Understanding Anti Plagiarism Software Employed in Third Level

Understanding Anti Plagiarism Software Employed in Third Level Education 

Dr. Niall McElwee, Director & Senior Researcher, @ThesisClinic

A question we are regularly asked at the Clinic. What exactly is plagiarism and how can software the Universities and Colleges employ find it? Firstly, let me state my problem with such software in the first instance. They steal our work! It’s as simple as that. It must be one of the greatest ironies of third level  education that a system checking for cheating is actually involved in cheating itself. It cheats undergrad and postgrad students. Let’s be clear and unambiguous. That’s how I see it.

Let me provide an example. My own Doctorate, which took me four years to research and write, was put through anti plagiarism software as is the norm (thankfully, I passed with no issues). That company used for this then uses all of my work to test other students writing in a similar area to see if they have used any of my work. Fair enough. I’d like my work to be correctly cited by other scholars as I hope I try to do with theirs when I write academic articles. But, I don’t get paid and they don’t get paid when, in turn, their work goes on the virtual space record. How has such a system been allowed to operate where we (the workers) don’t get paid a single cent for our effort? As our friends over in MasterCard might say, ‘priceless.’

In any case, back to explain what plagiarism is.

Turn It InPlagiarism is generally understood as the inclusion of another person’s writings or ideas or works, in any formally presented work (including projects, examinations or presentations) which form part of the assessment requirements for a module or programme of study without due acknowledgement either wholly or in part of the original source. The same applies to any form of copies of work from other Learners or work copied given from tutors. Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty where ideas are presented falsely as being the original thought of the author and is taken extremely seriously by third level providers.

Here are four common forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Cheating on Tests and Examinations
Copying the work of others; or the use, or attempted use, of unauthorized notes, information, materials, study aids, or devices in any academic exercise or activity.
  2. Plagiarism:
The use and submission of another’s words, ideas, results, work, or processes without providing appropriate credit (i.e. documentation).
  3. Multiple Submission:
 Submitting the same material for credit in to courses, without permission of the Lecturer(s).
  4. Improper Collaboration:
 Inappropriate sharing of work on an assignment that was intended as an individual assignment. Or, when Learners work together in groups beyond the degree of permissible collaboration set out by the Lecturer.

In this article, I provide a screenshot of what a typical report looks like so readers and, in particular, students can get a sense of how forensic the review is. Study it. The software is good. Damn good. And you have to be better. It is not right or fair that some third level providers allow students the facility of pre submission anti plagiarism checks, whilst others don’t. My experience over and over here at the Clinic is that many students simply don’t understand the nuances of anti plagiarism and what it seeks to uncover. Is this fair?

So, source everything properly. Cite fully. And write as much of your own paper as you can. Oh, and join my campaign to get paid for our work. Even a standardised token payment from these massively resourced Companies would be nice.