Essays are the staple academic diet of most students. Their role in academic life hasn't changed in 50 years, but the way students write them certainly has.
Researching an essay has been transformed by the internet. The days when you would spend hours in a dusty basement flicking through journals are gone. Practically every single academic journal I need is now online. Websites that digitise journals – like Jstor – mean I can find articles instantly. I can print them off or simply read them online. And I can do so without leaving my house – or even my bed.
Most books, unfortunately, are still only available in book form. This means that to complete my essay, I have to do it the old-fashioned way: get out of bed and go to the library. But even this will end if Google Books gets its way. Google wants to digitise and publish in full books that are still in copyright, with universities paying a fee for access. This would mean that I could complete my essays at home.
The ease of access might tempt me to plagiarise. But Turnitin – the online plagiarism detector that all essays have to go through – soon stems this temptation. My tutor might not be familiar with the entire 28 million articles available online, but Turnitin certainly is. And the foolish few who still try do get caught.
The real danger of online access is the potential distractions. Being on the internet means I may as well have Facebook on in the background. It can't hurt to check the football scores. In fact, I might just read the whole match report while I'm at it... soon, the afternoon has gone and my essay is still a blank page with a title at the top.Reuse content