The top 10 Internet sources college students use for writing may depress you

The plagiarism prevention and grading assistance company Turnitin this week released an updated report on sources in student writing, and while higher ed students demonstrated better judgment in selecting academically-viable source material than their secondary-ed counterparts, several less desirable websites found their way into the rankings.

According to Turnitin, these are the top 10 sites that university and college students used, based on the company's analysis of 112 million content matches in 28 million student papers that were submitted to Turnitin between July 2011 and June 2012:

One of the Internet's most prominent resources, Wikipedia can be a great stepping stone to reach original sources and pool knowledge from authorities. The site still is not the best choice when it comes to citations, however.

Now a part of, is categorized in the report as a "paper mill," and with "Free Term Papers" as the first term in the site description, it's easy to see why. Basically, it's a subscription service that provides access to more than 900,000 model essays and existing papers.

SlideShare is a popular social service that is only as good as the author of the presentation you look at, but for students who would rather check out information in PowerPoint form, it can be a decent bridge to finding better original sources.

Course Hero is a study assistance site with documents intended for homework help and guidance. It's good for practice problems and notes, but again, this isn't something you would want someone citing like a biography or scientific paper. 

Scribd is a mixed bag, much like SlideShare, but it is also a treasure trove of documents and original works with easy-to-identify authorship and publishing info. This is about the closest thing on the list to an actual library.

Yahoo's "Answers" site lies somewhere between Google search results and postings on Quora. Source identities and facts are often dubious at best. You should think of it as the equivalent of walking into the middle of Grand Central Station and yelling a question out in to a packed room. You'll get what you pay for here.

7. ANSWERS.COM is another social Q&A site. If you have no idea where to start when research a foreign topic, this place can perhaps get you starting in the right direction, but it's no substitute for hitting the books.

Quality-wise, this is probably the best resource to appear on the list this year, since the medication information on comes straight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It's a highly specialized resource, though. For instance, you certainly won't find much English literature thesis help in its archives.

Another free essay database, contains a wide variety of subjects, but you won't find anything citation worthy. In fact, the sources are bound to be as good or worse than the students sitting in the desks during any given class. Luckily, this one only accounted for 2% of the research studied.

Another "paper mill," according to Turnitin's classification. is a site with thousands of essays and term papers. You be the judge.


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