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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

    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 Surt (22457)

      Yes, you're the typical grandmother if ever there was one.

      • Re:Offensive (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @08:34PM (#37365080) Homepage

        Yes, you're the typical grandmother if ever there was one.

        She is now.

        Really, maybe not '20 years of C programming' (that puts her in crazy land), but everything else is fairly typical these days. Outside of Pakistan, that is.

        • I like how you eliminated the part which makes her atypical, then said how it's fairly typical. You re-write the context, then say that it's not what the other commenter said, as if that somehow made sense. You do realize that the "20 years of C programming" was what made her atypical right? It wasn't that she was a grandmother, or that she's a feminist, or that she finds it offensive. All of those are perfectly normal things. Since you removed the absurd part, and still felt the need to comment on the norm

    • Okay, pretend it says:

      "It's so simple a c programmer could do it" :D
    • by couchslug (175151)

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

      Pics with timestamp plox?

    • As a 49 yo grandmother, feminist and C programmer of 20+ years ...

      I know what to get grandma for Christmas: The C++ Programming Language by Bjarne Stroustrup. :-)

    • Well, AC, or Grandma - I say "Get over it".

      I'm six years older than you, and a Grandpa. We see and hear stuff all the time about old people and technology. And, it's so true that arguing is pointless. People our age are mostly clueless when it comes to modern tech. So, you and I can keep up with most of the younger generation, huh? So, put a feather in your cap for being ahead of the rest of our generation. We're still dinosaurs, albeit pretty smart dinosaurs.

      Oh - I missed the feminist part. You're p

  • Hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10, 2011 @07:57PM (#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 Surt (22457)

      Technically, the cheat detection customer didn't get what they wanted, this service setup clearly favors the cheater.

      • Moreover, we don't get people actually earning their degrees, which causes problems when we rely on people to actually know what they were supposed to have learned in school. The cheater also likely doesn't get what they want, ultimately, given that if you cheat your way into a degree, you're not going to be competent at what you do, and I can't imagine how you'd actually hold down a job.

        • by ynp7 (1786468)

          That's okay, in my career I've found most people who know anything didn't learn any of it in school anyway. The problem is relying upon degrees so heavily as a gauge of competency in hiring. Maybe if enough clowns cheat their way through university it will force hiring managers to re-evaluate the criteria they're using to make their decisions.

          • Do you have better criteria?

            In my career, I've found a bit of both. There's a lot that people don't get in school, but there's also a lot that people don't seem to get anywhere except school. There's also the fact that a degree shows, or is supposed to show, that you have some persistence and some base level of understanding of things like, say, English and communication.

            In any case, I wouldn't get my hopes up too much. What it's likely to do is cause job requirements to be tightened. That is, if it turns o

      • Not really, because once you properly reword your paper, then it's not "plagiarism" anymore. The vast majority of undergrad stuff by definition of the assignments is borderline plagiarism anyway. They expect you to gather ideas from material, arrange them and draw a conclusion. The vast majority of what these systems "detect" are at the "gather material" step when things aren't quoted or cited exactly properly (which isn't technically plagiarism anyway) which is more of a writing quality and clear logical s

  • Tweaking and submitting would be removing the plagiarism, which would still be caught on the instructor side. I fail to see the conflict here.
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @08:12PM (#37364976) 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.

      But it doesn't have to be verbatim to be plagiarism. Changing a few words here and there still isn't the same as doing the research and writing the paper yourself. A paper is supposed to be a demonstration of what you know and how well you can articulate it. A paper that you swiped and then tweaked to pass a plagiarism review proves only that you know how to be a crook.

      • by Xugumad (39311)

        Turnitin is actually really good at finding minor changes/rephrasings, you really do have to re-write the content to get it not to match. Believe me, I was really skeptical at first, but it does do a really good job.

        • by Baloroth (2370816) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @09:22PM (#37365274)

          I think the point is, you can use WriteCheck to see if it would count as plagiarism, then modify it to the point where it won't.

          Of course, how much you need to modify each paper might mean that it would be simpler to just write the thing yourself... but never underestimate how much work a student will go through to avoid doing work.

          • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @02:31AM (#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.

        • by dmomo (256005)

          But you don't have to re-think the original papers thesis, researched sources, supporting arguments and conclusion. Without doing some of that legwork on your own, no matter how you reword it, you are still plagiarizing.

          • But if you NEVER LOOKED at other people's papers in the first place....

            then you really shouldn't have to worry about plagiarism other than to check that the paragraphs from the research you used to build your argument didn't end up on the page as "too closely worded" because you were burning the midnite oil.

        • You and I are out of place, posting content about how the system is actually implemented : )
        • How good is it at finding stupid tricks? Eg, using bidirectional text to flip things (logically, but not visually) or inserting a bunch of zero-width characters? Maybe even null characters or something to make the detection engine fail. It just seems like the real solution isn't rewording, it's obfuscating what is already there.
      • by reboot246 (623534)
        And therefore fully qualified to run for office.

        A bright future indeed!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by alostpacket (1972110)

        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 hedwards (940851)

          Plagiarism is more than just lifting text word for word, only idiots do that these days, paraphrasing is acceptable to an extent, but lifting ideas isn't.

          The problem is that there's a fixed number of ideas and a fixed number of ways of expressing them. And unfortunately, there are going to be cases where unoriginal work really wasn't plagiarized from any other source. And determining whether or not a particular student really did lift something that could be a plagiarized idea that's been paraphrased isn't

      • There is still a problem, as I see it.

        There are, after all, only so many different ways to make a statement. If, over time, the statement has been re-stated 3 1/2 million times, then some of those re-statements are going to look suspiciously like plagiarism. In the final analysis, your answers to a test and/or your essays are merely tweaked rephrasing of whatever the teacher and the textbook already said.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      At one point it becomes easier to write the damned paper than beat the algorithm. On the other hand if teachers rely so much on a few pieces of paper to assess their students then perhaps the whole assessment methodology needs to be re-evaluated. Hell I WISH my medical degree was determined by a few papers. Instead it was determined by the constant subjective evaluation by hundreds of tutors and literally thousands of patients, as well as some objective written tests. But if as a teacher you aren't able to
    • I posted in a reply elsewhere- instructors can configure whether they see that earlier "tries" were rejected or not. It isn't a given that they would know, not choose to care, as long as the student does the work to make unique constructs in the end.
  • At the top of this page I see a cheesy advertisement for another company that offers to "check your writing for plagiarism". Since, presumably, you know whether you plagiarised, I interpret this as a service that suggests it can tell you if your plagiarism is likely to be detected.

    Too bad Slashdot doesn't use something like this; plenty of submissions lately are lifted wholesale from somewhere else, without even a trivial rephrasing. It's shameful, and is certain to be a major factor in the site's all to e

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      Too bad Slashdot doesn't use something like this; plenty of submissions lately are lifted wholesale from somewhere else, without even a trivial rephrasing.

      I fail to see why a brief summary of someone else's article -- plus a link to it -- needs rephrasing. The original author's words are the whole point. The lame summaries are the ones when the submitter uses the summary as an opportunity to editorialize when they didn't even understand the article they submitted.

      • by jroysdon (201893)

        The original author's words would be cited and would not be plagiarism. Plagiarism is copying another work without citation and trying to pass it off as your own.

        • Plagiarism is copying another work without citation and trying to pass it off as your own.

          Funny story. I wrote a paper (way) back in college for a creative writing class in which I included an original poem at the beginning. The teacher wrote "Source?" next to the poem. I chided her that I don't have to cite myself in my own paper. I still don't know if I should be flattered or insulted that she didn't think it my work. (sigh)

          • by lee1 (219161)
            In college I wrote a paper that I opened with an original poem that I attributed to an 17th century poet whom I had invented. None of the four professors who saw the paper questioned this poet's existence. Was this a type of reverse plagiarism?
      • by lee1 (219161)
        The submissions I'm objecting to make it appear as if the summary is the work of the submitter, rather than a direct quotation. This is the very definition of plagiarism. In reply to the AC, I have no doubt this shameful practice has been going on for 10 years, but my unsystematic impression is that it, as well as the quality of the comments and the proportion of AC comments, has gotten a violently worse in the past year.
        • The submissions I'm objecting to make it appear as if the summary is the work of the submitter, rather than a direct quotation. This is the very definition of plagiarism.

          Plagiarist don't link to the original article in their copy. Frankly, I don't see the problem.

    • by lahvak (69490)

      Since, presumably, you know whether you plagiarised...

      You would be surprised how many students really don't understand what plagiarism means. You can repeat it to them over and over, give them examples etc, but many of them still don't get it, until they get caught.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        That's because plagiarism isn't straight forward no matter how much the academic world wants to think it is. I did a paper on it when doing my TESL, and the rules are confusing, contradictory and ultimately violated by damn near every writer that one would consider talented.

        Beyond that there's the issue of ownership of ideas, which really is a western idea that only originated in the last couple centuries, prior to about the 1800s or so, writing was regarded as being given to a writer by God as were paintin

  • by Duradin (1261418) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @08:04PM (#37364944)

    How to double your profits selling arms: sell to both sides of the conflict.

    • You're mean. It's just an arbitrage opportunity to help find the fair price of plagiarism. Also, it adds liquidity to enable instructors and plagiarizers to better optimize their preferences.
    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Only both sides? Don't forget that those caught in the crossfire are a nice market niche.

    • by RajivSLK (398494)
      How to double your profits selling arms: sell to both sides of the conflict.

      Or, if you can keep the balance of power relatively even then you can way more than double your profits. A war where side trounces the other in a couple of days is far less profitable than one which lasts years.

      If turnit in can strike balance in which students realistically have to use check paper or whatever it's called in order to avoid being falsely labeled a plagiarist then they can way more than double their profits...
  • dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Saturday September 10, 2011 @08:10PM (#37364966) Homepage
    I dunno about playing both sides of the fence... I used a service very much like this to detect that my partner in my last class had plagerized all 12 pages of our research paper. I was greatful to have spent the $5 and immediately wrote a new paper from scratch. What an asshole. Am I naive to think most students would use the service this way?
    • by macshit (157376)

      I used a service very much like this to detect that my partner in my last class had plagerized all 12 pages of our research paper. I was greatful to have spent the $5 and immediately wrote a new paper from scratch. What an asshole.

      Indeed. What do you do in a situation like that ...? Tell your partner "dude no way, we're gonna rewrite this"? Just ask to be split from your partner and not say anything? Tell the professor? If it's not a friend, the last is tempting...

    • You shouldn't have to spend $5 for this "service", it should be free to you.

      The reason is that if Turnitin flags you as a cheater and yet you haven't cheated (that's called a false positive), then they've harmed you. So you're paying them $5 protection money to ensure that their system doesn't produce a false positive that involves you.

      In other words, you're paying them to not fuck up a service they are providing to somebody else (your professor). Conversely, if they didn't provide this service to your

      • Re:dunno (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anubis IV (1279820) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @10:43PM (#37365542)

        Your idea falls apart for the simple fact that Turnitin.com doesn't suggest false positives.

        For the last year and a half, I was a Teaching Assistant assigned to a senior-level engineering ethics course at a major university. We had about 650+ students every semester, and each of them would submit 3 essays via Turnitin.com. Out of the 14 TAs and 4 professors associated with the course, it fell to me to check for cheaters via Turnitin.com for all of those essays.

        To make a long story short, rather than the essays going into a black box with Turnitin.com spitting out a list of of cheaters on the other side, which is what you seem to think happens, Turnitin.com ranks the students by telling the instructor what percentage of the student's paper is a match with other sources. It doesn't label them as a cheater or automatically give them a 0. Instead, the instructor can click on the essay via Turnitin.com, and Turnitin.com will highlight each portion of the essay for which it found a match, showing the instructor the original text side-by-side with the essay. That allows the instructor to make an informed decision on whether or not the student is guilty of plagiarism.

        Had they not structured it that way, you'd be absolutely correct. In my time with the course, it wasn't uncommon to see average scores for matches in the 15-25% range (i.e. 15-25% of every student's paper could be identified as coming from another source). Most of that, however, was either a result of quotations, coincidental phrasing (there are only so many unique ways to discuss ideas on a narrow topic, so there's quite a bit of overlap between 650 students), or bibliographies (Turnitin.com can be told to ignore bibliographies, but if you don't have it do that, then they'll oftentimes show up as a match with the other students citing the same references).

        Anyway, because of the severity of academic dishonesty allegations (I saw one estimate that failing a class due to academic dishonesty costs a student about $100,000 over their career), a responsible instructor would never rely on a black box to tell them who was cheating. Every academic council, honor council, review board, or whatever else I've heard of demands to see evidence before punishing a student, and a responsible instructor should have had that prepared whenever they made the initial allegation anyway. Turnitin.com's job, rather than labeling cheaters, is merely to identify possible plagiarism and put the information in the hands of the instructor so that they can make an informed decision, and it does that job well.

    • by fermion (181285)
      If one write's one's own research paper, there is no need to check for plagiarism. It is an additional step that few serious students would have time to do. When I mean 'write on one's own' I mean take not in one's own words from valid source that are cited, and clearly label short quotes that support but do not form the bulk of the paper. The paper is then written from these notes. Plagiarism becomes quite a non issue. In most cases, if one has previously written a similar paper, using the work as th
      • If one write's one's own research paper, there is no need to check for plagiarism.

        True. Unfortunately, if one's school uses Turnitin or a similar service, there is a need to check that one's original work will not be flagged for plagiarism, since the software they use is well known for producing an absurdly high rate of false positives. (Here [insidehighered.com] is one reference out of many; Turnitin's steadfast refusal to discuss their algorithms in any other than vague PR terms doesn't help inspire confidence that anything's improved in the last couple of years.) Given the dire consequences of being ac

      • Let's not confuse plagiarism and the detection of plagiarism. You're quite right that a student who acts as you propose in your first paragraph is not committing plagiarism... trivially, in fact.

        However, the detection of plagiarism by a computer program cannot make use of any of this knowledge about the student. There is no function that can check if the student took notes in his own words, and no function that can check if a particular source that was physically used is in fact valid. There are merely st

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Yeah except in tradeschools you actually need to be able to prove your skills to be able to pass. I suggest just shipping them off to be ditch diggers like they were supposed to be.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      I dunno about playing both sides of the fence... I used a service very much like this to detect that my partner in my last class had plagerized all 12 pages of our research paper. I was greatful to have spent the $5 and immediately wrote a new paper from scratch. What an asshole. Am I naive to think most students would use the service this way?

      First problem, you had your partner write the research. Of course he plagerized it. You were too lazy to help.

      Now if you bothered to help from the start, you would of saved not only money, but you rewriting the paper yourself, because you could of had help.

      Moral of your story? Don't be a lazy fuck and have your lab partner write the research.

    • by izomiac (815208)
      The hilarious thing would be if your lab partner did the same thing first, causing your later submission to be detected as plagiarism. (These services retain a copy so they can expand their database, and even non-plagiarists occasionally submit papers to ensure there aren't any false positives.)
  • self plagiarism should not be flaged and you should not have to give your rights to the paper to use trun it in.

    • by Xugumad (39311)

      Self-plagiarism is not up to Turnitin to make decisions on; my employer doesn't allow it (and while I think I know why, am not confident enough to comment publicly), others may not. Turnitin merely flags such sections as such, and it's then up to the institution to make a call on it. They have their own page on the matter, which summarises effectively: https://turnitin.com/static/helpCenter/self_plagiarism.php [turnitin.com]

      • by tibit (1762298)

        The "double dipping" as they call it is something that only and idiot with no academic experience could come up with. In getting an engineering degree, I quite often reused homework solutions, it'd be idiotic not to. Many of the courses overlapped in one way or another. If you derive the Mohr's circle once, it'd be stupid not to reuse it. It's no different than looking it up in a book. You don't have to attribute fairly basic equations, they'll be found in hundreds of sources, they are your basic tools. If

      • by ensignyu (417022)

        Off-topic, but regarding self-plagiarism and "duplicate credit":

        In college I took an Intro to Philosophy 1 class for my humanities general ed requirement. The next year, I signed up for the second class in the series, on ethics, which had TBD listed for the instructor. On the first day of class, I found out it was taught by the same professor -- and the syllabus was exactly the same as Philosophy 1!

        The professor had basically plagiarized his own material for what was supposed to be a different course. For a

  • Given that Turnitin doesn't work as advertised anyway, I'm not really sure what the issue is. While it can certainly check all the internet sources, it fails to compare it to other submitted works. I know I've lifted sections from my own, previously submitted to turnitin assignments only to have it spit out 0% plagiarism when in reality I've only done half the work the second time around. Hell, I know people who've lifted entire sections straight from Wikipedia, changed two words, and it detected nothing.
  • Sounds like a lot of work for the student, first finding something to copy, then submitting it then changing stuff submitting again, and repeat until 'not plagiarized' pops up and then turn the thing in and hope you managed to keep the paper viable as far as grade and content goes. I'd rather just write the damn thing and know that I'm not plagiarizing anyone.
    • I'm inclined to to try it as an amusing experiment - (it doesn't say you HAVE to be a student right?)

      As a former enfant terrible myself, you don't just change two words, a talented paper-slicker can smash up the whole paper while mostly keeping the same ideas. It's like a form of translation.

      There's lots of things about this entire story that bothers me. For example, why are we talking about "plagarism" and not "copyright infringement"? Isn't "changing a work so that it avoids copyright infringement" a Good

      • The Turnitin algorithm doesn't define what a derivative work is. Just because it passes doesn't mean it's no copyright infringement.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It's truly amazing how hard people will work to avoid working.

      Kinda like the people who spend thousands of dollars on gear to get a few hundred in "free" satellite or cable.

    • by sco08y (615665)

      Sounds like a lot of work for the student, first finding something to copy, then submitting it then changing stuff submitting again, and repeat until 'not plagiarized' pops up and then turn the thing in and hope you managed to keep the paper viable as far as grade and content goes.

      I'd rather just write the damn thing and know that I'm not plagiarizing anyone.

      And that's how it was for me, too, and most of the people I knew. The morality of it aside, it was just completely impractical: I needed to learn the material anyway, so the time spent cheating would be a double waste.

      So if our base assumption is that a certain portion of people will do something immoral if there's an opportunity, we see that our peers don't because they don't really have the opportunity.

      But I knew several people who almost certainly cheated on exams, another guy who was notorious for tryin

      • by tibit (1762298)

        You have to read. Read like a madman. Before starting college in the U.S., I've read -- literally -- a couple long shelves of paperbacks. Probably 12 feet or so. I'd read on the toilet, read before falling asleep, read right after waking up, read while being driven around (don't forget your fave motion sickness pill!), read, read, read ... That's all there's to it. You can't come up with linguistic experience of a young adult without reading as much as that young adult would. Just think how much you have ha

  • I am familiar with several universities that use turn_it_in_dot.com

    They (faculty in the departments) have chosen to set the service up such that when an assignment is required, students submit to this service. The student can check their submission before finalization; if the service flags content as problematic the student has the choice to submit anyway, or revise and try again later.

    Faculty have the option to enable a feature such that they *could* see that a students initial submissions had proble

    • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @09:05PM (#37365194)

      While I believe students do release their copyright to the work as part of this- I can't take seriously the idea anyone cares about the copyright on their intro biology lab report

      That's a foolish, misleading example on which to dismiss the concern out of hand. How many business models or product designs have come to someone during their undergraduate years, leading the inventor to drop out and create global corporations or life-changing social innovations? Where would we be if Mark Zuckerberg or Shawn Fanning or Bill Gates had written about their ideas in their "intro" computer science classes and had some bullshit like this take away their opportunity to copyright or patent their ideas? And what if it wasn't even the university that got to steal it, but Turnitin.com?

      Never, ever underestimate the seriousness of requiring someone to surrender intellectual ownership of things written or invented on their own time as a condition of getting an education or a job or anything else.

      • All 4 years are undergrads, by the way. If you are taking intro classes all those years, and in my experience with this tool that is the only place its used- well power to you. Where have you seen the tool used?

        Consider this a lesson to students- if you are basing your business model on word-for-word copying of copyrighted work-- you are going to suffer consequences in the business world just like you did in the classroom. E.g., you will lose. Best to learn that early. These days, incoming student
        • What? I'm not even sure that was an answer to my complaint, much less an applicable one.

          Consider this a lesson to students- if you are basing your business model on word-for-word copying of copyrighted work-- you are going to suffer consequences in the business world just like you did in the classroom.

          In no way did my "thought experiment" involve anyone who was actually cheating in any way, nor did it involve even the allusion to anyone basing a business model on stolen work. I seriously doubt whether you even read my post before responding to it. It involved the possibility of losing copyright on 100% original work, and the subsequent right to make a business out of one's own work, due to the process by which univer

          • I don't see any questions in your post, I read it and found a what-if (and using some really interesting choices for examples) and an admonishment: --- Never, ever underestimate the seriousness of requiring someone to surrender intellectual ownership of things written or invented on their own time as a condition of getting an education or a job or anything else. --- I submitted real-world examples of the tool in use, and real-world examples of why the tool is needed in an educational context, and to me the
      • by deniable (76198)

        Mark Zuckerberg or Shawn Fanning or Bill Gates

        An interesting selection for this discussion. None of them have ever been accused of taking the work of others.

  • I've noticed their bot going through the pages on my webserver. I haven't been able to figure out how it found my site, they seem to have come out of nowhere and started going through my pages. I was considering altering my robots.txt to tell them to stay out, although now I'm wondering how far they will go - they haven't gone through nearly as many pages as google or baidu.
  • Its not very clear from the article, but it sounds like the WriteCheck service would encourage students to properly cite references and paraphrase (rather than copy/paste) in order to avoid plagiarism. Isn't that a good thing? I'm sure it'd help avoid a lot of unintentional plagiarism via incorrect citations, excessive use of block quotes, substandard paraphrasing, etc.

    That said, I wouldn't completely trust either of the highlighted systems. Grammar check is the first thing I turn off when I sit down at
  • Anyone know how to tell if they have your papers? I've attended several different colleges and am very opposed to my work being used by this service. Before anyone asks, yes I looked at the site and don't see any way to find out. They also claim to be following copyright (they're not) so I doubt they're freely giving this info out.

  • - at least in the undergrad classes whose papers I've seen - are not quite literate enough to "right click and scramble" all that well. Using synonyms from a thesaurus often results in stilted, unpolished writing that doesn't flow right. When Turnitin has caught plagiarism for his students, it's been blatant paragraphs that were obviously not the quality of writing those students were capable of (sophomore undergrads.) Writing has a voice and a tone, and clear-cut cases of plagiarism often have mish-mash
  • by Acheron (2182) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @11:18PM (#37365678)

    I was a technical advisor to a committee creating policy for Turnitin style service use on the university campus I work on. Turnitin isn't a plagiarism detection service: they're being disingenuous when they say that. It is a text matching service. The difference is significant: a first-year history paper might be 75% matched, but not plagiarized because the student correctly attributed all their quoted passages.

    The committee recommended against using it for detecting plagiarism, and for encouraging its use as a teaching tool to make students aware of proper citation techniques and the importance of avoiding plagiarism.

    Some service like this also happen to be quite good at the most common kind of plagiarism: someone on campus submitting someone elses paper from the previous year to a different prof... but that's a special clear-cut case of cheating, not what people commonly think of as plagiarism.

    • by tibit (1762298)

      a first-year history paper might be 75% matched, but not plagiarized because the student correctly attributed all their quoted passages

      I don't think I'd ever want to see a paper in any subject that is 75% quotes in the main text (not in footnotes or appendices). Not even an analysis of a poem would demand such an outrageous ratio. A paper that's 75% quotes must read like crap: 25% of text is hardly enough to make it flow; quotes will likely be by different authors, written in different tones, etc. I'd probably grade such a paper "F" with subtext "you're not funny" just upon seeing the ratio.

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