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

Help the reader!

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One of the reasons for citing and referencing our sources is to help the reader judge the authority and the currency of other people’s work, especially when we use it to support our discussions and our arguments. What’s more, the interested reader can follow up a reference, chase it down and find out more. Citing and referencing is not just a matter of respect for those whose work we use, it is respect for those who read our work as well.

Curiously and perhaps ironically, it was an article on the front page of Ethos (June 2013), a monthly newsletter published by the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI), which set me off on this train of thought

The Ethos article reprints the first part  of Cheating Epidemic, Continue reading

Typical? Typical!

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iThenticate recently released an infographic headed “iThenticate Plagiarism Graphic” which, they claim, “illustrates the growing problem of plagiarism and other forms of misconduct in research, as well as the types of damages that are incurred by misconduct.”  The page is an “extension” of a recent iThenticate study “True Costs of Research Misconduct.

The factoids are startling, as of course they are meant to be, and unlike some of the iThenticate group’s earlier infographics, Continue reading

Footloose with figures

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I couldn’t believe my ears. I wasn’t watching, admittedly, but the voice in the television advertisement definitely said, “No wonder 93% of Cosmopolitan readers recommend it.”

That is some recommendation, that’s a lot of people. It’s a lot, even if the ad refers to UK readers only. I just had to check.  Let’s see: according to its owner, Hearst Magazines UK, Cosmo’s UK readership is 1,430,000, at least it was in the second half of 2012, which suggests that 1,329,900 readers recommend Scholl’s Express Pedi, “Professionally pedicured feet at your fingertips.”

How does Scholl know? Continue reading

An early start

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Two passages in an article in The Australian caught my eye recently.

The article carries the headline “Tracey Bretag says schools must teach how to reference information from the internet” and the story, written by The Australian’s Education Editor Sheradyn Holderhead, opens:

TELL US: Should proper referencing be taught at schools?
UNIVERSITY students do not understand plagiarism and cheating rules because cutting and pasting from the internet has become common practice in schools, a leading academic warns. Continue reading

Fewer cases of plagiarism

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The online THE (Times Higher Education) recently carried a headline: Turnitin is turning up fewer cases of plagiarism. That’s good news.

The subtitle of Paul Rump’s article runs “Cases of serious cheating fall by 60 per cent, company says.”  Serious cheating is apparently defined as essays where more than 75% is made up of unoriginal material, and the figures as given in the article are impressive: Continue reading

Floored by flaws?

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A recent iThenticate press release carried the headline, “Survey Shows Plagiarism a Regular Problem in Scholarly Research” (iThenticate Press Release, 2012 December 5).

I’m not sure what to make of it. The logic, the argument, the statistics, the interpretation. There’s something not quite right. Several things. I have already noted some of my disquiet in Flattering Flaws, wondered if there might be vested interest in sensationalising the survey results?  But those are not my only concerns.

To be more sure, I went to the actual survey report, available as “2012 Survey Highlights: Scholarly Plagiarism” (iThenticate, 2012).  I wanted to check the statements, and to think again about the logic of statements made in the press release.  Continue reading

How much plagiarism?

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Every so often, in workshop and in forums, someone asks, “What percentage of plagiarism is allowed?”

The short answer is, of course, zero per-cent.

The question is usually asked by someone who has received an originality report from Turnitin or other online text-matching software, turnitin-report
and it has come back with passages and paragraphs brightly coloured. The highlighted sections indicate text for which the software has found matches, on the internet or within its own databases.

Highlighted text does NOT indicate plagiarism. Continue reading

Flattering flaws

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It’s ironic that I have to thank Turnitin for bringing Retraction Watch to my attention.

Retraction Watch is a blog written by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky. It aims to report on retractions made in science journals.  Scientific knowledge is not static, but it does tend to develop slowly. New knowledge is gained as connections are made, Continue reading

Go figure!

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Two of the many disturbing findings coming out of a survey conducted in 2009 by the Josephson Institute, as reported in their press release, were

High school character matters – Regardless of current age, people who cheated on exams in high school two or more times are considerably more likely to be dishonest later in life

and

 Attitude matters – Regardless of age, people who believe lying and cheating are a necessary part of success (the report calls them cynics) are more likely to lie and cheat. In fact, this belief is one of the most significant and reliable predictors of dishonest behavior in the adult world.

This is based on responses to an online survey of nearly 7,000 adults.  The report notes that this cannot be viewed as a random survey since Continue reading