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Student Fights University Over Plagiarism-Detector

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the can't-fight-the-man dept.

Education 949

(Maly) writes "CBC is reporting that MCGill University has lost a fight to have students first turn papers over to an anti-cheating website before handing them in to professors. The student refused to hand in three assignments to the service, received a zero on those assignments, then fought the ruling. The story doesn't have many specifics, such as the venue of the fight (court or some internal university tribunal), but it is an interesting case. As a recent graduate of the social sciences, I find that practice appalling. The student is right to refuse, as he gets no compensation from the service for making money off his original work (assuming it was original!!). Although I don't like the idea, and I'm glad I never went through it, I suppose its analogue would be mandatory drug tests in sports."

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949 comments

ha (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006630)

Firsts0rz :-D

"Shaking like France" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006782)

Serious question for our Canuck millstones to the north: are the Quebecois worthless quaking pussies like their "brethren" in France? Gawd, I hope not

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hahahaha (-1, Flamebait)

xeeno (313431) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006635)

"As a recent graduate of the social sciences, I find that practice appalling."

Anything that calls itself a science in practice isn't.

Reply (3, Interesting)

Mod Me God (686647) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006670)

Anything that calls itself a science in practice isn't.

er... how about science: "Such activities applied to an object of inquiry or study" or "The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena"??? Or are you just small minded?

The website says "Originality Reports are exact duplicates of submitted papers, except that any text either copied or paraphrased appears underlined, color-coded, and linked to its original source." [they check against the internet, academic papers and past submitted reports].

When a subject is quite tightly defined, there must be a limit of permutations/combinations in text. I don't like the idea of this system, but would like to know where they draw the line regarding paraphrasing - is a sentence, paragraph, larger? Is it only exact paraphrasing that is detected or can adjectives be sprinkled about?

Technically interesting, but the false-positive risk is worrying.

Re:hahahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006672)

Anything that calls itself a science in practice isn't.

Yeah, just look at "computer science".

The only thing worse than that is coders claiming to be "engineers".

Re:hahahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006681)

The only thing worse than that is coders claiming to be "engineers".
Or MBAs calling themselves "educated".

Re:hahahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006719)


A "Masters of Business Administration" is more accurate than computing gradutes classed as Masters of Science.

They are, however, similar in that both are worthless without practical experience.

Fuck I'm Bored (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006637)

C'mon, Crapdot, post some more stories already. Jesus fucking christ almightly, it's been a slow newsday here. :p

Re:Fuck I'm Bored (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006659)

Whenever you're bored and you're in front of a computer, just learn a programming language. It's saved me from boredom many a time.

Re:Fuck I'm Bored (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006679)

Dude, I'm _employed_ as a programmer, and I get enough of it at work. I'm counting the days until my options vest and I'm OUT the fucking door and retiring to a tropical island starting a new career.

Fuck learning a new programming language. I need more Slashdot stories. :-)

Hrmm (2, Insightful)

acehole (174372) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006639)

Isnt that the job of lecturers/professors? They're supposed to know the material and recognise when something is copied.

What ever happened to trust?

Re:Hrmm (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006646)

The same that happened to freedome.

Re:Hrmm (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006655)

The same that happened to freedome.

Is that the same thing that happened to the Astrodome?

Re:Hrmm (3, Insightful)

epicstruggle (311178) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006664)

With many profs. having hundreds of students, exactly where are they going to find the time to make sure your paper is an original. And TAs coming from overseas, I was happy if they could even speak english in the of chance that i need help. With this situation at hand, many have taken the easy route and cheated by searching/buying papers online.

I hope students are required to hand their papers in to anti-cheat sites, before hand. Hey Id like to make sure people are all getting a fair shake.

later,
epic

Re:Hrmm (5, Insightful)

the_duke_of_hazzard (603473) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006685)

In former times this was easy - you were marking papers from year to year and could easily remember plagiarised essays, or essays copied from one another within a year group - but with the advent of the internet, work can easily be disseminated over a wide geographical area.

On the other hand if you're talking about plagiarism of published works, then yes, tutors should be able to spot this. But I think we're talking about plagiarism of course essays rather than published papers. Of course, examination systems have laways got round this problem quite simply.

Re:Hrmm (1)

rhout (572474) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006687)

I recall a certain president saying something to the effect of "Trust but verify".

Re:Hrmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006688)

Isnt that the job of lecturers/professors? They're supposed to know the material and recognise when something is copied.

Unfortunately, sometimes it's difficult to see where the student copied it from. And when you have lots of students (I have 100+70+60, I think - got to check), checking each assignment is insane. A sad thing...
But of course - after you detect something, you double-check it! The problem is how to detect plagiarism when you have lots of students and lots of books and websites out there. (OK, websites are searchable, but books are different)

Re:Hrmm (4, Interesting)

NoOneInParticular (221808) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006706)

That's akin to saying manufacturing anything is a job for engineers: they're supposed to know the material and how to build stuff with it. Well, once the initial design is done, it's a lot more efficient to create a machine that does the manufacturing for you. We call this the industrial revolution.

As a former university teacher, I've never used this turnitin site, but I did use a 30-line python script that would take random fragments of 10 consecutive words in the papers and would run them (a) through google and (b) against all other papers that were turned in. This worked awesomely well and saved me a lot of time that I could spend on actually assessing the quality of the non-fraudulent papers.

Plagiarism simply happens and I don't see the problem with automated checking for it. Automating tasks that formerly needed insight, training, and knowledge might be called the information revolution.

Re:Hrmm (4, Insightful)

tgibbs (83782) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006730)

Isnt that the job of lecturers/professors? They're supposed to know the material and recognise when something is copied.

So professors are expected to be familiar with every recycled term paper that is going around on the internet or being sold by term paper mills?

In reality, professors are going to catch plagiarism only if the student happens to copy from a source that the professor is very familiar with. A system where some students get hauled before disciplinary hearings while many others who are doing the same thing get away with high grades hardly seems fair, either.

Unfortunately, students often get away with petty plagiarism all through college, and then move on to graduate school or professional careers where sources are more easily identified, and the penalty for plagiarism tends to be much heavier.

Teaching students what constitutes original scholarship is part of the legitimate mission of the university, so outlawing tools that enable professors to catch cheaters ultimately is harmful to the student.

Still, asking the student to submit his paper to an originality checker seems a bit like a slap in the face, and from a practical point of view, letting the students know just how their papers are going to be checked makes it easier for them to circumvent those measures. It would probably be better simply to inform the students that there papers will be checked for originality without telling them how.

their crawler (5, Interesting)

Neophytus (642863) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006642)

It's been poking about a few times, and at least it appears to obey robots.txt and use anti-hammer tricks unlike another IP rights company (albeit tagged to another market altogether) cyveillance [cyveillance.com] who use false user agents to hide their activity, don't look for robots.txt and can sometimes hammer your entire website off the web if you have a low cap (say daily rather than monthly). Kudos to people who build polite bots. Have they been crawling your site? [gulker.com]

Fuck I'm Bored (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006644)

Moderate me off-topic, will you? Well fuck YOU, here my post is again, in all it's original glory. Suck on that, you useless piece of shit!

C'mon, Crapdot, post some more stories already. Jesus fucking christ almightly, it's been a slow newsday here. :p

Damn stright! (5, Insightful)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006645)

Technology is seen as infallible by a great many people - suppose a paper accidentally failed the pagiarism test - is there any way to appeal? who are you going to beleive, some snot-nosed plagiarising punk or a godlike magical website?

Re:Damn stright! (2, Informative)

sangreal66 (740295) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006752)

I've had to turn papers into turnitin.com before. You do get a score, but it specifically points out the parts that were copied, along with their source. Teachers _have_ to check it, because it will count quoted passages as plagiarism.

Some things it seems pointful to note (4, Informative)

rark (15224) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006649)

1. This is in Canada, not the U.S. (/. is pretty US-centric, so it seems important to note this)

2. The article does note that, in addition to being used at 29 schools in Canada, it's used in 'several' schools in the U.S. Anyone know of any?

Re:Some things it seems pointful to note (1)

dalutong (260603) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006721)

UMBC -- University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

My girlfriend goes there. I don't know if it is professor specific, or school wide. I know my school (University of Maryland's main campus, UM College Park,) doesn't have it. Or if it does it is professor specific because I've not heard about it.

Re:Some things it seems pointful to note (1)

pholower (739868) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006785)

Proffesors use this at my school (Auburn University); however, it is not a university wide thing. I believe my proffesor is one of the few who knows the flaws and gaps in technology because any papers he comes across that have allegedly failed the test he gives the benefit of the doubt to the student to prove this is an original piece of work. I don't see this as a bad thing, but more of a tool the teachers can use to help them grade hundreds of papers, as long as they realize no system is perfect.

Well how can they safeguard against this? (4, Interesting)

thenerd (3254) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006650)

My father works as a professor in a large university, and has often had problems with students turning in plagiarised work.

One day he had to bring someone into his room to tell them that in future, it wasn't advisable to plagiarise from his own book and hand it right back into him, because he could recognise his own style!

With essays that can be purchased over the internet, why shouldn't McGill safeguard against having crap, plagiarized work handed into them? The students who do this are trying to decieve the university. The article seemed to be saying that the professors were trying to just get out of doing work, and it wasn't to catch cheaters. I don't see why it is wrong to know within a reasonable margin of error that the work you are marking is not plagiarized.

Re:Well how can they safeguard against this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006658)

Because theyre learning from said books and its been done before, its not new so you cant expect new things from old areas.

Its science, not art.

The main objective is to learn, thats what educations about, if they learnt, why are they being punished?

You got yer ass on backwards mate. Its not art competitions its not competition its LEARNING.

Re:Well how can they safeguard against this? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006722)

That's exactly why automated plagiarism checks make sense: If it's similar enough to be flagged by a text comparison program, then you're not showing that you learned something, just that you know CTRL-C CTRL-V. You're not expected to come up with the next uncertainty principle, but being able to explain something in your own words is a requirement, because it shows a) that you understood it and b) that you can give structure to complex thoughts. The latter will be very helpful should you ever have an original thought of your own.

Re:Well how can they safeguard against this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006731)

The main objective is to learn, thats what educations about, if they learnt, why are they being punished?

Because use of "Copy" and "Paste" is not the information intended to be learned? Hell, if I thought I could get a college degree for skillful use of Google, there's no way I'd pay $25k/year to listen to lectures.

To learn is not to be able to parrot back a pile of discreet facts. To learn is to take those facts and synthesize greater meaning from them. It is that skill that allows, for example, programmers to create functions that have not been seen before. Rote repetition of data, or of someone else's text may be ok for 8 year olds, but real people need to be capable of more.

Re:Well how can they safeguard against this? (1)

overunderunderdone (521462) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006786)

The main objective is to learn, thats what educations about, if they learnt, why are they being punished?

Because presumably they were supposed to learn about something more than: google -> cut -> paste.

THEY were supposed to learn about something, THINK about it themselves and and organize and refine their own thoughts enough write a reasonably lucid paper on them. Simply finding somebody elses paper and turning it in doesn't exhibit that they learned anything.

Sure their papers are on some existing subject and there are probably thousands of other papers, books and articles that say pretty much the same thing. But if they say the same thing in *exactly* the same way (which is what plagerism detectors detect) that is a pretty good indication that not only is there very little learning going on but that what is going on is deceit to maintain the *illusion* of learning.

Re:Well how can they safeguard against this? (5, Insightful)

digital photo (635872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006718)

If the intent is to protect against cheaters, then the teachers should submit the papers to the service for verification. The student should not have to be the one who is being required to turn in their papers to a service.

It is a matter of being treated like a criminal first.

The other problem would be false positives when people write with similar styles in two different parts of the nation/world. Given enough "samples" in their filter, the accuracey drops because you now have a much higher likelihood of turning up a match.

I Agree that plagiarizing work is wrong. But I do not agree that everyone should be treated like a cheater just because some in the student body are.

Typical... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006654)

When you treat everyone like a potential criminal, nobody wins.

LOTR: ROTK is a travesty, and here is why. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006656)

- Shelob book form is very, very old and slow. She's deliberate and single minded but not the speeding oversized tatarantula you see in the film. Heck in the film all Shelob is is just some unimportant oversized arachnid - no personality at all.

- Shelob sits her ass on Sting, it's not thrusted by Sam - that fight went on way too long.

- The sheer size of Shelob's sting was so large you'd think Frodo would have a pretty major abdominal wound in addition to the poison. But when he wakes there's nary a scratch on him. Oh hey the audience wont notice right? Continuity Mr. Jackson!

- Why doesn't Shelob just run in and grab Frodo when he's bungey jumping in her webbing - that's what real spiders do - and if Shelob is just an oversized house spider than that's what she would have done. Not exciting enough right?

- No Christopher Lee! Saruman is the star of the whole film and book. Who else can dish out sure fire insults in old English like the master of Orthanc? If it weren't for Saruman there would be no second book and we'd never see those Hobbits get their comeuppance.
I am buying the DVD just for those deleted scenes alone.

- Eowyn was never referred to as Dernhelm. Where were those references?

- Aragorn's army of undead buddies never made it to Gondor proper. Aragorn releases them before that point cos he's such a nice geezer.

- The crypt of the undead is supposed to be completely pitch black. Gimli is in fear because he can hear the dead following them but not see them. La-de-da we have CGI now. No need for plot exposition let's just bung undead people all over the place - it looks good or something.

- The same goes for Shalobs Lair. It was much, much too bright - I'm serious!

- The seige of gondor was likewise much too bright. The book labours to make clear the failing of the daylight hours. Through many chapters - not just one. But Mr. Jackson - our camera people will have nothing to film! We can't have that! Quick stuff in some daylight - otherwise people will have to use their imag-i-nation.

- Gandalf takes on Denethor with his staff. WTF? What happened to stern words and plot exposition. No the audience has an average I.Q. of your average po-tat-O. I am insulted at Mr. Jacksons low opinion of me. This is insane.

- The secret path into Mordor that Gollum leads Frodo and Sam to is not so secret after all. In fact - it's right on the doorstep of Minas Morgul, city of the Ringwraiths. Just look at the film. All those thousands of Saurons fell soldiers marching past and not once catching a glimpse of the stupid Hobbits mucking about in plain view.

- In that same scene the leader of the Nine Riders is on Horseback, not flying like in the film. Not exciting right?

- Theoden mucks around before going to Gondor. That's right - he sits on his ass and trys to figure out how to look after his people. He DOES NOT moan about Gondor's lack of assistance - and where is the all-important red arrow?

- the real Denethor was much crazier - the guy in the film was one of those Goth posers who rely much to heavily on giving out heavy stares and trying to act like they don't give a fuck - well, hey neither did I. How about the human side of Denethor(that's right - there used to be one).

- Since when would any sane king send his best horsemen against a herd of way oversized Oliphaunts? Horses are not necessarily faster but I would bet a sixpence that they are more maneuverable. Theoden have you ever heard of flanking tactics? Not just once mate - not just once.
The carnage was un-fricking-believable. Speechless.

- The Legolas/Oliphaunt scene. Empire Strikes Back - Hoth Scene anyone? Lego-man the force will be with you - always!

- What the f*** was wrong with those Eagles? In the wild Eagles(it doesn't matter what species) take their prey off to an eyrie and eat the f***ers. Picking the Hobbits up - cool. Not eating them afterwards - not cool. No Gandalf versus the Eagles scene - Mr. Jackson I am espying you!

- Faramir is stuck full of arrows - next day - "I'm alright!" Wow - arrows really aren't so bad after all! No healing hands of the king(we really want to see those fingers) needed. Faramir doesn't even get to meet Eowyn let alone marry her. AND(Mr Jackson - private note) a person recently perforated with arrows is not going to enjoy a little Hobbit fellow chucking you off a nice bed when all you're going to get from the experience is internal bleeding. Check with the medical profession Mr. Jackson - they are useful for some things.

- No Scouring of the Shire. Saruman's greatest hour. The words! Just listen to those beautiful words. Eat **** you little Hobbits - DIE!

- Where was that Elf-cum-servant-of-Sauron at the Black Gate? It's a major point of the story. Who else tests the hopes of Gandalfs little party by showing them Frodo's clothes when all seems lost. A major cinematic moment - wait for it - hang on - here it comes - WASTED!
Score: Nil points. Mr. Jackson how did you feel about that round? "Well I thought I had him from the last round but there was this one jab - it put my lights out pretty good." Go back to the book Mr. Jackson and read it again. See anything you like?
Please - constructive criticism - why show so much of Mr. Potato head leader of the Orcs when this vital scene was left flapping in the wind?

- Galadriel does NOT show up to pick Frodo up when his spirits are low. The whole overwrought deal with Sam versus Gollum was yet more workings of those nasty tricksy little screen writerses.

- Sauron's become a searchlight? He spots Frodo? He spots the ringbearer still a good way from Mount Doom? He spots a Hobbit mucking about with the ring on his neck and forgets all about it? O-k-a-y... Understood.

- The Palantir of Orthanc has become a middle Earth disco ball? Strut that funky stuff Pippin, dance boy dance. It burns too - looks great on celluloid.

- Please add to this list. Screenwriters need your assistance. Hollywood executives need your assistance. Even people with a low I.Q. rating have naught but stubborness obstructing them from watching a damn good film made just the way it should be.
If you don't really want to film a whole book then film what you really want to see. How about Peter Jacksons Lord of The Rings in snippet format? Just the parts he likes. A bit of the seige of Gondor here, a little of Helm's Deep there. Worth the price of admission?

Honor Code (1)

cflorio (604840) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006660)

I wonder if MCGill University has any kind of honor code in place. If you were caught cheating, do you just get a zero on the test or paper, do you get a F in the class, or do you get kicked out of the school?

Anti-cheating detectors are good (4, Interesting)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006661)

We use anti-cheating detectors too. Why? Because a) cheating is wrong and should be punished, b) the process is fair - everyone flagged by the algorithm gets a chance to explain him/herself to me.

Re:Anti-cheating detectors are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006675)

Education is about learning, maybe you forgot that. You seem to think its a competition.

Its not. Its LEARNING. The main objective is to LEARN to be EDUCATED.

Re:Anti-cheating detectors are good (5, Informative)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006717)

Education is about learning, maybe you forgot that

Since when did plagiarising become learning? Learning is taking existing material and working on it to produce new thought, ideas and interpretations.

Sure, you can have long explicit quotes but you must mark them as such. If the anti-cheating detectors flags you for such a paragraph, there's no problem if I can see that you've actually contributed to the report. If there's a real problem with the material, I will still give you a chance to explain yourself to me. I don't see what's the problem here. There are plenty of safeguards in place - no-one gets rejected because "an algorithm said the work is a copy".

We have a problem with otherwise underachiving students turning in word-for-word copies of old high-grade reports. The clever ones will try to modify the wording slightly, change the layout or the figures to confuse the examiners. Bayesian filters will still flag those.

As a professor.... (4, Insightful)

abbamouse (469716) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006662)

I have two takes on this story. First, I do find it a bit offensive to presume cheating on the part of students and to require them to "prove" they didn't cheat rather than the burden of proof running the other way. I do believe that if you expect certain behavior from people and let them know your expectations, then they are more likely to confirm them. This is the same reason that I find the anti-cheating posters in our classrooms at Wright State University offensive -- students know they aren't supposed to cheat, so the posters just create the impression that it's a pervasive part of the academic experience.

Second, that little quip about financial compensation is completely off-base. Students pay to learn, and once the prof has decided that they'll have a better learning experience if they submit to the site (presumably because they will feel forced to think for themselves instead of copying from term paper mills) they have no "right" to compensation. The practice is offensive, but from an educational standpoint, it is little different than the professor using their papers in class as examples for others. Either way, other people benefit from the student's work without compensation for the student. That's the way education works. The fact that antiplagiarism sites make money from their line of business (and the examples submitted by the students) is of no import, as long as they aren't selling the essays as part of an anthology or something. It's a feedback loop within the educational process and even though I disapprove of the practice, nobody's "rights" are violated.

Re:As a professor.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006692)

Education is about learning. Not competiting in some competition.

Seems so many schools got theyre arses on backwards. They seem to reward those that alrady know things so theyre wasting theyre time being there just to score points when other people could be learning.

Today the education system is less about learning and more about winning, competing. Those who know already get rewarded, those who dont, dont get it.

Re:As a professor.... (5, Interesting)

PrionPryon (733902) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006710)

I disagree with your second statement. Two points, one a niggling one and another that is less so. a) The system doesn't work against paper mills because the output of a paper mill is new content, that's why it is a mill. b) Students have a decent arguement in saying that they own the material within a paper they write (an original one) and the fact that the system indexes their content if it is deemed legitimate (assuming there is no option to opt out) means the company is bolstering its product without due compensation. The papers i write are my property. They are given to a professor for a grade but even the professor does not have a right to show it as an example without my permission. Reproduction without prior consent, and due compensation, is listed in the cover of most (scientific) journals.

Re:As a professor.... (4, Interesting)

Tim C (15259) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006750)

The papers i write are my property.

That's true in the general case, but if I were you, I'd dig out whatever agreement or contract you signed when you were accepted into your school/college/university and have a good read of the small print. I suspect you may find that you've signed copyright over to the institution on anything that you produce in the course of your studies.

Re:As a professor.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006799)

Reproduction without prior consent, and due compensation, is listed in the cover of most (scientific) journals.

Interestingly, this restriction usually includes the papers authors, who are required by most journals to sign the copyright of their work over to the journal for publication. Usually, the author is granted limited rights to his own work-use it in a thesis, use it in a class, etc. I've had to buy rights from one journal to use figures I created in a book.

Re:As a professor.... (2, Insightful)

WanderingGhost (535445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006720)

First, I do find it a bit offensive to presume cheating on the part of students and to require them to "prove" they didn't cheat

I agree. But it's certainly better than jsut letting students develop the idea that "researching a subject" means "doing a google search". (And in Brazil, where I teach, the words "research", that we use in assignments and "search", for google are the same, "pesquisa").
But anyway... Students also need to learn not to take offense. Hey, ti's the rules. Are they offended because they have to take tests? No. It's better to learn the right attitude towards tests and systems like this than just complaining that it presumes the student didn't learn. I took a great course on Compiler Construction here... And we all had to suybmit our assignments to an automated system designed by the teacher - and no students had a problem with it.

Re:As a professor.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006741)

Second, that little quip about financial compensation is completely off-base. Students pay to learn, and once the prof has decided that they'll have a better learning experience if they submit to the site (presumably because they will feel forced to think for themselves instead of copying from term paper mills) they have no "right" to compensation.

You really miss the point. When I write an essay, I own the copyright. I give my prof a copy of my essay when I hand it in , but copyright ownership remains with me. I am free to sell my essay, publish it in a book, a newspaper or a journal, not the prof or university.

Giving a copy of the essay to a third party which will use that copy to make money violates copyright law and opens the prof, the university and turnitin.com to legal liability.

The practice is offensive, but from an educational standpoint, it is little different than the professor using their papers in class as examples for others.

Actually, there is a world of difference. The situation you described is allowed by copyright law. Forcing students to give a copy to a for-profit company without compensation is not.

Re:As a professor.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006760)

I'm glad they didn't have this when I was around!!! Cheating is part of life; academic and the real world!

Fuck I'm Bored (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006666)

Moderate me a troll, will you? Well fuck YOU, here my post is again, in all it's original glory. Suck on that, you useless piece of shit! (Hint: Don't bother moderating this post down, and I won't bother posting it again.)

C'mon, Crapdot, post some more stories already. Jesus fucking christ almightly, it's been a slow newsday here. :p

Nothing New (3, Interesting)

Pike65 (454932) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006668)

Our department at uni used to run all of the submitted coding assignments in the first year through a script that would normalise the ident style, remove the comments and change all the variables names so they they could be diffed to check for cheating.

No-one threw their rattle out of their pram then.

I mean, how is this different from someone doing it manually?

Re:Nothing New (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006751)

Our department at uni used to run all of the submitted coding assignments in the first year through a script that would normalise the ident style, remove the comments and change all the variables names so they they could be diffed to check for cheating.

No-one threw their rattle out of their pram then.

I mean, how is this different from someone doing it manually?


You aren't violating copyright law in the scenario you describe.

turnitin.com uses the student essays in its for-profit business without compensation to the copyright owner. There is a world of difference.

Re:Nothing New (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006779)

Kind of like _all_ academic journals?

Re:Nothing New (1)

drdink (77) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006801)

I think the difference here is that the student is given teh burden of proving that they didn't cheat. It isn't some automated script done automagically after a paper is turned in. Also, after the paper is submitted it is archived in order to prevent copying of that paper in the future. Did your script keep all assignments on file with a for-profit company, thus increasing their overall worth for every program submitted and archived?

There is an important upside to the system (4, Insightful)

WanderingGhost (535445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006671)

I am a teacher... And you guys wouldn't believe how much stuff students just copy from the Internet, or from other students.
It's important to make students understand taht plagiarism just doesn't help them. They're losing a great opportunity to learn, and to develop their writing skills and intelligence, and maybe abstract reasoning, or whatever the subject requires from them. But unfortunately, some of them just don't care -- and these will slowly, er, "contaminate" (sorry, I'm not politically correct - really) the others with the idea that "you just need pass the course". you can learn what you need "later". This kind of system helps to keep things under control (sort of), by discouraging them. I'd be happy i this wasn't necessary, but as far as I see, there's no other option (in particular for people like me, who have classes with 100 students, or something close to taht).

Of course, it's much better if you have just a few students, and can read and detect plagiarism yourself. But hey, nobody wil give me a 10 student class. It's too expensive. :-(

There is an important upside to the system (0, Redundant)

Conch (52381) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006743)

I am a teacher... And you guys wouldn't believe how much stuff students just copy from the Internet, or from other students.
It's important to make students understand taht plagiarism just doesn't help them. They're losing a great opportunity to learn, and to develop their writing skills and intelligence, and maybe abstract reasoning, or whatever the subject requires from them. But unfortunately, some of them just don't care -- and these will slowly, er, "contaminate" (sorry, I'm not politically correct - really) the others with the idea that "you just need pass the course". you can learn what you need "later". This kind of system helps to keep things under control (sort of), by discouraging them. I'd be happy i this wasn't necessary, but as far as I see, there's no other option (in particular for people like me, who have classes with 100 students, or something close to taht).

Of course, it's much better if you have just a few students, and can read and detect plagiarism yourself. But hey, nobody wil give me a 10 student class. It's too expensive. :-(

Re:There is an important upside to the system (4, Interesting)

digital photo (635872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006757)

Students are subject to peer pressure. Everyone is subject to it. But if your classmate cheats, that doesn't mean that you will too. Granted, where one's view differs on this is dependant on one's belief/trust/faith in other humans.

I have nothing against the service itself. I have nothing against schools using it as a screening method to flag potentially problematic papers.

I have a problem with the institution making the students be the ones to submit their works to have it validated.

What does that teach a student? That they are not trusted. That their teachers have no faith in their character.

While this might catch a few cheaters, it stands a high chance of souring good students to do good work.

If a good student gets flagged, is that added to their record as a "risk factor"? How will that impact their academic and professional career?

Will there come a point where the service is trusted outright and positives aren't checked and students are penalized and/or expelled by default?

I agree, there is no easy solution which doesn't have a cost. Stuffing 100 students into a classroom is just wrong from a teaching standpoint. But so is subjecting students to a "academic cavity search".

I attended a state university and so know what you mean about 100 student classrooms. I currently attend a private university and pay quite a bit more. But there are only 15-20 students in the class and the learning quality is much much higher.

We depend so much on "services" that the higher ups think that "bodies" and "resources" like schools, classrooms, teachers, and books are expendable. That is WRONG.

I'm sorry to hear that you are burdened with so many students. However, burdening students' conscience with these screening services is the quick fix which will lead to a death spiral of educational quality.

It makes me sick to know that my children will have to go through this.

Re:There is an important upside to the system (3, Interesting)

Dark Lord Seth (584963) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006763)

And I am a student. And you guys wouldn't believe the crap people try to force down our throaths. Persoanlly, among the worst atrocities college forced upon me is an essay about... *drumroll* THE EFFICIENT DISPOSAL OF ICT WASTE! *ba-dum CHING!* How's that for a class where 50% wants to become a developer, 25% network administrator and the other 25% always skips class? IF I had done that essay as expected it would have cost me quite a bit of time and every second I spent writing that essay would be one second too much, which pretty much everyone though. The end result? 12 nearly identical essays, while 12 others never were handed in. No one was interested, no one gave a damn and no one wrote one original bit.

Of course it's easy to blame student of being lazy. Tell you what, you make college worth my time AND money, I'll do your goddamn assignments.

Hmmm - do they have an alternative? (4, Insightful)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006677)

"What I object to most about the policy at McGill is that it treats students as though we are guilty until proven innocent," said Rosenfeld

Well it seems the examiner has the right, even the duty to examine the papers which have been submitted. Checking for plagiarism seems fair, and also that he is using technical aids for doing so.

The article also mentions:

"The reality is that the high monitoring of students really isn't about catching cheaters, it is a substitute for hiring enough faculty members to take the time to read student work," said Ian Boyko, national chair of the student federation.

It seems that all the system does is check for plagiarism. Assuming it does that in a sensible manner (not providing false positives without pointing to the reference material) then it's just relieving the examiners from boring repetetive work.

A seperate issue is if they don't just have to have the paper checked, but also integrated into the database. I tend to think papers submitted to the university examiners should be public domain, though.

Re:Hmmm - do they have an alternative? (1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006740)

Assuming it does that in a sensible manner (not providing false positives without pointing to the reference material) then it's just relieving the examiners from boring repetetive work.

Thank you for saying that out so clearly.

Even false positives are not a problem, because the the human examiner should always check any suspicious report by himself before handing out tough sentences.

If Only......... (5, Funny)

RenegadeTempest (696396) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006682)

we could force people to use this service before posting on /., maybe we wouldn't have to wade through so many duplicate posts.

What's the problem? (2, Interesting)

Complicity (30481) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006683)

I think that I'm failing to see the problem here... if a student does not submit their essay to this site to be plagarism-checked, what is stopping the professors from submitting it themselves if they believe that there has been plagarism, and achieving the same thing? It isn't about money, because the article mentioned that this occurred during McGill's "free trial" period with the service. Is it a copyright thing?

Re:What's the problem? (4, Interesting)

clifyt (11768) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006771)

It probably is a copyright thing. I am on a few testing committees with my university, and these apps have come up quite a bit -- we are actually under contract for one and I've bitched and moaned about it. I turned in a journal article I had cowritten in, and it came back as plagerized...I had the guys look into it, and as I *RARELY* use my own name on journal articles (its a little hard to get published when folks find out that while you are a noted name in the field, you don't have a Ph.D...and ya actually dropped out of school before ya got your bachellors because a research project got in your way of actually dealing with the piddly shit...and 10 years later, you are still working on the same research with a team of people under ya).

Turns out, they had *MY* article in the database...my copyright was assigned to the journal for that publication only. I retained all other publication rights. I even had to sign a waiver to allow the article to be published electronically because at the time the journal didn't have a site, and the publisher wanted to show case some new ideas.

The plagerizing company had no legitimate right to the copyright, but it was in there system in some form (I don't even care if it was tokenized down to line noise...it is essentially my works) and I bitched some people out about it.

I've heard a few of my friends had the same reaction (well, at least their names were attached to the papers...must be nice to have degrees and shit :-)...and apparently my employeer has modified their agreement with the company they are using to where the papers submitted still belong to the university, and that they are licensed to use the papers solely for papers within the university. Nothing is to be stored elsewhere or used for any other purposes. We don't get it for free and we pay quite a bit so they were willing to work within these bounds...as a employee of the university, I'm satisfied with that...if I turn in a paper as a student, I don't see how the university can be held accountable for using it elsewhere as long as I'm given credit for the paper, but if they were used for BFE-University -- I'd be mighty pissed (err...once again).

So, if your university is doing this, make certain that your copyright stays within fair use only...adding your paper to the global database to help a corporation profit is NOT fairuse. Helping your university, the one you pay money to and support in various other ways, is -- IMHO -- fairusage.

blah

"free trial" (1)

digital photo (635872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006787)

The problem is that this was a free trial and that the student was forced to submit or fail the class. A class which was NOT a free trial for the student.

Once the "free trial" is over, what are the costs then?

The responsibility is on the faculty to screen. If they choose to use a service, then so be it. The difference is that when the student has to do it, they are basically being openly treated as a criminal.

The turnitin site isn't a "online assignment repository", but a single minded service of finding cheaters. Period.

When you drive down the street and see cops patting down or searching someone on the side of the road, what is your initial impression about what is going on? What is your impression of the person being searched?

Now think about what people think of students who NEED to submit their works to be screened.

What would your initial impression of that student be and would you want to hire that student for your project or your business? Even if they come out "clean" in the end, there is still a stigma attached.

I would personally find it offensive and would be a serious determining factor of whether a school was worth going to or not.

Our airports are already like prisons, now our schools will be as well. What a great time we live in.

Why should the student bear the burden? (4, Insightful)

digital photo (635872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006686)

If the teacher is truly concerned about cheating and plaigerism, then the teacher/official should be the one paying the service and submitting the works to the 3rd party business, not the student.

The student's obligation is to do the work of the assignment and turn it in. Grading and detection of falsehoods/duplicity/cheating/etc are the responsibilities of the teachers, not the students.

What's next? Submit your work to a business which does the grading?

My site gets hit by turnitin and at first, I was amused. But if a teacher is forcing a student to go through this process, then that teacher is basically saying that their students are not trustworthy and is an assumption of guilt by default.

Shame on the teacher for requiring that of their student and attempting to fail the student. Shame on the school for letting it happen.

_His_ Original Work? (4, Insightful)

Czernobog (588687) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006689)

All College/University material, regardless of whether it was lectures/notes given or work sumbitted by students is IP of the University, so it can decide what and when to do with it.
At least that's the reality I've encountered so far from all the places I've been to

The fairest policy I've seen (and that is by no means fair IMO) was to declare all work joint IP of the student-College, but the College handles it and decides what to do. The student only has "advisory" rights and gets a share of any of the possible profits arising from the IP.

This means that "His Original Work" is a euphemism and if he doesn't like it, well he should have checked what he was signing when he enrolled. I certainly did.

Re:_His_ Original Work? (2, Insightful)

dr ttol (674155) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006739)

Is this true? What about personal projects done in the dorm? All essays and papers are property of the university (or atleast more than 0%)? Can someone shed more light on this?

Re:_His_ Original Work? (1)

Czernobog (588687) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006765)

Most colleges/universities specify that the IP of _any_ work associated with college work (say an idea you had based on something else, when that "else" was shown/taught at the college. That "idea" and that "something else" must be of the same nature/science/field) belongs to them or whatever the declaration was saying when you signed it during enrollment.

So if you have any work totally unrelated with your unni/college work, then it has nothing to do with them and the IP is all yours.

Re:_His_ Original Work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006775)

All College/University material, regardless of whether it was lectures/notes given or work sumbitted by students is IP of the University, so it can decide what and when to do with it.
At least that's the reality I've encountered so far from all the places I've been to


The law disagrees with you. When I write an essay and hand it it, the copyright is mine. The university owns a copy that I gave them, but not the copyright. I have the right to sell that essay to a book publisher, not the university.

When the univerisity creates another copy, and gives that copy to a company that will use it for profit, copyright law is violated.

Re:_His_ Original Work? (2, Informative)

Czernobog (588687) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006792)

Except that when you enroll, the first thing they have you sign is to hand-over that copyright and resign of the right of making any future possible claims.

Plagerize this. (Socre:10, Informative) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006690)

GOATSE MIRRORS WANTED
The troll community have witnessed a terrible loss this week as Goatse.cx disappered from the Internet. We now need mirrors of the website, and links to new discusting pictures. Even if you are not a fan of goatse, Slashdot just wont be the same without it.

So please, post your worst below me.

Comp. Sci. has always done something like this. (1)

PhilippeT (697931) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006691)

At least in my school we run a program that compairs all the assigments to each other and flags those with "similar" code.

everyone gets a chance to explain and the "flagged" code is examind by the teacher of the course.

Standard operating procedure (3, Insightful)

pieterh (196118) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006694)

Many (most?) schools treat students like a burden. Educate the brats, get them to behave, beat them into line, do whatever it takes to break them and mould them into proper members of society.

If students regularly cheat in written exams, it's a good sign that the exams are pointless. The proper response is to ask "why are students so unmotivated that they don't bother to make an original contribution", not "how can we catch and punish the bastards one more time."

Sadly it's always simpler to turn complex questions into easy "wrong and right" issues.

It's obvious from the Internet that the majority of people can be, in the right circumstances, incredibly creative and original. The challenge is to create these circumstances, not to enforce a dogmatic and broken system of education that students are obviously not interested in.

Re:Standard operating procedure (2, Interesting)

BattleTroll (561035) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006766)

"If students regularly cheat in written exams, it's a good sign that the exams are pointless. "

If students are regularly cheating on exams, it's a good sign that these students are a. not concerned about actually getting value for their dollar, b. too lazy to learn the material, c. morally corrupt and lacking integrity, d. shouldn't be in college to begin with.

If you can't do your own work, why are you in college to begin with? The who point is to get a 'higher education', not copy off your neighbor and wallow in dishonest behavior.

Re:Standard operating procedure (1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006794)

When I was still a student I felt strongly that the exams per se were rather pointless, particularly in fields where learning bits of knowledge by heart (in chemistry, for instance) was the only key to success.

Open-book exams were better, but I still believe that the best learning experience I ever had was a course in the numerical solving of partial differential equations. No exam but compulsory exercises/computer labs and the writing of an extensive report in which you solve a real-life problem.

Oh please (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006695)

As a recent graduate of the social sciences, I find that practice appalling. The student is right to refuse, as he gets no compensation from the service for making money off his original work (assuming it was original!!).
Your arguments are silly, as are the student's motivations. Why burden a teacher with a task that can easily (and a lot cheaper) be done by a computer?
Believe it or not, plagiarism in universities is a real problem, and services like these are successful because of that. This has nothing to do with rights and freedoms. It has to do with problems and solutions. The machine is not grading your paper, that's still the teacher's job, and it always will be.
I suppose you would rather waste tax-money on more humans to do a job that needs to be done anyway.

Quoted (2, Funny)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006699)

What if you put quotes around the whole paper - then maybe the computer will be tricked into thinking its a "quote" and the prof wont notice (if the " is in a smaller type) ;)

As for the trial, maybe im missing something but why doesnt the university submit the papers themselves or just have their own internal system?

drug use in sports? (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006703)

No, it's not even close to testing for drugs, being that this plagarism detector is at the collegiate level.

People aren't *always* tested for every event they compete in. They might have random tests by the NCAA or college and they might be tested by the college for suspicion but they aren't tested every single time at every single event.

The point in the article about it being laziness and budget issues by the college not wanting to hire enough staff is ridiculous though. Either a single professor grades the papers or a professor and a grad student do it. What are there supposed to be 2 or 3 professors grading papers for each class?

I don't agree with this particular method being chosen to police the papers... I think that professors should have to grade the papers (for spelling, grammar, and for content -- plagerized or not). If the student has shown issues in the past with this topic then perhaps it should be scrutinized more carefully (even by a commitee) but by a web-based program?

Let's get back to what's important in colleges... TEACHING and GRADING. Stop worrying so much about how much free time you have to work on your next book.

Hm. (2, Interesting)

mellon (7048) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006707)

So, a system that prevents people from cheating is good for you if it works, and if you are not cheating. Why? Because the people who cheated won't be counted in the average, and so your score will go up. It's bad for you if the people who cheated would have gotten good grades if they hadn't cheated, but how likely is that?

And in what sense is the site making money off this fellow's work? Are they selling it to other students to plagiarize? I'm guessing that what they're doing is making sure nobody else plagiarizes *his* work.

I don't want to belittle this fellow's feelings, but this really sounds like a case of angry testosterone syndrome - he's identified something, decided that it's an insult, and decided to fight it no matter what. Been there, done that. Hell, I did it yesterday when someone backed a change I made out of CVS. Getting pissed off didn't help. I'd feel more sympathy if, e.g., he'd submitted his paper and been falsely accused of plagiarizing.

It will be interesting to see what happens if this system sees wide use. At some point, at the level of undergraduate papers, it seems like it will inevitably start reporting false positives simply because there isn't really that much to say about any given topic, so once you have a couple of hundred papers on that topic, there's always going to be one paper that's enough like another that it will show up as plagiarism even though it's not.

The harvest of cheaters (2, Insightful)

cluge (114877) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006712)

Bitch - "What ever happened to student teacher trust?"

Answer - It's being violated so regulary by students cheating that teachers wonder if recent degreed graduates really learned anything. Cheating is an epedemic. A student bitching about "student teacher trust" is akin to a speader bitching about a cop with a RADAR gun. As long as the school pays for the pattern recgonition there shouldn't be a problem. As long as the student submitted original work, there shouldn't be an issue. The teacher still grades the work, but he/she at least has a fighting chance to recgnoize if major portions of that term paper were lifted verbatim from a quick google search.

The people that complain about this technology seem to be just bitter that teachers finally have a tool to help them find cheats. Perhaps too many students have gotten use to skating by?

THIS IS A DMCA VIOLATION! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006714)

They are reverse engineering your writing. Immediately sue the company.

Maybe it's better for the student to submit... (2, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006723)

After all, the teacher could just require that the student submit the paper electronically, and then submit the paper to the website him- or herself. And then, if it turned out that it was plagiarized, the teacher would have to initiate disciplinary action against the student.

Whereas, if the student submits the paper, and it turns out to be plagiarized, the student has an opportunity to rewrite it without any negative sanctions. If you _are_ a cheater, this sounds like a better deal. If you're _not_, I can see where it would be more than a little bit offensive.

Fight plagiarism but not like this (2, Insightful)

Mikelikus (212556) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006729)

I'm a university student and many times I knew that most professors had code to detect plagiarism. In fact, I remember one that had a code that didn't consider the filename, the function/methods/etc name nor the variable names. He had implemented (in lisp!) something that detected similar program flows.

This was so absurdly over-zealous that I know people who had just one similar (not equal) function and had 0 due to that.

Either way I think that it is only fair that there's anti-plagiarism methods by the professor.
Nevertheless I strongly disagree with these kind of websites (like turnitin) which profit - by ways that might even be unknown to us - with the free work of students.

The teaching staff should do that kind of work and actually read and be knowledgable about the subject the essays are about.
If the professor can't do it then maybe he should go back to being a student.

And what happens if it is positive? (0, Redundant)

HrothgarReborn (740385) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006733)

This tool looks like it benefits the student greatly. If plagarism is detected it looks like it returns that to the student not the professor. Don't /.ers realize that most plagarism is unintentional. I for one used to get all my papers read over by as many proofreaders as possible before turning them in. How is this different than having a TA do a preliminary review?
As for making money off your work, boy, thats what colledge is about. Get the sheepskin then we'll see what your ideas are worth. Otherwise, you might as well write for /. :)

Re:And what happens if it is positive? (1)

Queuetue (156269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006767)

You cannot plagarize unintentionally. If I spontaneously write a paper that is exactly the same as another paper, then I should not be penalized for it.

The problem isn't about plagarization. (4, Interesting)

Queuetue (156269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006745)

The problem is twofold:

First, the accessability of information increases every day - the people who benefit from it are those that stay ahead of the curve. Those that benefit from the status quo fall behind.

The system where you are ranked on your ability to function within an autonomous vacuum is probably going to fall apart, because people in the real world no longer enforce that vacuum. Today's kids synthesize from multiple branches of media in everything they do, and sharing data, information, or anything else digital is second nature.

Judging someone on how well they write a paper is silly, in a world where the paper is already available, and readily accessable. Find something worthwhile to judge them on, and do the hard work necessary to judge them accurately on it, because they won't do it for you. You're laziness will only make more loopholes for them to control you through.

Secondly, todays educational institutions (most of them anyway) are cheap shams of what they once were. Going to university used to mean a period of hardship and disconnection from your old life where you were shaped into a person who cherished academics, tradition, service, honor and culture.

Now, it's the place you go to party for 4 years so you can put something "totally rad" on your resume. These institutions are letting the students down, and in turn, the students are letting the institutions down, and the whole mess is sinking into the sewer.

Turnitin@home (4, Interesting)

NoOneInParticular (221808) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006758)

I mentioned this in another post for this story, but it might be interesting for teachers reading this site.

It's frightfully easy to write your own plagiarism detector. All you have to do is write a script to scan the paper and run a few samples of 10 consecutive words in the paper as a search term through google. If for two different queries you get the same site in the google result list, it's a practical certainty that you've found a copy at that site. Chances of someone coming up with the same wording of some subject in two disjoint fragments of 10 words are abysimally small.

Given that most plagiarism happens by copying from the internet (and students usually use google to actually find such documents), you yourself can use google in the same way.

I once wrote a 20-line python script to do just this, and it worked very well. It even found some plagiarism inside a an (awarded) document that was plagiarised.

This is a wide spread problem (4, Insightful)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006759)

The student is right to refuse, as he gets no compensation from the service for making money off his original work (assuming it was original!!).

I feel the same way everytime I'm forced to reply to an email at work. Why should Mircosoft make money off my original work? Why can't I just enscribe my message onto clay tablets I make myself.
Everyone seems to think they have some right to profit these days. The nerve.

Mandatory Drug tests in sports? (1)

doomy (7461) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006773)

Submitter wrote:
"... Although I don't like the idea, and I'm glad I never went through it, I suppose its analogue would be mandatory drug tests in sports"

No, mandatory drug tests in sports is not a proper analogy. A better one would be mandatory soft-drug tests at work places, specially those that do not involve very physically demanding work (programmers?).

Peer Editing Features (1)

Craig Nagy (605528) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006774)

As a student, my experience with turnitin has been positive. I'm happy when people who didn't do their own work get nailed. Furthermore, in one class, the prof used the peer editing feature of turnitin. We all got to rate each others work which meant we learned more as we saw how other students wrote their papers.

Tools like this are always reactive; so there's a damn good reason to have it. Frankly it protects the value of my degree. As an employer I would value a school's students more if I knew they didn't cheat to pass. BTW, All of our code goes through a plagarism detector as well (Moss?)

I don't feel as if I'm being presumed guilty and proven innocent (which is what this student claims is his reason); I feel it's a protection for those who don't cheat.

sorry, but you have to get used to it (1)

ajagci (737734) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006783)

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that when you attend a university, you have a contractual agreement with the university. And that contract probably permits the university to do this sort of thing. In fact, they probably also own any research results you obtain while at the university and any software you write. Public universities are a little more restricted in the kinds of conditions they can impose on students, but they can impose conditions as well.

I would ask two other questions about this, though. First, if the professor created new, interesting problem sets every year, then students couldn't plagiarize from the Internet, and plagiarism within a reasonable class size should be obvious.

Second, this kind of effort really doesn't need a private company; universities should and could do it cooperatively among themselves for less money. And the software for that isn't hard to write either.

I suspect the reason why it isn't happening is because good professors don't need this sort of thing and professors that do need this sort of thing probably are the same ones that aren't up to setting up large, cross-university software and data collection efforts.

As a student, you have a simple choice: just don't take classes from professors that engage in this sort of nonsense. And if it is part of mandatory courses, either grin and bear it or consider whether your choice of university was less-than-optimal after all.

Fuck I'm Bored (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8006793)

Sigh. You had to go and moderated my previous post a troll again, didn't you. Now I'm forced to post it AGAIN. (Like I said, don't bother moderating this post down, and I won't bother posting it again.)

C'mon, Crapdot, post some more stories already. Jesus fucking christ almightly, it's been a slow newsday here. :p

Student Fights University Over Plagiarism-Detector (1)

kamukwam (652361) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006796)

Posted by michael on Saturday January 17, @01:16PM from the can't-fight-the-man dept. (Maly) writes "CBC is reporting that MCGill University has lost a fight to have students first turn papers over to an anti-cheating website before handing them in to professors. The student refused to hand in three assignments to the service, received a zero on those assignments, then fought the ruling. The story doesn't have many specifics, such as the venue of the fight (court or some internal university tribunal), but it is an interesting case. As a recent graduate of the social sciences, I find that practice appalling. The student is right to refuse, as he gets no compensation from the service for making money off his original work (assuming it was original!!). Although I don't like the idea, and I'm glad I never went through it, I suppose its analogue would be mandatory drug tests in sports."

TA (1)

savagedome (742194) | more than 10 years ago | (#8006800)

Back in school, I used to be the TA for a freshman programming class. To detect plagiarism amongst the students, the professor used to ask us (we were 8 TAs for around 300 students) to submit it to the anti-plagiarism tool. This is understandable.

But to ask the students to submit it straightaway is not cool. Its like saying they are guilty upfront. By default, they should be not guilty.
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