Is There an Effective Approach to Deterring Students from Plagiarizing?
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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of plagiarism detection software and penalty for plagiarizing in detecting and deterring plagiarism among medical students. The study was a continuation of previously published research in which second-year medicals students from 2001/2002 and 2002/2003 school years were required to write an essay based on one of the four scientific articles offered by the instructor. Students from 2004/2005 (N = 92) included in present study were given the same task. Topics of two of the four articles were considered less complex, and two were more complex. One less and one more complex articles were available only as hardcopies, whereas the other two were available in electronic format. The students from 2001/2002 (N = 111) were only told to write an original essay, whereas the students from 2002/2003 (N = 87) were additionally warned against plagiarism, explained what plagiarism was, and how to avoid it. The students from 2004/2005 were warned that their essays would be examined by plagiarism detection software and that those who had plagiarized would be penalized. Students from 2004/2005 plagiarized significantly less of their essays than students from the previous two groups (2% vs. 17% vs. 21%, respectively, P < 0.001). Over time, students more frequently choose articles with more complex subjects (P < 0.001) and articles in electronic format (P < 0.001) as a source for their essays, but it did not influence the rate of plagiarism. Use of plagiarism detection software in evaluation of essays and consequent penalties had effectively deterred students from plagiarizing.