According to a study, violations of the examination regulations are no exception
Cheating while studying is not an exception, but the rule, according to the results of a recent study carried out on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research at the Universities of Bielefeld and Würzburg. Although plagiarism cases among celebrities such as Guttenberg and Co caused considerable public criticism, most of the students apparently do not take it so seriously when it comes to their own work.
The sociologists from the Universities of Bielefeld and Würzburg found that four out of five students had already cheated and almost 20 percent had already plagiarized, reports ZEIT Online of the results of the current study. A wide variety of cheating tricks are used. During the exam, a little look at the neighbors, a cheat sheet in your pocket or when doing copy-and-paste from the Internet - most students are familiar with such methods.
Search for the causes of fraud in the course of studies Although the outrage when prominent plagiarism cases become known is usually great, many students do not take honesty very seriously when it comes to their own achievements. As part of the Fairuse study, the research team led by Sebastian Sattler and Prof. Dr. Martin Diewald, from the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Bielefeld examines the "individual and organizational-structural conditions", which are grounds for "wrongdoing and fraud in the provision of academic work". They also determined how many students actually cheated before during their studies. The researchers counted not only the plagiarism, but all violations of the examination regulations.
Most of the students cheat at least once per semester The fairuse study comes to the conclusion that 79 percent of all students surveyed violated the examination regulations at least once per semester, almost a fifth in the form of plagiarism. During the exams, 37 percent of all students copied from their neighbors, and almost two thirds of medical students. A considerable proportion, especially since the students should be aware of the possible consequences of their actions. Finally, in the prominent cases of plagiarism Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) and the European politician Silvana Koch-Mehrin (FDP) the doctoral degree was revoked again. The latter lodged a complaint with the Karlsruhe Administrative Court against the withdrawal of the doctoral title, but the content of other sources, which was taken over without labeling, can hardly be disputed. The fact that many students are not deterred by these cases may be due to the fact that, according to the Fairuse study, only around six percent of plagiarists are exposed and a full 94 percent remain undetected.
Doctors and scientists cheat with low risk In the natural sciences, the risk of being caught cheating is apparently particularly low. Because manipulated measurement data are a frequently used method here, but "nobody talks about falsifying and inventing measurement results," quotes "Zeit Online", Sebastian Sattler's statement. According to the journal, the head of the study emphasized: "The way science is discussed in the media is that the natural sciences are fine." Although around a third of all natural scientists and medical experts use fake measurement results in their work, the risk is minimal for them to be discovered.
Study environment with an influence on the willingness to cheat However, the study by the scientists not only examined the side of the students, but also the role of the learning environment and the teachers in the case of violations of the examination regulations. It has been shown that students cheat less when they are generally satisfied with their studies. In the event of strong competitive pressure, stress or fear of exams, the students tend to cheat. Study director Sebastian Sattler also sees the lecturers in duty. The teachers would often limit themselves to a minimum of prevention. This begins when conventional plagiarism software is not used - although access would be available - and ends when the same exam is distributed to all students.
Lecturers challenged in prevention Less than a quarter of the lecturers stated in the study to randomly search for individual sets of homework using Google or other search engines in order to find plagiarism. During the exams, almost all lecturers make sure that the students sit as far apart as possible to make it difficult to copy, and smartphones are also generally prohibited. However, due to a lack of time, the majority of the teachers do without different exam versions. Many lecturers also want to avoid a general suspicion towards their students in order to protect the teaching atmosphere, the paper quotes the study director Sattler. The latter warned against trivializing violations of the examination regulations at German universities, even if copying from the neighbors was not equivalent to plagiarism that had been worked out for weeks. Sattler argued that "a lot of money is invested in education" and "when people cheat, it's a bad investment." (Fp)
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