It’s strange to think of the Net as limiting, especially when it comes to knowledge, but the fact is that many students have forgotten or never learned how to make use of “real world” sources. In my own experience of teaching college students, I had numerous classes where most of the students were actually unable to locate books on the shelf, much less grasp the concept that journal articles which were not in databases might still contain useful information. Even the idea of digging through databases was foreign; if it couldn’t be found through Google, the thinking went, it’s not worth finding.
The predictable result was that a fair chunk of students in each class turned in papers using nothing but freely-available Internet sources, even when some scholarly sources were required. They had come to think of the Internet as so all-encompassing that it was hard to imagine the need for anything more. Also, going to the library required more work.
And so began the plagiarism. Students who were poor writers, students who were running behind, and students who were simply lazy copied sections of various websites directly into their papers. Their creative thinking had apparently been so circumscribed that they did not even bother to plagiarize from books or journal articles, both of which would have been far more difficult to detect.