The Plagiarist’s Weapon of Choice
Plagiarism Flagged at Social and User-Generated Websites Most Often
by Suada Kolovic
Looking over your peer’s shoulder during a test or copying from the encyclopedia are out but plagiarizing off user-generated sites – ones that your peers had a hand in publishing – is in, according to a recent study.
The findings were released by iParadigms, the creator of Turnitin, a plagiarism-detection service that checks for possible plagiarism by comparing submitted papers to several databases using a proprietary algorithm. The study consisted of analyzing 40 million papers submitted by high school and college students over a 10-month period. Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing at Turnitin says the findings show, “that plagiarism in sourcing work is going the way that everything else in the world is going. People are relying more on their peers than on experts.”
It’s important to note that the study does have its faults. Turninit specifically detects “matched content” and not outright plagiarism. So, while the software will flag material from a paper mill, it will also flag material that has been properly attributed and cited. That aside, here’s the breakdown of study:
- One-third of all “matched content” comes from social-networking and content-sharing sites like Facebook, Myspace, Scribd, SlideShare, Yahoo! Answers, and Answers.com.
- Legitimate education sites account for one-quarter of all copying. Popular sources included the National Institutes of Health site www.nih.gov, MedLibrary.org and test-prep and homework-help sites like Course Hero and BookRags.
- To researchers’ surprise, paper mills and cheat sites accounted for only 15 percent of matches. In this category, Turnitin includes sites like OPPapers.com and Allfreepapers.com.
- Over all, the top eight sites for matched content were Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers, Answers.com, SlideShare, OPPapers.com, Scribd, Course Hero, and MedLibrary.org.