Copycat plagiarism

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I think that history – or at least a politician’s web-site – is being rewritten even as I write. Oh dear.

The politician is an Australian senator, Glenn Lazarus. A page on the Courier-Mail website (21 August 2014) carries the headline Clive Palmer party senator Glenn Lazarus caught plagiarising Wikipedia.

Lazarus is, of course, not the first Australian politician to be caught out using Wikipedia as a source:  Greg Hunt uses Wikipedia research to dismiss links between climate change and bushfires, though in Mr Hunt’s case Continue reading

How much plagiarism? (revisited)

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The Bangalore Mirror today publishes a report:  Ctrl-C-Ctrl-V, but only up to 25%, VTU tells its PhD students, with the sub-heading

After installing new anti-plagiarism software to sniff out borrowed material, the technology varsity has realistically left some room for ‘permissible lifting’.”

It seems that students have been turning in their PhD theses with more than 50% “borrowed” material.

A VTU official said the new plagiarism software aims to inculcate in students respect for academic integrity and discipline, even as it identifies acts of dishonesty.

To restore credibility to the University’s degrees, and (as stated in the article) “to inculcate in students respect for academic integrity and discipline, even as it identifies acts of dishonesty,” the amount of allowable plagiarism is to be capped at Continue reading

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 Continue reading

’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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking the spell

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I think I recall that, when Microsoft first added a spell checker to MS Word, there was outcry that it would give unfair advantage to students who could afford Word, as against those who could not, or maybe could not even afford a computer. Fears were also expressed that people would forget how to spell, that children might never learn how to spell, and, of course, claims about the inaccuracies and “lack of intelligence” of spell-checkers.

Never mind that Word was not the first word-processing software to include a spell-check.

Nowadays, we take the use of spell-checkers for granted. Continue reading

Imagine… (another flawed study)

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The problem with plagiarism, as with any activity that those who indulge prefer to keep secret, is that we don’t know how prevalent it is, so we can’t say how effective are the measures we take to prevent or detect occurrences, or whether what we do really does make a difference.

Turnitin, probably the most well-known of the various online text-matching services (aka plagiarism checkers or plagiarism detectors), tries – possibly needs – to have it both ways.  They try to show that more and more students at all levels of education are plagiarising, so schools need to buy their detection services, and they also try to show that schools which use their services have reduced levels of plagiarism. Continue reading

Authentic Authenticity

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A frequent question in academic and educational forums is, “How much help can a student get?”

The answer, not surprisingly, must be “It depends.”

In the first place, it depends on the terms of the assignment. If the instructions state that the work must be done without help, then no help is permitted.

If the instructions state that the work can or must be carried out in consultation Continue reading

Never mind the quality, just keep taking the tablet

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I have just taken part in a live Turnitin webcast, Grade Anywhere: Turnitin for iPad (free but you need to register your email address; you’ll then be sent a link to the webcast).

The webcast is meant to promote their new iPad app, and it seems it is true, now you can grade (almost?) anywhere. You don’t even need a live internet connection, as long as you synced your iPad to your Turnitin account and downloaded student work before you went offline.

turnitin for ipadA pity then that Turnitin itself is flawed. Continue reading

How much rewriting?

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“Plagiarism avoidance” is a term to be avoided.

It suggests that it does not matter what we write and how we write it, the aim of the game is to beat Turnitin.

It isn’t.

This is not a new line of thought. I have voiced it before, in posts such as Plagiarise better?! and Avoiding “plagiarism avoidance.”

Would that we could get rid of the “P” word, or at least use it more wisely Continue reading