A computer program can identify plagiarists using a screening test. For more than a decade, Barbara Glatt, a former University of Illinois writing professor, has been catching plagiarists worldwide with minimal effort. Thanks to the help of her three computer software programs, teachers around the world have been better able to identify and deter cheaters. Glatt said she created the programs after noticing that many professors often had difficulty locating the original sources students cited in their papers and that many students did not understand what constituted plagiarism. "While teachers are often right [in suspecting plagiarists], the student is often defenseless in proving his or her innocence," Glatt said. But the screening program lessens the need for debate. The test removes every fifth word of a suspected student's paper and replaces the words with blanks. The student then is asked to supply the missing words. The number of correct responses and the amount of time intervening are considered in assessing the plagiarism probability score. Glatt said the results from the screening are very accurate. "No one has ever been falsely accused, ever," Glatt said. Glatt has also made a teaching program for students to use. It's designed to instruct students about the differences between plagiarizing and paraphrasing, when and how to provide attribution of sources and how to express ideas in their own words. And a self-detection test provides students with immediate feedback regarding possible plagiarism trouble spots within their writing. Teachers and students at hundreds of colleges, universities and high schools in the U.S. and other countries -- including Canada, England and Korea -- are using the programs, which cost $300 apiece. According to Glatt, plagiarism has always been a problem in high schools, colleges and universities, but it is becoming more and more prevalent. "There is a market in plagiarism because of the advent of the Internet," Glatt said, noting that students are able to purchase papers quickly and easily from Web sites. Rikki Tanenbaum, chairwoman of the University Honor Council, said she thinks the programs would not only save time for professors but would also benefit students. "There's a lot of confusion as to what constitutes plagiarism," the College junior said. "What's most common is not willfully deceitful plagiarism." In a survey conducted last year by the Honor Council, 63 percent of the 600 students polled claimed to have cheated, with only 4 percent admitting specifically to plagiarism. "I'm quite sure it is an under-representation of the numbers," Tanenbaum said, adding that cheating is not more of a problem at Penn than at other schools. According to Tanenbaum, the survey did not poll a proportionate percentage of students from the four undergraduate schools. For example, 63 percent of the responses were from students in the College of Arts and Sciences, while only 2 percent were from undergraduates in the Nursing School. In addition, she said she doubts many of the respondents fully understood the meaning of plagiarism. "We want to spell out a lot of the ambiguities about [plagiarism]," Tanenbaum said. She said the Honor Council will unveil a new Web-based survey on cheating in about two weeks.Comments powered by Disqus
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