Academic Digital

Tips for detecting and beating plagiarism

From University of Connecticut

Appears to be disappointingly common in HE:

Detecting ghost-written essays is a tricky task for academics.

Written by other academics or postgraduates to student specifications, these scripts are not the easly identifiable copy-and-paste efforts that anti-plagiarism software is so adept at catching.

But they often still leave behind clues to their illicit origin, according to Ann Rogerson, lecturer in organisational behaviour at the University of Wollongong, in Australia.

Ms Rogerson – who spoke at the 6th International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference held in Gateshead this week – began to investigate the issue after suspecting that a high level of cheating was taking place on one of her postgraduate courses for international students.

Read full article.

Academic Digital

Plagiarism Software

My colleague, Nicole McNab, has looked at plagiarism quite extensively over the past couple of years, so this has gained my interest … especially as Nicole tends towards the idea that TurnItIn, etc. should not be used for detection, but for training students to understand!

Students who are aware that their work will be checked by plagiarism-detection software are just as likely to cheat as those who are not, a study suggests.

Turnitin software, which is used by thousands of universities worldwide, extracts text from submitted essays and checks it against other sources, such as online documents.

However, the study conducted by a researcher at California State University suggests that such measures should not be regarded as a “silver bullet” in the battle against “deviant” academic practices.

Robert J. Youmans, a cognitive psychologist, says in the paper published in the journal Studies in Higher Education that he expected to find that fewer students would cheat if they were warned that their work would be scanned.

This proved not to be the case.

Read full story.


"Our job is to judge" (@timeshighered)

Academics without the freedom to exercise judgement are not true academics. Frank Furedi explains why scholars must resist the rise of proceduralism

A couple of years ago, I was listening to a presentation about a new and apparently sophisticated anti-plagiarism tool. Throughout the talk, the speaker boasted of her software’s potential for detecting copied work and preserving “academic integrity”.

I was a little despondent about the notion that, henceforth, the value of academic integrity would be secured through computer software. Nor did I feel reassured when, towards the end of the presentation, we were told that “academic judgement” was still necessary to determine whether plagiarism had taken place. To me, the notion that academic judgement had become an adjunct to plagiarism detection software was even more disturbing than the association of this product with the upholding of academic security.

Since then, I have become conscious of a growing tendency to marginalise the role and devalue the status of academic judgement. Increasingly, the term “academic judgement” is used defensively in response to a complaint about a particular decision. In official documents, the term refers to decisions that cannot and should not be challenged by students.

Numerous university appeals procedures contain the statement “Appeals are not permitted against the academic judgement of the examiners” or something similar. Because in its current usage academic judgement is invariably used to protect lecturers and their institutions from complaints, it can come across as a mere administrative convenience.

Yet academic judgement lies at the heart of university life. Academics are continually in the business of making judgement calls.

Read full story

Academic Digital

Plagiarism software can be beaten by simple tech tricks

IT scholar says PDF tweaks allow students’ copied work to evade detection. Hannah Fearn reports

Technological loopholes allow savvy students to beat academic plagiarism software, an IT expert has warned.

James Heather, senior lecturer in computing at the University of Surrey, has revealed that plagiarism detection systems such as Turnitin that are routinely used by universities are open to simple cheats allowing students to evade detection when submitting copied material.

The software works by extracting text from an essay or assignment and checking whether it matches text from other sources, such as documents available online.

But in a new paper, “Turnitoff: identifying and fixing a hole in current plagiarism detection software”, Dr Heather reveals that beating the system is simple.

“In their current incarnation, one can easily create a document that passes the plagiarism check regardless of how much copied material it contains. When there are loopholes that can be exploited, they give the operator a false assurance that a submission is original.”

The study, which appears in the journal Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, demonstrates ways in which students can modify plagiarised work to avoid detection.

“If we can stop the text from being properly extracted from the document, without affecting how the document looks and prints, then the software will not be able to identify any plagiarised material,” Dr Heather writes.

Read full story in Times Higher Education

Find the original article

This is definitely something to look out for, and just for a point of personal interest, James is a friend of mine, and built my visual database for my PhD posters!