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Turnitin's Different Messages To Students, Teachers

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the we'll-take-away-your-disgusting-valuable-guano dept.

Education 306

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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Offensive (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364876)

From the article:

"Its so simple my grandmother could do it"

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

Re:Offensive (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364922)

Get back in the kitchen.

That's not even in the articles! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364934)

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

Re:That's not even in the articles! (3, Funny)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365024)

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

Did you use Turnitin to determine that?

Re:That's not even in the articles! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365252)

I'm not sure why the GP's comment is at "-1". That "Its so simple ..." quote really isn't found in any of the articles that are linked to...

It's no wonder Slashdot's readership is dropping off so quickly. The totally not-funny, blatantly-false comment is at "0, Funny", and the one that's completely correct is at "-1". Clearly, the moderation here is screwed up. It's not like the submissions are original or timely, either, so there's really no point in sticking around.

As shitty as the Digg, reddit and Hacker News moderation systems are, at least they're not totally wrong like in this case.

Re:Offensive (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364936)

maybe you should have spent more time teaching your daughter to keep her legs closed, what is she? 20? and your grandaughter is what 6?

Re:Offensive (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365140)

Just because your mommy was 15 when she had you doesn't mean everyone else's was, Junior.

Try playing with the math a little more and with yourself a litle less, eh:

21 (grandma's age when she had the daughter) + 21 (daughter's age when she had the grandchild) + 7 (grandchild's age) = 49.

Do you think 21 is too young for a woman to have her first child?

How about 31?

And how old will you be when you grow up enough not to feel threatened by individuals who are capable of bearing a child *and* having a successful career?

Regards,

Lucky (male) partner of a fabulous lady engineer.

Re:Offensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365376)

She has her kid when she's 24. Her daughter has a kid also when she's 24. Granddaughter is 1.

ACs who can't do basic math. This place is really going downhill.

Re:Offensive (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365012)

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

Re:Offensive (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365080)

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 your style! (2)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365322)

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 normal stuff, my guess is you see these normal things as somewhat odd. It's really weird.

So, following your lead... Why didn't you mention that this sort of thing would be atypical in Pakistan? Sure, it may be true everywhere else, but possibly not in Pakistan.

Re:Offensive (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365178)

Okay, pretend it says:

"It's so simple a c programmer could do it" :D

Re:Offensive (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365336)

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

Pics with timestamp plox?

I came up with this post all on my own. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364884)

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

Re:I came up with this post all on my own. (2)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364994)

Please see me after class, Mike.

Re:I came up with this post all on my own. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365054)

Dammit!

Re:I came up with this post all on my own. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365250)

Mike is most likely a science or engineering student who considers the mandatory English 102 class to be just another unnecessary waste of his time (and, coincidentally, more tuition money for the school).

You would think that being forced to take an extra English class or two would make a scientist, engineer, or even a manager more clear and articulate, but that's rarely the case in the industry - the real world. Its native English-speaking engineers and managers, the ones who actually had to write their own papers before the age of Turnitin, still write like retarded fifth graders (it's instead of its, etc.). It is no coincidence that those types are the most common posters on Slashdot.

This is why most engineers never do any real writing, and why most managers don't venture beyond scripts, buzzwords, and colored charts. Do you want to be articulate? Do you want to write clearly, error free, with style? Read lots of literature. Learn English and have fun doing it on your own terms. But don't make me take unnecessary fucking classes so I can pay for an already-bloated Campus Diversity Office [mindingthecampus.com] :

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time âoevice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.â This position would augment UC San Diegoâ(TM)s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellorâ(TM)s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Womenâ(TM)s Center.

Which will not change the fact that 90% of UCSD's students are Asian, and will go on to make six-figure salaries while continuing to speak and write broken English.

Hmmm (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364984)

But what about massive environmental damage? What about starting wars? Those both appear to be core elements of "modern business" in America, but I'm just not seeing either of them in this situation.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365036)

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

Re:Hmmm (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365160)

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.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365210)

Don't be ridiculous.

Most people never use their degree for anything other than as a line-item in a HR checklist.

We're not talking about engineering here, we're talking about business majors. They just need the piece of paper, not the education.

Re:Hmmm (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365438)

Most people never use their degree for anything other than as a line-item in a HR checklist.

In which case, WTF is the point of the degree in the first place?

We're not talking about engineering here, we're talking about business majors.

"We" are? I was talking about everyone, but ok, let's talk about business majors. We're teaching said business majors that the way to get ahead is to cheat and not get caught. Is that who you want running your business?

Re:Hmmm (2)

ynp7 (1786468) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365256)

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.

Re:Hmmm (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365442)

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 out more and more people are graduating without being able to write a coherent paper, you might demand a sample of writing from them during the interview process, but you're probably still going to want a degree.

Parent offtopic! Mod down! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365180)

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

This is about an anti-plagiarism website, NOT Wall Street and the banking industry!

Get with the progra.....oh, nevermind.

Tweaking and submitting (2)

dg41 (743918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364912)

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

Re:Tweaking and submitting (4, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364976)

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.

Re:Tweaking and submitting (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365006)

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.

Re:Tweaking and submitting (5, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Tweaking and submitting (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365356)

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.

Re:Tweaking and submitting (1)

toomanyhandles (809578) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365430)

You and I are out of place, posting content about how the system is actually implemented : )

Re:Tweaking and submitting (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365008)

And therefore fully qualified to run for office.

A bright future indeed!

Re:Tweaking and submitting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365032)

What does that have to do with whether they should provide the service?
If your professor can't spot something created using this tool that's his problem.
Even if they didn't exist people would be plagiarizing.
At least this way people who actually do the work can check that they aren't falsely matched.

Re:Tweaking and submitting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365046)

What I assume the GP meant, was that the instructor would get a match to the paper previously submitted by the student, thus indicating that the paper has been submitted, which suggests that it was plagiarized, otherwise there wouldn't really be a reason for the student to check it, would there?

I guess you could simply forbid the students from using this service, and any violation would easily be caught by the instructor.

I do still take issue with is that this company uses the students work for profit. I and I alone own the copyright to anything I write, unless I explicitly state otherwise. The instructor has no right to share my work with any third party, and they do no have my permission to store and use it. Also, many thesis and similar works contain confidential information from cooperating businesses, and must be treated as such; therefor, they also cannot be send to any third party.

Re:Tweaking and submitting (1)

grim4593 (947789) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365436)

The problem is that the syllabus would explicitly state that papers will be used with the site and you would be forced to let the instructor to do what they wish with the paper if you want to take the course.

Re:Tweaking and submitting (2, Funny)

alostpacket (1972110) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365216)

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.

Re:Tweaking and submitting (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365264)

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 get to know your students well enough to see if they are actually learning or just marking time in your class - then there's a problem. Perhaps in a quest to be "fair and impartial" the education system has forgotten that actually learning is highly subjective. Some people have got it and others don't get it (and don't deserve the degree).

Re:Tweaking and submitting (1)

toomanyhandles (809578) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365424)

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.

They're Not Alone (1)

lee1 (219161) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364930)

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 easily predictable demise, a prospect that I find depressing and ineluctable.

Re:They're Not Alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364986)

Slashdot's only been doing that for 10 years...why would it catch up to them *now*? I was surprised Malda didn't plagarize his resignation post with a link to a completely unrelated article.

Re:They're Not Alone (2)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364988)

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.

Re:They're Not Alone (1)

jroysdon (201893) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365000)

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.

Re:They're Not Alone (1)

lee1 (219161) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365028)

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.

Re:They're Not Alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365172)

quality of the comments and the proportion of AC comments, has gotten a violently worse in the past year.

this has also been going on for 10 years.

Re:They're Not Alone (1)

lee1 (219161) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365244)

I see what you did there.

Re:They're Not Alone (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365270)

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.

Re:They're Not Alone (0)

lee1 (219161) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365330)

Yes, they do. Try reading the fine article (it's actually quite well written, especially for an economist). The guy discovered that the author of a book plagiarised from the very NY Times articles he referenced. And the plagiarising Slashdot submitters do exactly what you are saying they do not do.

Re:They're Not Alone (1)

lahvak (69490) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365016)

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.

Re:They're Not Alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365276)

Eh I just told my wife that she was breaking copyright law when using googled images to put into her power-point presentations for work. She was blissfully unaware of that fact and answered "but everyone does it". Of course the chance of her being caught and sued for doing this is close to nil, but it's still plagiarism. Still I'll post as AC to avoid getting the attention of the authorities lol.

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364938)

Companies exist to make money, not to help people or do the right thing.

How to double your profits selling arms: (4, Interesting)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364944)

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

Re:How to double your profits selling arms: (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364998)

I always suspect anti-virus does this

Re:How to double your profits selling arms: (0)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365044)

You're quite generous if you think there are really three parties involved there.

Re:How to double your profits selling arms: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365068)

Anti-virus vendors are the biggest fraudsters. When was the last time you encountered an anti-virus program that worked as advertised? I would put money on it being no less likely you would get infected by running anti-virus than without.

Re:How to double your profits selling arms: (2)

MBC1977 (978793) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365294)

Microsoft Security Essentials....works great!

Re:How to double your profits selling arms: (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365098)

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.

Re:How to double your profits selling arms: (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365152)

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

Re:How to double your profits selling arms: (1)

RajivSLK (398494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365306)

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...

So what exactly is the crime here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37364946)

In my experience, professors have often suggested that students run their papers through these engines before turning them in, to ensure that the percentage of work done by students is adequate before they turn it in. There's nothing shady about that.

Besides, those engines have been proven to be full of problems in the past when identifying source materials and first sources. Why shouldn't students be ready for what they're up against? Not to mention that many of the types of papers that are being fed to these machines are of the variety where not so many original words could be said at all. Organic chemistry.

Re:So what exactly is the crime here? (2)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364990)

Not to mention that many of the types of papers that are being fed to these machines are of the variety where not so many original words could be said at all. Organic chemistry.

Really? I never had to write any papers in organic chemistry class. I would have been thankful for one.

Re:So what exactly is the crime here? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365288)

You didn't take enough chemistry, and no you wouldn't like it very much.

Re:So what exactly is the crime here? (2)

fish waffle (179067) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364996)

In my experience, professors have often suggested that students run their papers through these engines before turning them in, to ensure that the percentage of work done by students is adequate before they turn it in. There's nothing shady about that.

Yes, yes there is. The purpose of an educational assignment is voided if you think of it as a game---the point is to do it and learn from that experience, not just "pass" it. If your professors are encouraging you to do that they are fools, and if you think learning is about achieving an "adequate percentage of work done" you do yourself (and your future employers) no service.

Re:So what exactly is the crime here? (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365042)

And the bigger the database of pre-existing papers on a limited subject, the more likely that any phrasing will have segments that duplicate a prior work.
Also, the more the same source information is used, again, the more likely for statistical duplication.
I know mathematicians and statisticians have a term for these kinds of things where theoretically there are a mind boggling number of possible results, but due to constraints on both input and output, the actual results tend to be of a rather limited subset.

Think about it, if you are at a high class charity formal dinner, and you want the salt shaker that's on the other side of the table and you can't get it yourself, how are you going to ask for it? Sure there are at least hundreds of ways, but there's only a tiny handful you'll actually use unless you want to be shunned or kicked out for inappropriate speech. Under those circumstances what if several other people also want the salt? How likely are you to hear one or more of them saying the same thing you did.
I know that's a simplified example, but it illustrates the point. The 'tool' of Turnitin will highlight possible suspects, but it can't be relied upon to actually determine if there really was plagiarism.

Before they started marketing to those that want to avoid getting caught, I knew of a couple of students that used Turnitin before turning their papers in to make sure there was nothing a lazy teacher would try to accuse them of copying. Those two did their own work and didn't plagiarize, they were just paranoid about that one teacher. Of course, other students could have been using it to cheat, but who knows.

dunno (4, Insightful)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364966)

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?

Re:dunno (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365100)

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...

Re:dunno (1)

im3w1l (2009474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365278)

In some situations: Rewrite it silently

Re:dunno (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365212)

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 professor, then you wouldn't be paying them or have anything to do with them in the first place.

The failure mode is theirs - you didn't program their classification system - and if you do happen to get flagged then their system is actually slandering you.

Re:dunno (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365362)

Except that no where in that was any mention of the professor using the system so none of that is true for that example.

Re:dunno (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365416)

If there wasn't any mention of the professor in that comment, then he wasn't actually ruled out either.

The right thing to do is to ask for clarification from the OP, if his professors actually use or encourage him to use the service.

Re:dunno (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365354)

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 the basis of the new paper is not considered totolly off limits.

Therefore the only reason to use such a service is to insure that work that is not fully one's own is not detectable as plagiarized. Therefore the only purpose of such a service is to promote plagiarism by making it less detectable. This may mean that the author copied other peoples work and wants to summarize just enough to avoid detection, or the paper was written by a third part and the students wants to see if third party is producing original work.

While I would expect students to copy work in high school, I am always surprised that it is so common in college. After all, anyone who is in college should be able to write well enough so that such complex routes around detection is less effecient than just writing an original paper. Anyone who cannot write at this level should not be in college, and any college that routinely accepts such student should not exist. It is a waste of time and money to even use services ike turnitin. Just deny inadequate students a higher education and have them go to a trade school or something.

self plagiarism should not be flaged and you shoul (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37364968)

self plagiarism should not be flaged and you should not have to give your rights to the paper to use trun it in.

Re:self plagiarism should not be flaged and you sh (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365048)

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]

Re:self plagiarism should not be flaged and you sh (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365124)

employer

Turnitin is for college students' papers, not original research. It's a miracle when those papers contain anything not said 65537 times by others already.

Re:self plagiarism should not be flaged and you sh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365086)

I never understand how self plagiarism is allowed to be a problem in schools.
Either I did the work last time and showed I understand the material in which case why should I do it again simply to get the same results,
or it wasn't good enough last time which means it won't be good enough this time.
In academic world, yes padding your publication count by publishing the same rehashed shit over and over is wrong.

But it doesn't work anyway... (2)

Wasusa (1633263) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365002)

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. The thing is broken, and I don't see why people still feel the need to bother with it.

And on theft of students' work? (1)

chrism238 (657741) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365010)

Disappointingly, no mention of the fact that TurnitIn profits by freely retaining students' intellectual property in their databases, and then sells licences so that universities and colleges may, effectively, search those databases.

Lazt teachers == lazy students (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365026)

Why did any one need stuff like Turnitin in the first place? If teachers couldn't be bothered to read and grade assignments why should students bother to spend their time and energy writing them up?

If students are required to write their assignments on a piece of paper in the classroom they will learn to work their brains, write, and also spell.

"I have a dream" how original is this? Can't anyone think of it? How can anyone avoid putting out simple stuff in its simplest form and not be billed a plagiarist. This whole plagiarism is utter nonsense in most contexts.

Re:Lazt teachers == lazy students (1)

toomanyhandles (809578) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365460)

Actually, an interesting factoid: Mr King did plagiarize from his students papers and use pieces of those papers verbatim in his speeches.

Sounds like a lot of work (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365038)

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.

Re:Sounds like a lot of work (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365190)

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 Thing?

 

Re:Sounds like a lot of work (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365280)

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

Re:Sounds like a lot of work (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365230)

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.

Re:Sounds like a lot of work (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365400)

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 trying to get people to do his assignments, along with one girl who didn't contribute to a group project but, when we had her kicked off the team, suddenly produced the assignment in a few days. So she probably bought the paper. Was I missing some opportunity they saw, or were they in a different situation than me?

I didn't piece it together until years later when I read a story, possibly here, about a guy who wrote papers for money. And he pointed out that most of his clients were non-English speakers. And, not surprisingly, the people I knew who had cheated were non-English speakers also.

That definitely put them in a different situation: if English isn't your native language, or if you're, say, dyslexic, you might understand the material, but putting it into sentences becomes very hard. The whole cost-benefit analysis becomes plausible.

I think universities really have an obligation to look at what position they are putting foreign students in if they admit them without having good language skills. This is especially true when you consider the massive financial pressure you're under when you study abroad.

Plagiarism... (1)

Rhodri Mawr (862554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365062)

...is the first rule of scholarship. Of course you have to plagiarise from several different people and describe them as sources to be legitimate, but the point still stands.

Re:Plagiarism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365408)

Do you actually have a point, or are you just talking to hear yourself talk? Why do you have to come up with some weird definition of plagiarism that no one else uses?

Intellectual Property Violations? (1)

deweyhewson (1323623) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365072)

I always had a problem with Turnitin, because it seems as though they are blatantly violating intellectual property rights by keeping copies of student's work on files, against the student's will (arguable, but I certainly wouldn't allow it if I had the choice), to use as an anti-plagiarism control, all for profit without the student being reimbursed.

I am not a lawyer, so there may be legal standing to do all of this, but it's always bothered me.

Re:Intellectual Property Violations? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365298)

In theory, and I think it's that way for some, the institution might require you to give them a license to permit Turnitin to store it.
If you don't like it, the only option might be not enrolling.

From one source, it's plagiarism, from many it's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365088)

research.

Not good for education! (1)

lastx33 (2097770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365116)

Surely this misses the whole point of education - to learn to think critically for oneself? Tweaking essays to meet some sort of formula isn't learning and any institution which regards formulaic submissions as desirable demeans the notion of critical thought.

Re:Not good for education! (1)

Panoptes (1041206) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365284)

Critical thinking is the victim of a broader malaise. Ranking institutions in glorified league tables, rating schools by examination results, valuing qualifications in terms of future earning potential, forcing higher education in the UK to become a consumer-funded commodity, are the roots of the rot in education.

Re:Not good for education! (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365328)

Tweaking essays to meet some sort of formula isn't learning and any institution which regards formulaic submissions as desirable demeans the notion of critical thought.

Agreed, and note that there have recently been articles in the NY Times and elsewhere questioning the value of higher education, showing that many students don't learn much, and pointing out that a first degree is increasingly seen as insufficient qualification for even entry-level positions. Coincidence? I don't think so. Many schools have debased their product by pandering to the I-paid-for-it-I-deserve-it and the I-got-the-right-answer-what-matters-it-how crowds. The biggest losers here are the students who have learned something, and who now find their achievement implicitly questioned.

configuration options exist (1)

toomanyhandles (809578) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365132)

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 problem content, but that feature isn't enabled for the instructor at this time. Apparently this is a choice available to course instructors as they set the service configuration for their course. This deployment makes the mentioned pay-to-check-the-paper student-side service moot.

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, if they were planning to copyright it I suspect a different type of skullduggery.

It is a muddier situation for non-entry level classes, but I don't know of any 3rd or 4th year courses that do use this type of service at the universities I have some familiarity with. Especially these days, when even at prestigious universities most college freshman can't generate written content that earlier was required for good marks at high school graduation-- I don't feel students in the early university courses are giving up much by checking that check-box re copyright.

Re:configuration options exist (3, Insightful)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:configuration options exist (1)

toomanyhandles (809578) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365398)

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 students have been surrendering copyright for years on everything from their posting, bloggings, tweets, and photographs- here's a time when clicking that checkbox actually lets them learn something.

Since up to 60% of all cheating cases at premier universities have been shown to involve CS courses:
http://bayarea.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/heading-off-the-temptation-to-cheat-in-computer-science-classes-at-stanford/ [nytimes.com]

I submit that this field in particular, due to its link to business, is one of the prime candidates for leaning this lesson early. We can find many examples where not learning this lesson costs you your job most certainly; your employer money at best, product or company at worst.

Heard of Oracle and SAP? We can find many industrial examples where bad habits had huge consequences. Its isn't just in the classroom kids.

I submit that the real-world data, and opportunities for lesson-learned early on, outweigh the thought experiment you submit.

At least they have to learn WHILE rewording...ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365182)

If the person has to spend considerable time rewording something, then they must have learned SOMETHING! ha! It sounds pathetic (and is to a degree), but at least it's better than them getting away with simple outright copying.

Turnitin is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37365246)

Everybody knows that Turnitin is a joke. If you place very small quotation marks around the body of the assignment and a tiny (read: invisible) reference to where you stole the text from in the format required by your school (in my case that is APA-style) then Turnitin will say that the assignment is perfectly okay. This only works in cases where the instructor has allowed referencing, but it does a good job of illustrating how hopeless their checking is.
 
Instructors need to realise that Turnitin is not a substitute for common sense. If it looks plagiarised then you better check it with good-ol' Google, because chances are that it is.

turnitin.com has been visiting my web server... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365262)

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.

TurnItIn profits of others' Intellectual Property (1)

ihop0 (988608) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365388)

Teachers submit students' papers to turnitin, those papers are checked against their database of essays then added to the cache of essays to check future papers against. Given that they make people pay to increase their stockpile of documents to check against, I'm not surprised they're playing both sides. It's a pretty simple way to make easy money off other people's work.

Citations Needed (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 3 years ago | (#37365474)

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 a word processor for my own work. When grading student papers, I can usually spot uncited or copied material, with Google to back me up. Best of all, nobody charges me fees to use my own brain (yet).
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