Residency Plagiarism

Ever since the Internet became the predominant source of information for students, new concerns about plagiarism have arisen. Certainly academic dishonesty existed before, but now a sneaky student does not even have to take the time to copy purloined passages by hand. It’s just a cut and a paste away.

The New York Times reported on this trend recently. Now the Annals of Internal Medicine have published a study called “Plagiarism in Residency Application Essays.” The authors analyzed application essays for the five largest residency programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital using the Turnitin application. They found that 5% of the essays registered as plagiarized.

In general, international students and students with lesser qualifications were more likely to plagiarize, but the study found instances of top students plagiarizing, too. I tend to think that part of the blame lies with the assignment. A personal narrative is such a vague prompt. Applicants don’t intend to be dishonest, but they have little guidance for what kind of essay is appropriate. In this case, it seems safe to borrow from a supposedly trusted source. This is not to excuse their actions, but it does suggest that the application process could be tailored to elicit more original responses.


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