Archive for the ‘Plagarism’ Category

Digital cheating – are oral assessments worth considering

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Recently, a colleague commented that despite using Turnitin he had reservations about the assignments from some  international students, particularly given the near incomprehensibility of their emails.   Not long after, another (quite innovative) colleague of mine at Monash mentioned  he was considering adding an small oral component to his suite of assessments.  This was mainly for pedagogical reasons but it did lead to a conversation about cheating and assignment mills.

His idea was to have a series of questions or topics.  The students would only have to address one topic, randomly selected by the assessor in the assessment.  Obviously, there are downsides in terms of workload, skilling up the assessors and preparing students, but for smaller units with a history of suspect marks it might be worth considering.

There are a couple of things worth mentioning about Turnitin (none of which are secrets).  Turnitin doesn’t pick up original work that a student has purchased, it doesn’t scour the  entirety of the internet for matches, and it can’t find information hidden in password protected sites.

This article from Time Higher education (re-posted in Inside Higher Ed) outlines and group approach to oral assessment which is worth a look.

The top ten text match errors picked up by Turnitin

Monday, July 21st, 2014

These items are from the Turnitin white paper The Plagarism Spectrum: Instructor Insights into the 10 Types of Plagiarism.  As with all industry white papers, it should read read with a critical eye.

The paper included a full explanation of each item.

10 Ten Plagiarism methods according to Turnitin

Did the next gen plagiarism software get used on J.K. Rowling?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The (next) Holy grail of plagiarism detection is style analysis which can determine authorship.  It can be done, but not in a way that’s currently practical at scale.

Advances in computer technology can now parse text with ever-finer accuracy.   Consider the recent outing of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling as the writer of The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel she published under the pen name Robert Galbraith. England’s Sunday Times, responding to an anonymous tip that Rowling was the book’s real author, hired Duquesne University’s Patrick Juola to analyze the text of Cuckoo, using software that he had spent over a decade refining. One of Juola’s tests examined sequences of adjacent words, while another zoomed in on sequences of characters; a third test tallied the most common words, while a fourth examined the author’s preference for long or short words. Juola wound up with a linguistic fingerprint—hard data on the author’s stylistic quirks.

He then ran the same tests on four other books: The Casual Vacancy Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter novel, plus three stylistically similar crime novels by other female writers. Juola concluded that Rowling was the most likely author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, since she was the only one whose writing style showed up as the closest or second-closest match in each of the tests. After consulting an Oxford linguist and receiving a concurring opinion, the newspaper confronted Rowling, who confessed.

Juola completed his analysis in about half an hour.

As an example of the sort of tools becoming available have a look at Expresso

“Expresso is a little tool to edit texts and improve your writing style. It will teach you to express yourself through writing more efficiently and help make your texts more readable, precise, and engaging. “

It provides metrics on your own writing and is not a plagiarism detector, but it’s a fairly short leap from a tool like this to some sort of comparative analysis.

Read Doug Petterson’s post about his experience with Expresso

“Internet Plagiarism: A Teacher’s Combat Guide”

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

The sun is shining the birds are singing, our students are still keen and showing up for lectures, but soon the dark times will return when our students sleep in and begin looking for the academic philosopher’s stone that will magically turn their leaden study into assessment gold.  Some will nobly forge their way into the forbidding and impenetrable texts we recommend, they may even choose to venture out on their own onto the information highways of the internet.  But they must be warned, for this is a place of many dangers.  Here lie the twin succubi of YouTube and Facebook, the false professors of wikpedia and google, and tricksters aplenty offering dull students the promise of easy progression.

So I say to you fair teacher, forewarned is forearmed.  Read this and smite the little buggers.

Suarez, J., & Martin, A. (2001). Internet plagiarism: A teacher’s combat guide. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education

If you’re looking for a free online Plagarism checker you could try .  I haven’t tried it myself but it seems fairly widely used.

More Turnitin goodness

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Here’s another video from CQ university on how you would use Turnitin with Moodle.

And of course you can always go to the official site

Another Turnitin video

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

This is another reasonable short (8 min)  video on Turnitin.  This one is from Oxford Brookes University.  It is targeted at students, but it also provides a useful introduction for academics.

Turnitin Oxford Brookes University

In terms of the presentation, I don’t particularly mind the “talking head” delivery as it personalises the presentation and is well delivered.  I think the focus on examples from actual reports was good but it probably should have switched to a full screen a bit more often.  A good view of the highlighted text is more important than having the presenter on screen.

The first 2 minutes and last minute would have been better if the slides reinforced the message through animation or visuals rather than  presenting pages of text which largely duplicated the audio.   Overall a pretty useful video.

A good example of a student info resource

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

We are getting on the Turnitin bandwagon.

In hunting around for info I found this video from CQ Uni.   Some of the transitions are a bit Star Wars IV (just because a feature exists doesn’t mean you have to use it) but overall it provides a good simple explanation of what is required.

Turnitin explained for students
Turnitin explained - for students

Turnitin explained – for students

Another win for Wikipedia – No.1 Individual Site for Student Plagiarism

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Turnitin Debunks Myths Surrounding Plagiarism on the Web

“Wikipedia remains the most popular single source for student-matched content on the Web, comprising seven percent of matches in the months examined. The other most popular sites, in order, are,,,,,,”

See where else students go (according to Turnitin) to setup their careers as ethical members of society.  As a side note it is interesting, but perhaps not surprising that in the U.S.  the worst offenders are MBA students.

Getting an extension by submitting a corupted file – Another reason to use plagarism software?

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

 Sometimes you just have sigh and wonder why they just don’t do the work.  Would you really want to employ someone who went to these lengths to get out of a dealine?

“Most of us have had the experience of receiving e-mail with an attachment, trying to open the attachment, and finding a corrupted file that won’t open. That concept is at the root of a new Web site advertising itself (perhaps serious only in part) as the new way for students to get extra time to finish their assignments.”

One obvious way around is to mandate the submission of the file to the organisations plagarism software prior to handing any work in – as well as checking for plagarism, it will only work with a functioning file.  All corrupt files could be then treated as suspect and then checked with software that lets you look inside the corrupted file to see if it is genuine. 


“Students Lose, Fair Use Wins in Suit Targeting Anti-Plagiarism Tool”

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Anti-Plagarism software in Higher Ed is a sticky issue.  Does it mean academics have to change the way they personally manage assignments?  How will we use it – punitive vs instructive?  Is the available software good enough?  How will the students react?  What if the results are challenged?  How much will it cost?  What do we do without to pay for it? 

Copyright has been a concern flagged by students (here and overseas). 

“A (U.S.) federal appeals court last week affirmed a lower court’s decision that the Turnitin service does not violate the copyright of students, even though it stores digital copies of their essays in the database that the company uses to check works for academic dishonesty.”

Somehow I don’t think this decision is the end of the issue.