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Education Software Technology

Turnitin's Different Messages To Students, Teachers 306

Posted by timothy
from the we'll-take-away-your-disgusting-valuable-guano dept.
Economist David Harrington (spotted via Tyler Cowan's Marginal Revolution) charges anti-plagiarism service Turnitin with "playing both sides of the fence, helping instructors identify plagiarists while helping plagiarists avoid detection." Turnitin analyzes student papers for suspicious elements in order to spot the plagiarism, scanning for things like lifted quotations or clever rephrasing. However, the same company offers a counterpart — a scanning service called WriteCheck which essentially lets the writer of a submitted paper know whether that paper would pass muster at Turnitin, and thus provides a way to skirt it (by tweaking and resubmitting). Harrington gave these two systems an interesting test, involving several New York Times articles and a book he suspected of having lifted content from those articles.
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Turnitin's Different Messages To Students, Teachers

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  • Offensive (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10, 2011 @06:52PM (#37364876)

    From the article:

    "Its so simple my grandmother could do it"

    As a 49 yo grandmother, feminist and C programmer of 20+ years, i find this offensive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10, 2011 @06:53PM (#37364884)

    Economist David Harrington (spotted via Tyler Cowan's Marginal Revolution) charges anti-plagiarism service Turnitin with "playing both sides of the fence, helping instructors identify plagiarists while helping plagiarists avoid detection." Turnitin analyzes student papers for suspicious elements in order to spot the plagiarism, scanning for things like lifted quotations or clever rephrasing. However, the same company offers a counterpart — a scanning service called WriteCheck which essentially lets the writer of a submitted paper know whether that paper would pass muster at Turnitin, and thus provides a way to skirt it (by tweaking and resubmitting). Harrington gave these two systems an interesting test, involving several New York Times articles and a book he suspected of having lifted content from those articles.

  • Hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10, 2011 @06:57PM (#37364908)

    I don't see a problem here at all.

    A smart company found a way to exploit many stupid people and get their money. Isn't that the entire point of modern business?

    Everyone got what they wanted.

  • by hort_wort (1401963) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @07:22PM (#37365024)

    Why the hell is that comment at 3, Insightful? That quotation isn't even in any of the linked pages.

    Did you use Turnitin to determine that?

  • by alostpacket (1972110) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @08:09PM (#37365216) Homepage

    Tweaking and submitting would be removing the plagiarism, which would still be caught on the instructor side. I fail to see the conflict here.

    It isn't required to be word for word to be plagiarism. Replacing a few words here and there still isn't the same as doing the work and writing something yourself. A paper is supposed to show what you know and how well you can communicate it. A paper that you stole and then modified to pass plagiarism software only proves that you know how to be a criminal.

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @01:31AM (#37366354)

    My first semester in college, I was taking an intro physics class that had a mandatory 10-question Calculus quiz online. We could take it as many times as we wanted, but we had to score a 100% on it in order to get a passing grade for the quiz (our data was anonymized, so our names were only tied to our final score). The questions were pulled from a pool of 25, and after I spent 20-30 minutes on it the first time, only to be foiled by a single mistake on one question, I got it into my head to just submit answers, note the question-answer pair for the ones I got correct, and repeat it until I got them all correct. It took me about 20 more minutes of note taking and quick submissions before I got 10 questions that I had the answers for. I figured it was a good tradeoff since I didn't have to worry about computation errors on my part eating up more of my time.

    The next day, the professor got up and sincerely praised all of us for our perseverance and tenacity in working through the difficult quiz. In particular, he wanted to praise one student who took the quiz 39 times before getting all 10 questions correct. He didn't know who it was, but he was clearly exuberant that he had a student so dedicated to excelling in the class. I didn't have the heart to tell him what I had actually done.

Nothing will dispel enthusiasm like a small admission fee. -- Kim Hubbard

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