
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  2. i know this stuff, there are lots of kids asking for their homework help. And Yahoo Answers have a dedicated channel for this stuff.
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  3. Thanks for your information, nice blog…
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  4. i think it is absolutly must for you to have greater web searching skills to get success in any department.. reason is as writer suggests drastically improved internet network..

  5. Excellent advice! Thats Good
    visit MyBlogGuest, thanks for this wonderful Information…
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  6. Thanks for your informative post and also thanks for sharing with us. Very nice blog.
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  7. I am also not very good in writing I am very weak in vocab please tell me the way how to remember the vocab. Thanks!
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  8. this very kinda of post that i am inspired with this…great blog post…thanks for posting it and sharing with publicallly…
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