Philosophy on the Web


As I see it, philosophers in academia have made grading papers harder and cheating much easier by writing so very much on the Web about every philosophical topic around. The sole purpose of much of their work is aimed at students in easy-to-understand language. I am not referring to genuine scholarly work or work aimed at other professors; that has its place. I don't know about your field, but philosophers don't seem to know or care that their work is easily plagiarized. And it cannot be fixed by better teaching as some think, not always. This is especially a problem for those of us who still teach the canon of philosophy, but even contemporary types are out there.

I know that students can and do plagairize from books, as well, and that was a problem long before the Net. But the Net makes it so much easier -- cut and paste -- and often harder to detect and control. I tell my students that the goal of their work is not merely the knowledge gained, but the process of thinking it through, and that will endure longer than the knowledge remembered. If you want to learn to cook, you dont buy a frozen dinner and then say you made it.


I was a philosophy undergrad until 2001, and am familiar with the internet resources that trouble you (Yahoo! has an extensive collection of links with sites, including articles by most major and some minor figures). Although I did not use them to plagiarize, I did use them or at least their bibliographies to come up with source lists and places to hunt for information. The Web has created a monster of information, but there is hope for those who suspect cheating.

Many institutions subscribe or are affiliated with (not sure how it works, exactly) sites such as, which allow instructors to scan papers to look for unattributed material. Of course, many first-year students aren't familiar with the rules of scholarly attribution, and need to be tutored a bit on the subject. Sometimes this is covered in entering and transfer student orientation, other times not.  

I had a professor who would look over each written submission by every student in what seemed like minute detail. It seemed he spent more time in the library than in class or his office. We learned not to play fast and loose with quotes and ideas that someone else came up with.


[0] Message Index