Student plagiarism

Lecturers often don’t even realize how easy it is for their students to simply plagiarize or mail-order a paper. In some cases, of course, cheating is as easy to engage in as it is to spot. A simple Google search with key phrases can help identify the online sources that the student copy-pasted from.

Things get more difficult with specialized websites that produce a term paper or a dissertation on request.

Nowadays, this is huge business. A quick internet search will reveal a host of websites specializing in sending in papers to students who can’t be bothered to produce their own. Examples include www.termpapergurus.com, www.ultius.com, www.ukdissertations.com, www.thedissertation.co.uk, www.dissertationontime.com and many, many more. The websites feature reassuring language (“you are not alone in this situation”) and sleek marketing images. They generally try to convince that what they do is not help commit fraud but provide a normal service.

Of course, universities do strike back. One way is to run papers through anti-plagiarism software. These can work on many levels. They can be used to check the work of undergraduate students, who might have plagiarized from simple online sources. Other types of software are used to check more advanced type of work against papers from scientific databases. Some are freely available online. Examples include Plagium or Dustball Plagiarism Checker.

Other types of software use web sources as well as their own databases and have additional analytical features. They are partly or fully fee-based. In Europe, an example is the award-winning Theses. North American colleges and universities frequently use Turnitin. The same company that developed it also has a version called iThenticate. Historically it has mostly been used for newspaper articles, books and professional reports but can also be applied to scientific work.

It has to be said that an intelligent lecturer will identify most types of fraud. Often, even the on-demand papers are not actually written from scratch. A well-executed Google search will identify sources, even if the on-demand writer or the student tried to cover the tracks by modifying formulations. In addition, a few clever questions might reveal how much the student is actually familiar with the text.

Having said that, personalized attention is not always possible and cheating can have sophisticated forms. Which probably means the demand for good anti-plagiarism software will be there for some time yet.

- UniOrbis