In 2016, Chen Jie received his master's degree in engineering from China's Hunan University—a significant accomplishment, certainly, but not a newsworthy one. Chen made headlines last November, however, when university officials announced that he was being stripped of that degree after the school discovered his thesis was plagiarized word for word.
This is the first time such an egregious example of plagiarism at such a high academic level has been made public in China. But the country's high schools, colleges, and universities have been grappling with outrageous cases of academic dishonesty for decades. Specific numbers have varied over the years, but most administrators and researchers agree that about one-third of all student assignments are partially or entirely plagiarized. What's more, the practice even extends to the professional world, with news outlets commonly lifting entire articles from major publications in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Cheating in China is so prevalent because of its de-emphasis on the individual, its societal pressure to succeed, and other cultural factors. Today, we're looking at how American students measure up, as well as the steps to take after an accusation of plagiarism or any other type of academic misconduct.
The State of Cheating in the United States
According to the International Center for Academic Integrity, about 36% of undergraduate students and 24% of graduate students have admitted to either copying or paraphrasing material without also providing the proper attribution. It's important to remember, though, that these figures represent pre-COVID student behavior. The lockdown and consequent move to remote learning provided a wealth of new opportunities and methods to cheat.
Students also began to experience unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress thanks to the misinformation, confusion, and fear as the pandemic swept the country. Students who had clearly mapped out their own academic and professional futures suddenly found themselves adrift, surrounded by uncertainty on almost every front. With their studies and their goals upended, it was difficult to resist the temptations: to google test answers, to pay or barter for a term paper, or to collaborate with other students, all in the same desperate boat. Additionally, it was hard for some previously upstanding scholars to retain their steadfast academic integrity as the COVID rates rose sharply and everyone struggled to make sense of this bizarre, unpredictable new reality.
Accusations of Plagiarism Are Particularly Potentially Damaging
The line between discussing course material in an online study group and collaborating on an assignment or test got thinner and blurrier. So, too, did the difference between gathering knowledge by googling and hunting it by “chegging.” As forms of cheating go, these are perhaps the easiest to keep under wraps. Plagiarism can be easier for instructors and administrators to detect; all they need to do is run an essay or thesis through one of the many online plagiarism checkers. A press of the button, a matter of mere seconds, and voila—proof of pilfered papers.
Have you been accused of plagiarizing another's work or any other type of academic misconduct? Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm can help clear your name. Use this form to contact the Lento Law Firm or call 888-535-3686.