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Filtering by Tag: plagiarism detection

These days, it seems as if it’s easier than ever to find someone to help you cheat.

If you don’t have the right connections or can’t find someone you trust at your school or college, you can always grab your credit card and go online, paying one of dozens of sites to write your paper for you.

These essay sites promise amazing things, claiming to be 100% plagiarism-free, able to produce high-quality papers on any subject, at any grade level and with extremely quick turnaround. However, even to an untrained eye those expectations seemed very unrealistic.

Academic writing, after all, takes time, especially at the graduate level and even with a small army of essay authors it’s difficult to imagine that they could locate experts on every single subject imaginable.

So we decided to put two of these sites to the test and see how their essays stacked up. We wanted to see not just if they could pass a plagiarism detection check, but also the quality of the work itself and whether it would likely receive a good grade for the assignment we gave them.

When we were done, the results were clear, we had spent a lot of money, but received nearly nothing of value for it.

The Test

Before conducting the test, we researched essay mill sites thoroughly and selected two of the largest, most popular sites based on their rankings in Alexa/Compete and in search engines for relevant terms.

With two sites selected, which from here on will be named simply 1 and 2 to avoid identifying them, we pretended to be a master’s-level student needing a master’s-level paper on a medical topic. For the exact topic, we found an online syllabus for a course at the appropriate level and based our assignment on one that was actually being given to students at a master’s-level class.

That assignment would be to write an informational paper on an issue of the author’s choosing related to financial issues and health policy.

The paper would have to meet the following criteria:

  1. Be written on a master’s degree level
  2. Be 6 double-spaced pages long (4 for the second paper)
  3. Include at least 5 sources in the works cited
  4. Be delivered in no more than four days.

With those instructions in mind we submitted the assignment to both sites and waited for our results.

Site 1 Essay Results (Cost: $150.00 for 6 pages or $37.50 per page)

The issues with Site 1 began even before we received the final paper. On the day the paper was due, we received an email from the site that informed us the author of our paper had experienced “personal problems” and would not be able to complete the paper on time. They asked us if we could give them two more days to finish the paper.

If we had been a real student facing a real deadline, this could have been disastrous, especially since the deadline day was a Sunday and it’s unlikely we would have had time to finish the project on our own.

The paper ended up being submitted just under 24 hours late and, after opening it, problems immediately began to emerge.

Though the paper met the requirements of the assignment in terms of length and sources, the paper was clearly not written on a master’s level. For one, there were several grammatical mistakes in the paper, including questionable and inconsistent uses of “health care” vs “healthcare” such as referring to physicians as “healthcare professionals” when the version with the space would have been a better choice.

The sources of the paper were also an issue. Though it had more than the five required sources there were no academic journals or private sources of any type. Among the sources were an article in Forbes magazine, two editorial pieces by political groups and free samples from a textbook that were available online.

The biggest problem, however, was that the paper didn’t seem to have a set topic, discussing a variety of issues and problems with healthcare in the U.S. even though the assignment called for focusing on just one. Instead, the paper, entitled “The Politics and Problems of Health Insurance” discussed everything from access to healthcare, to how new technology drives up the cost of care and more.

A plagiarism check of the paper revealed that it had a similarity score of just 11%. This is within the normal range, and, in looking at the matches found, most of the matching text was correctly attributed. However, there was one passage, approximately 40 words, that was copied near-verbatim without quotations from a WordPress.com blog that was not cited in the footnotes.

If I had been a student already suspected of plagiarism, this passage could have easily tripped alarms.

In short, the first paper cost us $150 and would have required heavy revisions and additional sources to be practical for the class. Even then, it might have drawn attention for plagiarism due to the suspect passage.

Site 2 Essay Results (Cost: $96 for 4 pages or $24.00 per page)

The second site was significantly cheaper and the process of buying and getting the paper was much smoother. The order was completed and returned on time without any problems.

However, immediately after opening, a glaring issue was found. Though we closely followed the sites guidelines on wordcount to get the correct page length (and the final paper met those requirements), the paper was only 3.25 pages long, meaning we would have had to add another ¾ of a page just to complete the assignment. Even counting the works cited, the paper was over ¼ a page short.

Grammatically, the paper was more sound, though there were several issues including missing commas and run-on sentences. Also, the paper exclusively used the word “healthcare”, indicating it may have been written by an author who was familiar with British English and was  unaware the convention hasn’t changed in the U.S.

More importantly, the content of the paper was almost unintelligible in places, meandering from topic to topic and routinely injecting opinion into what should have been a purely informative and educational paper. The paper included nonsensical and meaningless statements such as “Over the years, a number of legislation regarding the financing of healthcare have been passed” and “In conclusion, both public and private health covers are necessary.”

The paper did cite several journals and, when passed through a plagiarism checker, came back with only a 4% similarity score and all matching text being in the works cited. However, the paper would have required both extension and significant revision to be a viable paper for the course.

Conclusions

When it was all said and done, neither of the two papers were acceptable for their intended purpose. Both were written well below master’s level, contained multiple errors and failed to meet the criteria of the assignment in several ways. Though both did well on plagiarism detection, one still had a passage in it that would cast suspicion on anyone who turned it in.

To make matters worse, neither of these papers were cheap. At $100 and up for a relatively short assignment, likely one of many in that course, it’s clear that anyone who purchased this paper was seeking a final product they could turn in, something neither paper came close to providing.

Though both papers avoided appearing to be significantly plagiarized, it’s clear that these services are not shortcuts to turning in high quality work, especially at a graduate level. To turn either of these papers into a successful assignment likely would have required as much work, if not more, than simply writing the project from scratch.

So while these services may be able to avoid plagiarism detection, they are clearly not a shortcut to a good grade—and are highly unethical.

At the end of the day, there’s still no substitute for hard work and good writing.

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Recently, WriteCheck conducted a poll on its Facebook page that asked students: “When teachers discuss plagiarism, do you:" along with five answers to choose from that best fits their reactions. Based on 126 responses, the results are shown below, located to the left of each choice:

49% Tune out: blah blah blah 27% Help spread the word: this is serious stuff 21% Listen & learn: maybe I'm accidentally plagiarizing 2% Yawn and take a nap 1% Jab the person next to me: He/she plagiarizes

It's reassuring to see that 48% of the students who answered the survey pay attention and do CARE to learn about plagiarism in the classroom; however, it is alarming to see that the majority (51%) have no interest in learning about plagiarism.

It's almost a split group, but given the heightened state of plagiarism cases and awareness in professional and academic environments, favorable student reactions are expected to be stronger.

Why It's Important to Care

Before you 51% nod off or mentally check out. If you are one of the 51%, let's take a look at some of the possible ramifications. Yes, the subject of plagiarism can seem dull, but if presented in the right way, perhaps the topic will take on new meaning.

You are living in a world with a global economy and a global job market. You will be in the same job market and in the same college courses as the 48% who don’t think that plagiarism is just another boring subject. If you want to compete for the best jobs, your communication skills will be a hot commodity. Corporations are looking for workers who communicate effectively in person and in writing.

Ignorance of plagiarism rules is not an acceptable excuse if you get yourself into trouble. Learning the intricate details of plagiarism in college can save your academic and professional careers.

3 Ways to Avoid Plagiarism

1. One way to help ensure your success is to get involved in the process of plagiarism detection. If your educational institution uses plagiarism checker software, use it; test it out and learn how it works. Upload one of your papers to the software. How well did you paraphrase? Did you quote too often? Learn how to find plagiarized material by “googling” phrases or sentences from plagiarized material.  Observe how easily material can be found on the Internet.  Some professors use this technique to find out if students are using someone else’s work.

2. If you have recently learned to paraphrase and quote properly (with citations and references), test your new found skills by submitting your papers to plagiarism detection software so you can see the results for yourself.  Pick out the mistakes. Most people learn best by doing. Getting personally active in the process can help you take an interest and remember the details of plagiarism prevention.

3. Research stories about individuals’ lives that were ruined because of plagiarism. Many useful tips for avoiding plagiarism are available online.

Remember, you are accountable for your actions, and plagiarism is an ethical offense, basically stealing. Students are a reflection of their educational institutions, and school, college and university administrators want to be represented well. They also want students to be well-prepared for the global job market. The better you look, the better they look!

Fifty-one percent of students answered the WriteCheck survey negatively. Use some imagination to gain a better understanding of plagiarism. Involving yourself in the process of plagiarism detection can take the “boring” out of the subject matter. You must care about plagiarism; your academic and professional lives may depend on it.

 

Published on by bcalvano.

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Written by Jonathan Bailey, author of Plagiarism Today

Earlier, we talked about how 125 Harvard students were being students were being brought before the schools Administrative Board on allegations of plagiarism. However, now more details are coming out regarding how the scandal was detected and how it unfolded.

According to Harvard’s school newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, the scandal began to unfold in May when assistant professor Matthew B. Platt sent a letter to the Administrative Board noting similarities in 13 take home exams.

Platt, who was grading the exams given to students in an “Introduction to Congress” course, said he noticed similarities between many of the tests including a strings of similar words, a typo and an unnecessary space in a number, that prompted him to take action.

To make matters worse, Platt also noticed that all of the exams in question used, “The same (incorrect) reading of the course material” and also structured their arguments in an identical manner. In fact, the exams used the same two “somewhat obscure” examples to answer the question.

It was Platt’s letter that started the Administrative Board’s investigation into the case and that investigation quickly ballooned from the from the original 13 to 125 exams. According to The Crimson, that number represents nearly half of the class involved and approximately two percent (2%) of Harvard’s total student body.

But even as the fallout from the scandal continues to settle, including the sidelining of the captain of the school’s men’s basketball team, the case has come to highlight how there are many different ways in which students who engage in academic dishonesty can be caught.

Though technology has made it easier than ever to spot copied text, many cases of plagiarism are still caught in more traditional ways. This includes students who have a sudden change in writing style, formatting issues or, as with this case, repeating the same mistakes as others.

In short, while originality detection is a major part of locating and stopping plagiarism in classrooms, it isn’t the only tool that is used. Common sense and observation are still the most powerful tools an instructor has and that makes it imperative for students to be careful with their assignments regardless of whether or not their school uses an automated system.

If 125 Harvard students can get brought before the Administrative Board because an assistant professor noticed similarities while grading tests, then any student at any other school can meet the same fate.

This is why students need to be aware of the dangers involved with turning in sloppy work and be vigilant in not plagiarizing, either intentionally or unintentionally, regardless of what their school is doing at the time.

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Plagiarism checkers are an effective way to inspect your papers for any red flags that may suggest plagiarism. This specialized software is available for those who are serious about their academic or research work. Plagiarism checker software like WriteCheck is available online. Do not take the chance of being accused of plagiarism.

There are five reasons to use a plagiarism checker; they are:

1. Although some people use Internet search engines to look for plagiarized material, plagiarism software can offer more sources, such as large databases that include periodicals and books that may not be available online. Thousands of periodicals exist. Massive databases such as EBSCOhost and ProQuest contain such articles. Plagiarism checkers have access to these databases.

2. Another one of the 5 reasons to use a plagiarism checker is that this software highlights the content that is exact. In other words, you can see for yourself what sentences or words are verbatim what the original author wrote.

3. Plagiarism detection software also gives percentages of similarity. Many universities use plagiarism software like Turnitin to check papers for plagiarism. When students and instructors use this software to check papers, a similarity percentage is given. A university will have a standard percentage rate that is acceptable to them. Students must remain at that percentage rate or lower for their papers to be satisfactory in regard to similarity.

4. Checking your paraphrasing abilities is another one of the 5 reasons to use a plagiarism checker. As stated above, a plagiarism checker will highlight the material that is an exact match to the original author’s words. If you have not paraphrased properly, you will know it by the highlighted material. Use that information to reword and cite the text.

5. Plagiarism checker software offers you proof that you have not plagiarized. Printing out or saving an electronic copy of your plagiarism checker report can be proof to your instructor or university that your content is original. Some instructors will ask for a copy of this report, others will not. Keeping a copy for your records in either case can offer you protection.

The five reasons to use a plagiarism checker are valid and should be of importance to any student or researcher. Plagiarism has become a serious issue, with many students, academics and others being accused and punished. According to plagiarism.org, the Center for Academic Integrity reported that nearly 80% of students in college have admitted to cheating one or more times. Also, a survey of college students conducted by the Psychological Record found that 36% had plagiarized (Plagiarism.org, 2012). The technology exists to ensure your safety as a student or researcher. Take advantage of it.

The advent of the Internet has allowed plagiarism to become easier. It has also allowed plagiarism detection software to be developed. The 5 reasons to use a plagiarism checker listed above should be a guide to serious students and researchers who want to check themselves and ensure that they have proof that their papers are original.

Reference

Plagiarism.org. (2012). Facts about plagiarism, Retrieved from http://www.plagiarism.org

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