Plagiarise better?!

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There’s an interesting article in a recent Palo Alto Online News. trading-postIt’s headed “Plagiarism website: trading post for English papers : Palo Alto High School students can run an ‘originality check’ before handing in papers on” and the first paragraph reads:

An Internet-based plagiarism detector has become not only a tool for teachers but also a plagiarism instructor for students and a trading post for English papers.

I wasn’t sure – I’m still not sure – whether staff writer Chris Kenrick had used that term intentionally or not.  “Plagiarism instructor”…  How to plagiarise right (and get away with it?).

I’m definitely sure that Kenrick fails to make the case for Turnitin being “a trading post for English papers” – unless “trading post” means something different to what I think it means.

But “plagiarism instructor,” that I can well believe. The article comes close after an email I received from Turnitin just last week, celebrating “Best Practices for Teaching with Turnitin.” The post is headed, “Best Practices: Multiple Submissions.”multiple-submissions

It’s a difficult one: do you give students an opportunity to get an Originality Report and make neccessary adjustments to their work before submitting a final version to their teachers?  I’m all for it, IF students learn from their mistakes. If students don’t get to see originality reports before submission, then Turnitin can be used only as a Gotcha! tool.  If they can see their mistakes, learn from them, and submit a corrected version, that’s good.  As long as they learn.

Multiple submissions, though? Does this change the nature of the assignment? Does it make the object of the exercise the attainment of a clean sheet from Turnitin? Never mind what you have to say, the name of the game is to beat Turnitin?

That’s not a problem for students who genuinely lerarn from the exercise – but if they are genuinely learning, surely their reports should show fewer and fewer instances of problem text?

It is a problem for students who come to treat their work as a game: Beat Turnitin?  And beating Turnitin is all too easy to do. Especially if you get second chances to plagiarise better!  Plagiarism instructoir indeed.

And somewhere in the middle, students who really, genuinely, do not understand what they are required to do by way of good academic documentauon practice – and are even more confused when some times their standard practice is flagged by turnitin, and sometimes it isn’t.

Confusion?  Just yesterday in an extended essay workshop, a participant told us that his school allows students to make multiple submissions to Turnitin – and they are required to do so until they get a report showing 0% matches. “Do you ask students to use the function which has Turnitin ignore material in quotation marks?” we asked.  “I don’t know,” was the response; “can you do that?”

It sounds as if someone, several ones, need further training.

The one good thing about allowing students to make multiple submissions to Turnitin is that it keeps them away from WriteCheck. WriteCheck is a pay-for service provided by …  Students can pay to have Turnitin check for text matches before they submit their work to Turnitin, which the school pays for.  If they can submit directly to Turnitin and avoid WriteCheck, then Turnitin won’t make double income from the same piece of work.

There’s a second good thing. Students who can make multiple submission to Turnitin won’t be tempted to use the free services. Some of the free services are very dodgy.  But that is another story, a future blog post.

For now,  multiple submission: good if students learn how to document sources better, though I’m not convinced.  Not so good if all they learn is how to plagiarise better.

Kenrick, Chris. “Plagiarism website: trading post for English papers: Palo Alto High School students can run an ‘originality check’ before handing in papers on” Palo Alto Online News, 23 February 2013. Web. 25 February 2013. Web. <>.

2 thoughts on “Plagiarise better?!

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