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The idea behind it is that everyone in the class should be putting forth the same effort. If you take two psychology classes, for instance and find that the research and subsequent paper that you did for one class has a neat dovetail with another class, then it would be considered cheating in that other students in the class are writing a new complete, paper, while you might be just doing a quick rewrite emphasizing different aspects of the topic for the new paper. Ultimately, you would not have to put forth as much effort. At least that's how the theory goes. Often, if the student brings the original to the instructor, the instructor will offer suggestions on areas to remove and give guidence on what should be added in order to create an original work that is acceptable.

I think I see where we differ. You are measuring effort, I am measuring results. Shouldn't the papers and exams measure the level of knowledge the student has acquired rather than the level of effort put in to acquire that knowledge? What about students that are just smarter or quicker than other students and put in much less effort? Would you propose penalizing them somehow?

I am so glad I studied engineering in which the exams/assignments measure knowledge in a more of less objective manner. You either know the material or you do not. End of story.
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