Search Engines:  How Do They Complicate the Issue?

Search engines further complicate the distinction between what is permissible in academia and the workplace and what is not.  Search engines are electronic robots; they can make no distinction between sites which offer guidelines to assist the student with writing his or her own paper and sites which offer papers for purchasing or "borrowing."  A search for "term papers" on a popular search engine such as Yahoo!, for instance, will link the searcher to three different types of sites:

1.  "How To" guides for writing papers, some of which do an excellent job of taking a student through the research paper writing process.

2.   Term papers on all subjects, of wildly varying quality, pre-written or written-to-order, some free, others available for sale.

3.   Papers written by students or professionals and posted to their websites.

Papers from all three types of sources can easily be downloaded and, if necessary, customized a bit.  The savvy student will quickly find ways to accomplish this.  Only the true novice, like my chemistry colleague's freshman student whose paper concluded with "Return to home page," will be found out.

The ubiquitous term paper sites now number about 80, according to one watcher (A. Krier, e-mail, 26 October 1997).  The largest number of sites by far are .com (commercial sites).  Many earn revenues from the papers they sell; others generate income by selling ads posted to their sites.  Enterprising students may also take advantage of other Internet resources.  One of the Web's top merchants, bookseller Amazon, offers not only books, but synopses, multiple reviews, and customer comments. With some creative cut and paste, a student may never need to read the book.

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