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"Does the Online Environment Promote Plagiarism? A Comparative Study of Dissertations from Brick-and-Mortar versus Online Institutions " icon

Does the Online Environment Promote Plagiarism? A Comparative Study of Dissertations from Brick-and-Mortar versus Online Institutions 

In recent years, there has been a concern that the Internet has been contributing to a growth in student plagiarism. This paper reports on a study aimed at investigating if there were differences between plagiarism levels in doctoral dissertations submitted by students enrolled at traditional, brick-and-mortar institutions and those by students attending online counterparts. A sample of 368 dissertations written between 2009 and 2013 (184 from traditional institutions and 184 from online institutions) were mined from an online database and uploaded to Turnitin for analysis. A Mann–Whitney U test was conducted on the similarity indices calculated by Turnitin. The test revealed no significant difference between the originality indices of dissertations from traditional institutions and those of dissertations from online institutions. Although dissertations from online institutions were slightly more likely to involve plagiarism, the traditional schools had more extreme cases of plagiarism. Thus, the notion that online education is more prone to plagiarism is not well supported. However, across both institution types, more than half of all dissertations contained some level of plagiarism. Suggestions for future research include a broader study as well as surveys of faculty and students concerning their understanding of plagiarism and how it could be circumvented.

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