Not so new news

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There’s an interesting article by Denny Carter in eCampus News, July 14, 2014.

Headed The top 10 ways college students plagiarize, it reports on a Turnitin study which reveals, that’s right, the top 10 ways college students plagiarize.

 

 

According to the article, Turnitin’s study was released “this month,” and there is a link to the Turnitin White Paper The Plagiarism Spectrum: Instructor Insights into the 10 Types of Plagiarism.

Carter also mentions (on page 2 of the article) “research conducted at California State University (CSU) in January” by Robert J. Youmans.

Trouble is, the Turnitin study was published in 2012, and Youmans’ study was published in 2011.

There is a Times Higher Education article on it, published January 2012.  Perhaps that is where Carter found his January date for Youmans’ research?

But even more troubling, Carter’s article was originally published in 2012, possibly in May, as evidenced by Fe Angela M. Verzosa’s curated Scoop. Carter himself sent the bulk of the article to MPH in March 2013 – it is posted in the Bkn-mph-alumni mailing list archives.

The July 14, 2014 date seems completely erroneous.

eCampus News is a free education journal held in good regard, so perhaps one shouldn’t be too critical. Nevertheless, even if it is the practice of this journal to re-hash old articles, it would be kind, it would be honest, to state that a particular article first appeared on such a given date. It would be kinder still to update the article and not make misleading statements.

Otherwise, we might just have to think of the P-word?

’tis the season of the year…

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It seems that every year, there’s at least one high school principal who at best can’t be bothered to check that s/he is using the latest draft of the graduation speech, and at worst can’t be bothered to write an original speech and thinks nobody will notice if s/he recycles an old speech, even if somebody else’s.

Either way, such attitudes might be thought to show great contempt for the graduating class.  It might be your great day, they seem to say.  I’ve got other things to think about…

This year seems to have set new records.  There have been at least three Continue reading

Wrong to be forgotten?

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The ECJ ruling that individuals be allowed to request that search engines remove links to web pages which mention them, the so-called “right to be forgotten,” has come in for a lot of support and a lot of criticism. It raises a lot of questions as to whether the law is enforceable.

Some of the biggest criticisms raise notions of censorship and attempts to change history and the historical record. One of my biggest concerns is that the search engine company is judge and jury, and the “defendant” – the person or organisation behind the “offending” page – is not informed of the request unless and until the request to remove Continue reading

Aware – but of what?

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The online Times of India (30 June 2014) carries an item by Somdatta Basu, IIM cuts out copy-paste, which describes how the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C) seems successfully to be reducing the number of plagiarised papers submitted for assessment.

The Institute has been using Turnitin for more than a year. In the article, one IIM-C professor is quoted as saying:

“It has had the desired effect. If a professor finds that a work is not an original one, then there are penal provisions in accordance with the institute’s policy on plagiarism.”

“Penal” might not be Continue reading

Small drastic increase

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Cheating on the rise at Massey shouted the Manawatu Standard on 18 June 2014, in a story written by Lucy Townend and featured on Stuff.co.nz.

‘Support cheating students’ shouted the Manawatu Standard on 20 June 2014, in a story written by Lucy Townend and featured on Stuff.co.nz.  This story is much the same as her earlier piece, with the addition of an interview with the President of the Massey University Students’ Association.

Cheating students ‘need more support’ shouted The Dominion Post on 21 June 2014, in an unsigned story based on and possibly written by Lucy Townend, featured on Stuff.co.nz.  [If this is not Townend's story, there may be problems here. It is basically an edited and shorter version of her second story, mostly using the exact-same words of that story.]

The story itself: despite those headlines, it is not all bad news. Continue reading

Not plagiarism – again

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In my last post, I wondered “how do you plagiarize on a standardized test?

The answer to that question depends on your definition of plagiarism. Or, in that particular case, on how the Louisiana Department of Education defines “plagiarism.” It seems that, to that august body, plagiarism includes taking unauthorised materials into an examination, or the teacher giving unauthorisded direction to the students. Not plagiarism as we know it (Jim).

Now I have another answer. In Oklahoma, one of the CTB/McGraw-Hill state-wide Grade 5 writing tests asks students to read a passage and respond to open-ended questions using evidence in the passage.

When the results were published, the children’s teachers were concerned on at least two counts. The first was Continue reading

Its ugly head

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Once again the specter of plagiarism is sighted, broadcast in shock-horror headlines:

Plagiarism on standardized tests three times higher in New Orleans schools than rest of Louisiana (The Lens, May 21, 2014).

As you read the story, you will find some good news, it’s not all bad. The number of tests voided for suspicious erasures fell between 2012 and 2013 across the State. In New Orleans, the number of tests voided for suspicious erasures was zero in 2013, according to The Lens’ report. Cause for celebration.

But the percentage of plagiarized standardized tests in New Orleans 2013 was three times higher than the rest of the State.  That is worrying.

It is worrying for two reasons. Continue reading

Growing problems

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(mis-) Use of statistical data is growing problem

The headline actually reads Plagiarism is growing problem, teachers believe.

And it’s the first line of the story which really grabs the attention:

NINE out of 10 teachers believe their pupils copy, a survey has found.

Isn’t that depressing, masses of suspicion? Nine teachers out of ten mistrust their students?

A few lines on, the claim is repeated, with a further alarming note:

More than 92% of teachers said they think their students plagiarise, and almost a third believe it is on the increase. Continue reading

Bitter-tweet

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Last night I sat through two webcasts promoted as part of Plagiarism Education Week, promoted and hosted by Turnitin. One of the two webcasts was, I thought, spot-on, encouraging, helpful. The other was … disappointing.

In Tweets from the French Revolution? Using What Students Know to Promote Original Work and Critical Thinking, one of the speakers described a research study he had conducted.  For the first part of the study, 20 adult English learners were given an assignment : write an essay on a historical event or figure. After they had written their essays, the adults were asked two questions: (1) had they found the assignment difficult? and (2) had the assignment helped develop their critical thinking skills?

Most declared they had found the assignment easy, and most said that it had not required critical thinking.  Meanwhile, a check revealed that every single student had plagiarized. Let’s make that Continue reading

A Matter of Definition

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In my last post, I admitted to uncertainty with regard to Jane Goodall’s unattributed use of other people’s words and thoughts: is it fair to call this plagiarism, when the faulty passages were discovered and corrections made before the book was actually published?

The situation is more complicated in that Goodall’s poor note-making and attribution practices were uncovered by a reviewer for a national newspaper, not by Goodall, not by her co-author, not by her publishers. It is the fact of pre-publication that gives me pause. It doesn’t help, though it might, if we were told if the reviewer was reading a galley proof or a pre-publication copy, or if it was the final printed hardback that he was reading. The revelation was made 4 months before the expected publication date, so it may well have been a review/proof copy.

I am inclined to think that would make a difference.  I think of schools in which Continue reading

Thinking thoughts

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Today’s GuardianOnline includes a possibly misleading article.  Today is 1 April*, and the article is headed :

 

Jane Goodall blames ‘chaotic note taking’ for plagiarism controversy
Scientist revises her book Seeds of Hope after allegations 12 sections were lifted from other websites

 

My first thought was of the date, April Fools’ Day.

My second thought was, “Not again?” – for I recalled that Goodall had been involved in a plagiarism controversy last year.

My third thought was the date again…

It was not an April Fools’ joke. But Continue reading

By any other name…

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An interesting way of putting it : “extensive text overlap.”

The full Retraction reads,

This article [1] has been retracted by the author due to extensive text overlap with a previous publication by Roberts et al. [2]. The author apologises for any inconvenience caused.

The offending paper, now retracted, is “Infantile colic, facts and fiction” by Abdelmoneim E.M. Kheir. It was published in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics (IPJ) in 2012. There is a note on the page that this paper is “Highly accessed.”

The text overlap which has been identified is with Continue reading

Exceptions

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The general rules are clear: “if it’s not yours, you cite it” and “if you’re not sure whether or not to cite it, cite it.”

Most, but not all, documentation style guides include the rule, “if you cite it in the text, then you must reference it (usually at the end of the article, paper, chapter, book), and if you have a reference (at the end), then you need a citation in the text.” Put simply:

citation <> reference <> citation

There are exceptions to every rule, and documentation is no exception Continue reading

More misleading headlines

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It’s a good-news-bad-news situation. Taking the same government statement, the UK tabloids Daily Express and the Daily Mirror have two very different takes on the same story:

(Screengrabs taken from BBC News : The Papers, 3 February 2014)

 

 

The Daily Express story concentrates on government plans to raise the basic rate of pensions year on year over the next six years.  The Daily Mirror story features the current benefits and perks that pensioners enjoy which they will lose in order to pay for the promised increase in basic pensions.   Whether pensioners will be better off or not over time is not clear, and may depend on how long they live, on whether pensions continue to rise in line with inflation or the cost of living after the six years of guaranteed rises, and many other factors. On these bare stories alone, it pays to keep an open mind, and to seek further, dig deeper. Continue reading

Studies in Statistics 2

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(This post leads on from the last blog post, Studies in Statistics.)

Headlines can be so misleading.

Hundreds cheating on University of Wolverhampton courses, shouts the Express & Star. The subhead tells us more: Hundreds of students have been caught passing off other people’s work as their own.

It’s a shock-horror headline for sure.

The story, as so often, may be a little less dramatic than the headline suggests Continue reading

Studies in statistics

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Following last year’s publication of Turnitin Effectiveness: Plagiarism Prevention in U.S. High Schools, Turnitin has recently published a follow-up research study, Turnitin Effectiveness in U.S. Colleges and Universities.

Similar to the earlier study, the college and university study purports to demonstrate that, although schools and colleges which qualified for the study often experience an increase in the rate of “unoriginal content” in the first year of Turnitin use, most schools and colleges experience a decrease in the rate of unoriginal content in the second year of use, and, on average, all schools experience decreases in the third and subsequent years.

Unlike the earlier study, Turnitin does not use unfounded assumptions of increase in rates of use of unoriginal content in schools which do not use Turnitin in an attempt to demonstrate how effective use of Turnitin can be (see Imagine… (another flawed study)).

However, just as in the earlier study, Turnitin only considers papers Continue reading

Remember the coffee study?

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(Spoiler alert: I succumbed!)

You surely remember the coffee study? I posted it only last week, Memories are made of this…

Okay, the study was actually on the effects of caffeine on the memory; Michael Yassa and associates were looking at how a dose of caffeine taken after a learning experience affected memory (even if the volunteer participants were not aware that they would be tested the following day on what they had remembered seeing during the “learning” experience).

My post was not about Yassa’s study itself; it was about the number of differences in press reports of the study: reports disagreed as to the number of volunteers Continue reading

Memories are made of…

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The headlines say it all:

Coffee boosts memory retention, study says (CBC.ca)
Coffee a memory enhancing drug, say boffins (Register)
Coffee boosts long-term memory (Financial Times)
Study: coffee enhances long-term memory retention (Wired.co.uk)
Caffeine pill ‘could boost memory’ (BBC News)
Researchers Find Coffee Enhances Memory, Good News for Seniors (SeniorJournal.com)
Caffeine has positive effect on memory, Johns Hopkins researchers … (The Hub at Johns Hopkins)
One or Two Cups of Coffee Improves Short-Term Memory, Study (University Herald)
Daily Coffee might Help Memory (Onlymyhealth)
Drink two espressos to enhance long-term memory (New Scientist)
Scientists reveal caffeine provides huge boost to your short-term memory (Mirror.co.uk)

This is a selection of headlines found in a Google Search for [coffee memory] on 13 January.  It looks like good news, strong news, positive news, doesn’t it?

Though, a moment’s careful looking might suggest a discrepancy or two… Continue reading

Texas sharp-shooting?

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Congratulations, Ben Goldacre!  Damning Report From The Public Accounts Committee On Clinical Trial Results Being Withheld tells it all.

On 3 January, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons issued a report which expressed concern at the fact that pharmaceutical companies tend to publish results of clinical trials which make them look good, but withhold publication of trials in which the results are less favourable. This affects doctors’ knowledge and perceptions Continue reading

A second look at SEER

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Last week, a friend asked if I had come across a source evaluation tool which interacted with Turnitin’s text-matching software.  Attached to the email was a copy of Turnitin’s Source Educational Evaluation Rubric (SEER).

That was news to me!   Interactive with Turnitin?  Trying to work out why my friend thought SEER was interactive, and with Turnitin, took me down some strange paths. And the search got me taking a second look at SEER, a second look and a closer look. A strange journey.

I had in fact been alerted to the release of the rubric back in January 2013, Continue reading

Back to basics (2)

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As if hot on the heels of my last post, Adam Dachis has posted the advice Use a Plagiarism Checker to Get References for a Research Paper on LifeHacker.

He lists a number of free “plagiarism-checkers,” including Plagiarisma (critiqued in Authentic Authenticity).

Dachis is aware that few “plagiarism-checkers” discover all “borrowed” material, so he advises

Your mileage may vary with the different tools, so you probably should run your paper through a few of them to get all your sources. Continue reading

Back to basics – writing skills

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The case of Carrie Pfeiffer-Fiala raises some interesting questions, and may even supply, if not answers, at least some insight into “accidental” plagiarism.

As reported in Scene & Heard, in an article by Doug Brown which was headlined Ex-Kent State Ph.D-Candidate’s Lawsuit: No Such Thing as ‘Plagiarism’ in First Drafts, Pfeiffer-Fiala had submitted a first draft of the first chapter of her PhD dissertation to her professor.  Her professor found unattributed passages and claimed she had plagiarised parts of her dissertation. Pfeiffer-Fiala argued that this was but a draft.  Brown quotes her as arguing “that she knew that citations were incomplete in the draft … and that any citation omissions were inadvertent would be addressed in the editing process and subsequent iterations towards a final submission… .” The case is going to law. Continue reading

Not funny

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My plagiarism alert brought me a Press Release today, mint-new!

PRWeb announced: Plagiarism Removal Introduces Plagiarism Checking Services : The service ensures no project has copied content from another body of academic work.

It’s a new service… and it might even be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Plagiarism Removal is a site based in India. If it’s front-page looks familiar, that could be because it bears strong similarities with the WriteCheck website: the fonts, the layout, the icons, the buttons the colours, Continue reading

Guilty: how do you plead?

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WriteCheck has introduced a new feature, Ask WriteCheck, in which students are invited to ask questions about “plagiarism, citation, grammar/writing, and many other tricky situations that may occur at school.”

The very first question posed to Ask WriteCheck gets a very strange answer, one of those Continue reading

WriteCheck gets it wrong (again)

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The latest entry on the WriteCheck blog, 3 Ways to Avoid Plagiarism – Summary, Paraphrase and Quote includes a teaching video and the transcript of the spoken text.

It’s an interesting piece; I’m not sure how useful the video would be as a teaching tool or as a learning tool. There are too many holes in it.

Again and again, in the video and in the text, we are told:

Avoiding plagiarism is pretty simple because there are only 3 ways to borrow information, so you only need to know the requirements for these three techniques, and you should have it.  The three ways to save yourself from plagiarizing are summary, paraphrase and quote.

And that’s just plain wrong. Continue reading