The Growing Backlash Against Automated Cheating Detectors

from the but-for-a-good-reason dept

It’s been nearly four years since we wrote about students and parents being upset that online services that check student homework for plagiarism were also uploading and storing a copy of every paper they checked. It got to the point, earlier this year, that at least one university banned the use of Turnitin, one of the most popular services in this field. It seems that the student rebellion against such tools is growing, as many more students are questioning the legality of such tools, and asking their schools to stop using them. They’re not just upset about the uploads, but about the assumption of guilt. While there clearly is plenty of plagiarism to go around, that doesn’t mean this is the right solution to it. It’s often easy to just throw technology at a problem, but it’s worth recognizing that doing so always raises unexpected issues — and those issues may not be technological on their own, but legal and cultural issues. It seems like many of the schools who jumped on the Turnitin bandwagon didn’t spend much time thinking about those additional consequences, and are now facing student anger because of it.

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Comments on “The Growing Backlash Against Automated Cheating Detectors”

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Egat says:

First link is broken.

Also, it’s good to see the often exuberant pro-technology attitude often exhibited here tempered by a story like this. If society doesn’t carefully evaluate when technology is appropriate and when it isn’t we are liable to enter another anti-technology backlash similar to the one seen a few decades ago in the US. Environmentalism and other movements placed all blame for any problem they percieved squarely on the shoulders of technology, and were believed by the masses.

Michael Long says:


“While there clearly is plenty of plagiarism to go around, that doesn’t mean this is the right solution to it.”

And so the right solution is…

To me it’s pretty obvious that this is along the lines of “it’s not the money, it’s the principle of the thing!” When in fact it’s usually about the money.

Why is it okay for a web company like Google to cache content, but wrong for another service to do so?

Will says:

secrecy breeds corruption

It’s a simply a process of transparency. The same kind of transparency that the students would undoubtedly lobby for in government. From a legal standpoint the problem would be solved by requiring that every student accept that any submitted paper become public domain.

But regardless, this has nothing to do with the ethics or legality of the service and everything to do with spoiled students complaining about not being able to game the system. Many people I knew in college basically cheated their way through school and are working in well paying jobs today on the basis of their results. I’ve had discussions with college tutors that freely admit to writing student papers, as if it is a perfectly acceptable practice. Colleges are under pressure to pass high fee paying students regardless of their academic performance. The higher education system is wholly corrupt and needs greater transparency.

Seriously, if colleges could prevent cheating most students would never graduate. It’s sad that hard work and honesty seem like anachronistic concepts today.

Mike Mixer (profile) says:

Re: secrecy breeds corruption

That won’t work. That would be forcing the people to choose between grades and privacy, we don’t even force suspected murderers to give that up. the only way to combat cheating is to allow the work to only be done in the teachers presence. If that is too hard for the teacher to handle maybe there has to be some thought put into how much work is being required by everybody. Most of the plagiarism problem today is caused by the teachers wanting too much work out of the students. When I graduated from High school it was already starting. The students who were bearing the load were cheating at least a little bit and the honest ones soon started to keep up. Even in the community college I went to there were teachers who were fresh out of school with a masters scroll in their hand and nothing but teaching jobs to fall into so they were expecting the same work they did out of us at a much lower level. Expecting a solid education is reasonable but simply piling on more and heavier asignments is not the way to achieve it, there has to be a kind of free-learning
that is not outcome based or all you’ll get out of schools are burned out cheaters.

Trampas says:

Re: secrecy breeds corruption

What if I don’t accept my paper becoming public domain? Legally, I have that right.

I wish they would prevent cheating. I’m sick of morons getting the same degree as me without having learned anything or been able to pass the tests themselves. They should have failed. If they got a job based on their results, they should be fired. Period.

Cleverboy (user link) says:

Re: hard work and honesty seem like anachronistic

“Yeah, it’s so sad that teachers and professors cannot be bothered to read and judge the papers themselves. Got to crank out the “product” assembly-line style.” – Dave

You don’t know what you’re talking about. The teachers don’t use the tool to GRADE or evaluate the quality of the paper, simply to check if it is actually the work of the student handing it in, or instead, based on someone else’s work. I agree, however, that a much better level of transparency, would be to simply allow students to CHECK their paper the same way the teacher would, except perhaps without access to any detailed reporting. This, in my opinion is important for false-positives if nothing else.

Why teachers, who only should be checking papers on merit, should somehow be expected to be omnitient, and cheating students be rewarded for the obscurity of their theft, is beyond me. The Google comparison is VERY approriate. WHY this is an issue is simply because students don’t want to get caught. Oh, heavens… what a SHOCKER!

Assertions that without “cheating” many students wouldn’t graduate has GOT to be the most ridiculous excuse I’ve ever heard. Sorry.

University Student says:

Re: Re: hard work and honesty seem like anachronis

“The Google comparison is VERY approriate. WHY this is an issue is simply because students don’t want to get caught. Oh, heavens… what a SHOCKER!

Oh My!! With Google, you get something in return for your “allowing” your content to be cached, searched, and (“retrieved”??). Your argument is totally baseless…. With Google, the content author receives a return – their website is indexed and a person searches for a subject and Voila!! You now have a new website visitor to your site because someone could FIND YOU!! Additionally Google does not sell the search services of the content, only advertising to be displayed with the content. Of course if Turnitin is allowed to continue in this fallopy, then Google should be able to start charging you to use their search engine to access the cached subject material – how would that work for you?

As far as libraries cataloging books… Well Google and many other enterprises do the same thing as well, in an effort to SELL THE BOOK so that the AUTHOR GETS MONEY – AS IN ROYALTIES!! As for the library specifically, well it is research and though you can “check out” material for FREE, you are still NOT BEING CHARGED for that material – only if you fail to return it. There is also a digital license agreement that most libraries enter into with the authors or publishers (who usually hold the copyright – sometimes in conjunction with the author) in order to legally distribute this material electronically. And that intent is to encourage someone to actually purchase the book if they find it useful, if not, the author and publisher get the recognition afforded by the temporary electronic distribution in hopes that other works by said author or publisher might be purchased by that consumer or their friends, co-workers or family!!

So you see, there really is no comparison at all in your comment equating turnitin to a library, google or other authorized use – cleverboy.

Gil Carrick says:

how is it different

How is it different from the teacher’s comparing all the papers in the class by hand as she reads them. She might not even be consciously doing it, but it will be immediately obvious. Since the student now has the tools to find material anywhere about any subject, the teacher needs to be able to have similarly powerful tools. These students should be ashamed ofthemselves for suggesting such a poor argument.

Aggrieved says:

Re: how is it different

I’ll give you an example of one who should be ashamed — a teacher using such technology that refuses to acknowledge the definition of the word plagiarism for her 15 mins. of fame! My daughter was asked in an assignment for an anthology choosing 4 works and then to write an 8 -10 page essay on it!! The teacher attempted to charge her with plagiarism not in the 8 – 10 page essay but on the 4 works that she selected!! The definition clearly states “and representing it as one’s own” — nothing in her 8 -10 pages contained Internet content but rather the materials she submitted that she relied upon to write the report — overzealous teachers in instances such as this are the ones who should be ashamed!!! This project was 15-20 hours worth of work — for a HS Jr., that should be commended not condemned!!!

? says:

I’m not exactly against the idea. Efficency in eliminating papers that have been plagerized before going through and reading it can save some time.

And complaining students isn’t really news. Doesn’t matter what it is, students will complain. Color of the light builb used in a fixture, how a professor does his/her hair, the way the night jantor puts trash in the trash can – these are all just a few things that studens like to complain about. This is just one more thing to direct their attention from learning.

? says:

Re: Re: Re:

Maybe you aren’t aware of the millions of education dollars spent each semester on silly student complaints?

Sure, learning can come from complaints, but most students don’t know the difference between something that is really important, and something that is really silly – such as the color of the light bulb in the fixture. If you think that is a joke, then you haven’t been in education for very long. IF you are in education at all.

Peter says:

Re: Re:

This is a stupid comment made by someone who doesn’t have a clue.

Uhh… “in actuality”, such a suit would NOT have a decent chance of winning. You see, the suit would be brought up under copyright law, not IP.

We have this little thing called “fair use”. As an exercise to the reader, you are to read up on fair use and apply the four litmus tests to this case. See which one of the four tests fails.


Ryan (profile) says:


Interesting legal issue here… what rights do the students have?

If the teacher assigns homework and requires it turned in, isn’ t the teacher free to do what she wants with it as long as she’s not profiting or re distributing?

How does copyright law cover schoolwork? Assumption of guilt is one thing, but being mad about it storing a copy is another. Nobody complains that the results of one’s ACT tests are stored… what’s the difference between that and storing a paper?

David says:

bashing the students

Then you all won’t mind if we put monitors in your bedrooms. After all, it’s all about tranparency. If you’re not sodomizing your wife, you have nothing to hide.

Duh.. not everything is open to the public. There is such a thing as privacy.

When the system cranks out a false positive and the student has no recourse, to whom does the student complain? The Internet? Or are you all using the computers in Maryland that don’t fail?

Last time I checked, in the country there is a presumption of innocense. If you prefer the presumption of guilt then move to Mexico and see how you like their system.

Not everything in this world is about someone’s convenience. Sometimes it’s about rights, or privacy or simply not being subject to a potentially falutly and unmonitored technology system.

EK says:

not a huge deal

So my paper is going to be online forever. So what?

Basically, if it isn’t something you want shared, why did you put it in a paper in the first place? Professors will read it, perhaps share it with colleagues, someone might randomly pick it up…technology may make connections that much faster, but they didn’t create the situation of papers not being confidential.

Also, quite frankly, I want my profs to concentrate on grading my paper not on trying to find plagarism by googling every student’s paper. It’s fast; it’s easy for students to use.

Plus, the cache isn’t public (though AOL famously showed that caches can become so accidentally), and I don’t see turnitin making it so–it doesn’t make business sense. Basically, what’s the big deal?

CollegeStudent says:


I’m amazed people are defending this service. it’s not about comparing the papers to see if they’re plagirised, it’s about storing the students paper. when you write a paper you automatically own the copyright to the paper. this is copyright infringement plain and simple. i doubt my college uses this service but i suggest to any student whose college does use it, check to see if at any time you gave permission for the college to put your paper through this service, if you didn’t… sue Turnitin for copyright infringment. because, after all, you didn’t give them persmission to copy your paper.

George Glass says:

If illegal, change the law

I don’t see any moral reason why a company cannot cache. They are not selling copies of anyone’s work, simply letting people know if a work matches another work. This is not profit based on someone else’s art, rather profit based on comparing one art to another.

When Google caches library books so that people can find books easier, this is actally a service to the community and should not be illegal. Turnitin provides a service also and shouldn’t be discounted because some want to exploit a loophole in copyright law for their own benefit. As a society we should think about changing the law to allow for finding and comparing publications. Think outside the box instead of viewing current law as inherently just.

Charlie potatoes (profile) says:

tempest in a teacup

It strikes me that it all depends on whose ox is getting gored.
my nephew tells me to relax..if i have nothing to hide then why should i object to the erosion of my civil liberties in the name of homeland security? (zeig heil, i am a loyal american)
but when it comes to his little shell game with appropriated bits of knowledge, it’s a whole new ball game.

Asif Hussain says:

Facts are Facts

Turntin, does not allow the colleges to access any student paper without explicit permission of the student, so I do not understand the issue over here, if you have not cheated and plagiarised you have nothing to be concerned about, nobody’s right are being effected it is a matter of being dishonest and then asking that the tools to catch these dishonesty should be curtailed. What about the students who take time to write these papers what about their rights

Gus says:

Re: Facts are Facts

What of false positives?

In high school I was once asked in front of the whole class by an English teacher if part of a paper which I wrote was my own work. It was indeed mine and I took a little offense to the question which she attempted to ameliorate by stating that it was very good work. If Turnitin is good enough to be of any value (if it can find plagiarism where some of the words have been changed) it will necessarily have false positives as well.

And what of people who access my paper without any permission (see AOL story)?

University Student says:

Re: Facts are Facts

Oh, contrare Mr. Hussain! Any other subscriber to the system who gets a comparison match, even if it is one sentence, may request a full and complete copy of the “original” work. The student is NOT the one who gives permission for this, it is the professor who has the account.

The company is making money by selling the comparison capability to papers that I write and not compensating me justly for such papers/works. Besides, this service will end up in commercial and government hands at some point in the future for job screening, etc., and if the professor does not release the copy to the inquiring party at that time so that you may prove it is your paper that was flagged as “stolen” how are you going to prove to the potential employer that it really was your paper in the database and not somebody else’s? Given the level of professional plagiarism going on (ie. news reporters, etc.) where would YOU stand then? I’ll tell you, you’ll be moving on to the next application/employer, never knowing why you got ditched!

This is such a complex issue, it cannot be answered in one post. Look through this thread to see other Pro-Freedom, Anti-Turnitin comments – maybe then you’ll get the bigger picture.

Starky says:

My school uses Turn-it-in (though most teachers have stopped using it because they don’t trust it anymore), and one of my friend’s reports was incorrectly marked as plagiarism because it was identical to itself. Yes, apparently it added it to the database of papers to check against before it checked it, and it decided that it was plagiarized (or it was sent twice and compared against the first). He was able to convince the teacher easily enough, as it showed the teacher the report it was plagiarized from as my friends paper.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against trying to keep students from cheating. I just think that it should be better known that the system still has some flaws that could mean the difference between passing and failing.

The Man says:

For profit

If you Turnitin is making a profit by saving and then comparing your essay to others then in essense they are making a profit from your and everyone elses essay. It really doesn’t matter what is the content of your essay. If I write an essay regarding death dealing robots and you use that paper for profit(regardless to whether or not you built said death dealing robots) then you are liable for copyright infringement. It does not matter how you use it. If its for profit and I did not give provable consent then you are liable.

Cleverboy (user link) says:

Re: For profit

“It does not matter how you use it. If its for profit and I did not give provable consent then you are liable.” – The Man

There’s this little wirey thing called “Fair Use”. You might want to read up on it. So, this “it does not matter how you use it” is pretty incorrect. It certainly DOES matter, in fact many papers and articles have been written about what does and does not consitute fair use, and I think this case is nebulous. No one is reselling the works as such, the only service being performed is a service already performeable by a teacher, but for which there is simply no time to realistically do without tools like this.

The simple fact that this SEARCH is a “report” and not an unqualified verbatim copy of the source material means that you’re immediately running into measures of what % of the report is made up of the original work, and whether that original work and its author is directly impacted by the existence of this report.

My answer: “Not at all.” I smell a lot of excuses, but certainly room for improvement.

University Student says:

Re: Re: For profit

You may want to view that graphic a bit closer…

The report in excerpt form is viewable – this in and of itself is not as much of an issue, but it does not stop there. You can receive the entire paper, verbatim, by simply clicking the link in the “found” document and making the request. This is also part of their service – you can “view” the “original” paper in it’s entirety by merely requesting it – not from the original AUTHOR but the professor! The work does not belong to the professor, nor does it really belong to the school – even with a paper signing away your rights – providing the school has required the signature to get the education – sort of like coercion in the good ole’ days of law enforcement. (Sign this confession or you will go to prison for LIFE!) Though that comparison is a bit extreme – I hope it shocks you enough to cause you to open your eyes and look at the bigger picture …

You tell students that it’s not ok to steal someone else’s work and profit from it in some way (getting a grade to pass a class or getting paid money to put bread on your dinner table), but it’s ok for the institution or its affilliates to do just that to ensure that you are being honest. Kind of like – the ends justify the means – don’t you think??

Also, change the setting slightly, since the institutions want to be the “academic police”, can a police officer break the law to solve the crime? NOT! So if you hold other public figures in a higher moral standing, what makes the schools think they are any different? You wouldn’t acquiesce to the government putting a speed tracker on your car because the majority of people who drive violate speeding laws – now would you??

Get a grip on reality and use a bit of good common sense. Give an inch and expect to lose a mile – or more!

Prometheum says:

Re: Crybabies

Again, can we put cameras in your bedroom? If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about, right?

Students shouldn’t need to prove their innocence any more than murderers do. In the latter case, the suspected party has the burden of proof placed on the accuser, but when the burden of proof is placed on the suspected party, the justice system is compromised.

Lay Person says:

Re: Re: Crybabies

Yeah, with constant monitoring whether voice, video, ESP, whatever, the subject of said monitoring is being accused as long as he is being monitored.

The subject is presumed guilty just by the fact of being monitored. All at the same time the subject is accused and presumed guilty. Why else would they be monitored. This doen’t even touch the idea of being confronted by your accuser because the act of continuous monitoring is a constant accusation.

Danielle Babb (user link) says:

Online Plagiarism

I teach online and on ground and have for years. The Internet has made it extremely simple for students to cheat; and inevitably I find it happening every term. If we don’t have this tool, we’ll simply use Google – but it will take longer for us to find cheaters. This type of software protects everyone from academic dishonesty.

Russell Mickler (user link) says:


I’ve been teaching adjunct both online and onground for nearly a decade. The fact is that many students come out of secondary education and are unfamiliar with appropriate methods of using citation: parenthetical, reference, authority, paraphrasing – all of the traditional rules were never reinforced in their academic experience. Therefore, generally speaking, students come into post-secondary systems thinking ripping off Wikipedia and turning it in for credit is the norm.

This is a serious problem for academics: these student’s use of the Internet constitutes a mental crutch, and there’s no substance to the student’s learning or the value of their program if there are no checks and balances on the use of citation. I teach over 150 students every eight weeks, and with an average of two assignments a week, you can see where this can be a bit time consuming.

Although I’m pretty good at catching this kind of problem, man, it would be great if the upload process automatically checked for plagiarism, method, mechanics, style… and let me deal with _content_ and _ideas_ and _application_. Any student who’d argue backlash is just looking for the continued benefit of their crutch, and not the obvious benefit of my attention paid to what really matters: their application of concepts.


Cleverboy (user link) says:

Re: Re:

“Teachers and professors have been able to spot plagiarism before this sort of technology was around. It sounds like the teachers of today are just lazy.” – Anonymous Coward

You must not also realize how “this technology” has been made all the more necessary due to “cheating” websites out there that give students an even wider selection of old papers to choose from that teachers, without using Google and other tools, would have no hope of detecting. Everything seems to be an arms battle these days, although Turnitin gives tools not only to teachers but to the legitimate needs of students too.

“if there is no checks on who submitted each assignment (and therefore a copyright for each of those submissions to those authors) then the system is invalid and should be scrapped.” – Anonymous Coward

Invalid and should be scrapped is a remarkeable leap from “needs improvement”. Having a sister that works in education, I know that she works her ass off putting together lesson plans and grading. Tools that help our often beleaguered and underpaid educators should be welcomed. The case you mentioned sounds like a workeable exception that should be discussed. Some of my previous suggestions in this thread (like allowing students to check for false posititives) would be welcome. Also, I’d be surprised if these services did not actually contain some original attribution and date for the work that is matched.

In the end, I’d have to say that a student that tries to hand the same assignment in today, that they handed in last year, is still just being lazy. By the same count, teachers should be able to find the previous assignment and give it the same grade, sight-unseen. –Instead, they have to waste their valuable time grading something the student probablt hasn’t even attempted to improve. If the student included a note that it is an “improved” version of a previous paper they wrote, I think that is a positive note on honesty. It’s up to the teacher in any case whether that is acceptable.

Anonymous Coward says:

You know, I have seen a situation where in one semester a student submitted an assignment… that assignment was marked favourably. That student did not pass that class for other reasons (exams or other assignments… but could easily have been the choice to drop out for personal reasons).

So the next semester the same class is attempted. The same assignment is set. Is it then wrong that the student hands in the exact same assignment? Does that break plagiarism rules? Hell no… so why is this student immediately given a Fail and have to prove their innocence?

These tools are all well and good, but if there is no checks on who submitted each assignment (and therefore a copyright for each of those submissions to those authors) then the system is invalid and should be scrapped.

Peter Jones says:

Feeble excuse for cheating

The argument that students are angry because they are “assumed to be guilty” is just a smokescreen because they don’t like getting caught cheating. Does airport secruity, video cameras, or the detection devices in most stores these days assume guilt? Are they going to start railing about being checked at the airport so anyone with any kind of weapon, bomb, whatever can just walk on with the rest of us? Good argument. How about the fact that many of these students don’t think it’s actually cheating, just like downloading music is not actually stealing. These people make it necessary to check. Maybe they should be complaining about them instead.

Gus says:

Re: Feeble excuse for cheating

So, plagiarism = terrorism? Good argument.

Airport security is a necessity for safety. But it is most certainly an intrusion upon my civil liberties. That intrusion is a cost we pay in order to fly and is weighed against the risk to our lives.

Are you suggesting that plagiarism is a risk to our lives!?!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Feeble excuse for cheating

“So, plagiarism = terrorism? Good argument.

Airport security is a necessity for safety. But it is most certainly an intrusion upon my civil liberties. That intrusion is a cost we pay in order to fly and is weighed against the risk to our lives.

Are you suggesting that plagiarism is a risk to our lives!?!”

Plagiarism is destructive to the entire education process. It is a huge problem and is much more prevalent than you’d probably believe. Given all of the resources that students have now, it is much easier to cheat and much harder to detect. As such, I would think that students should feel better that they’re not competing for grades against students who cheat.

Also, for what it’s worth, the whole “innocent until proven guilty” only applies to criminal justice. Other people can assume whatever they want. And here, there is no presumption of any kind – students aren’t failed until they prove they don’t cheat. All papers are scanned, and guilty parties punished appropriately.

That said, no system is perfect. If I were using this tool, I would take all positives extremely seriously and would thoroughly research the offending paper against the papers it was supposed to have plagiarized. Mistakes happen. As a former TA, I never accused anyone of cheating – although I was rather sure of it once, I didn’t have quite enough evidence, so I didn’t pursue it.

I’ve also been accused of cheating, of which I was innocent, and no, it doesn’t feel good.

So in the end, there has to be a system for separating cheaters from innocent students, and no, it’s not lazy for the teacher to use this system because it’s hard to tell these days. But using this tool has to come with significant responsibility for the teacher.

If I were running a school, I would allow this tool but highly regulate its use. I would also require a teacher to present evidence to a peer to ensure that proper investigation has been performed regarding any positives.

Obsidian says:

Fair Use applies to NON-PROFIT, NON-DISTRIBUTORY use. If Turnitin is making a profit off of someone else’s work (and they are), and as they are distributing that work, making it available to others wothout the authors permission, then they are possibly in violation of copyright laws.

What a bunch of whiners and crybabies this generation has become. If you don’t plagiarize, you don’t have anything to worry about.

This is one of the most moronic arguments I’ve ever heard. Maybe the government oughta put a camera in your bedroom just to make sure you are having sex with underage girls. Hey, if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t object to being watched, right?

RiskyMethodz says:

From a Student

“Um… it’s “seig heil” not “zeig heil” you must have missed that part in school (or had someone else attend it for you who didn’t take very good notes… lol).”

It’s “Sieg Heil”, don’t try to be a dick.

I’m a 3rd year college student, and both my University and High School use Turnitin. In the 5 years that my work has been subject to this service, not once has my work been accused of plagiarism. And I’m sure, through improper citation, that some of them very well may have contained some…albeit unintentional. False positives are not that large of a problem, percentage wise. In a legitimate paper most of the “likeness” found should be contained within quotes or other citation. Teachers/Professors who see that the highlighted sections are cited properly will overlook small sections that may be highlighted, assuming a small “slip” or a false positive. It’s just Not a problem.

And I don’t think most of you realize exactly how much cheating actually goes on in high school and college, especially the latter. Many of you may be shocked to discover the percentage of students that will spend the Entire class texting their friends without paying any attention to lecture. You may think twice before paying your son or daughter’s phone bill while they’re in college. Few of you can understand how annoying it is to see stereotypical frat boys show up to class 20% of the time, and sleep when they do arrive, just to get an A in the class because their brothers have copies of the tests from last semesters and have acquired the ability to read the size 4 font on their cheat-sheet they conveniently keep on their leg during a test.

I’ve been offered more than $50 to write someone else’s research paper before. On more than one occasion. $50 to spend maybe a day on a paper (I’m a decent writer), do you think there aren’t people out there who’d do that? $50 may not seem like much, but high school and college students need money bad, it happens more than you’d like to think.

To go along with the airport security analogy: No, it may not be a life or death threat. But, it completely defeats the goals of college. To know that some high percentage of those acquiring degrees from your school are cheating their way through with better grades than you obtain legitimately. They’ll take your job, even though you had an honest collegiate experience and they were out drinking 5 nights of the week and going to classes with hangovers, when they decided to attend at all.

Cheating is a huge problem, and it greatly affects the meaning of the degrees I’m pursuing. It’s my estimate, through observation alone, than about 40% of the people graduating a university cheated their way to that degree. You’d truly have to attend current college classes to really understand exactly how prominent cheating really is. It’s nice to know that papers are becoming less and less cheated….It’s a good step, but we’re still miles away.

This seems no more legitimate a case or complaint than those suing McDonald’s because they’re overweight. How many honest students do you think are really complaining? None. It’s a shame that the cheaters outnumber honest students nowadays. You don’t have to believe me, just consider it.

Ask your parents and they’ll identify the same trends in people: We’re becoming lazy, overweight, lacking work ethic, sue-happy, dishonest people who think more and more about money, and less about our personal integrity. That may be a cynical statement but empirically speaking, it’s becoming truer every year.

I doubt in any case that students are not confronted with the case of plagiarism and given the chance to prove their innocence. They should be happy for such a system to validate the honest effort they get to put into their studies.

University Student says:

Re: From a Student

So now that you’ve figured out the plagiarism issue and it’s impact on degree integrity, how about addressing the one where students are passing classes with straight A’s because the emphasis is now on proper citation and other superfolous issues rather than actually obtaining the subject knowledge or competency intended in the first place!!

I’m also a student, who happens to have many years of “real world” work experience. I can tell you that a large number of the students in the several universities I have attended in the past decade are graduating with less competency than individuals who graduate from a 12-16 week certification course required in my profession. Why is it that these “college” students who spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on education are less than half as qualified after 4 years of “higher education” than those that spend roughly a “semester” in a certification course costing only several thousand dollars???

I do agree with your analysis of the trending issue regarding personal integrity, but this is NOT how you solve that problem – of course this solution did come from one of the “academics” (term used loosely) who was looking for a way to achieve greater wealth than his education or occupation would allow. (I personally have no problem with this – providing that it is done ethically and legally – without question!)

Cleverboy (user link) says:

From a Student

“This seems no more legitimate a case or complaint than those suing McDonald’s because they’re overweight. How many honest students do you think are really complaining? None.” – RiskyMethodz

Got nothing but “Amens” over hear. Looking at the Slashdot story, I’m happy CmdrTaco’s posting seems to have the same opinion too. I saw the headline topic first at Techdirt, and I’ve been scratching my head wondering if I was missing something.

I’m generally the guy not being fussed over DRM either, so I’m used to disagreeing with the masses, but unlike DRM, there are teachers and honest students with a stake on what’s happening, so they’re much more vocal. VH1 just tried to get me to download a DRM “license” in order to watch a playlist, and I bailed. I’ll never use the site again. Seems simple to me. I just used Audacity to record an audio stream into an Mp3 from my soundcard. Seems DRM-able to me.

Half the time, I think people complain way too much. I was listening to Buzz Out Loud yesterday, and I sware that show is starting to grate on my nerves with all the “snarky”.

The world’s gone mad. Let’s sue all the people trying to vie for some measure of integrity, so we can have a decidedly “Atlas Shrugged” global event. I’m with Francisco and John.

PhysicsGuy says:


while “perusing” my college’s network (go figure, in the library all the computers have admin access) i just happened to assign the c$ admin share to a drive and it just happened to be my physics teachers computer with all of his tests and assignments (it’s a bit of a long story so i’ll refrain from all the detail, needless to say the network admin messed up). of course, i told my teacher and the network admin about it. it’s supposedly fixed, but i haven’t had the chance to “browse” the network again.

i’m an honest person. i do not like my own papers being cached somewhere. the college i attend does not own the rights to my papers either (i feel sorry for the people whose colleges do, as you write your masters thesis on a thought experiment that correlates to a real experiment that shows the existence of the graviton only to have a greedy professor steal it and win the nobel prize). i’ve been accused of plagiarism before, it’s not a pleasant experience. to be blunt about it, i simply do not like it due to the cache. someone brought up the argument about google, well google’s not manditory. you can add a tag to your page so that google doesn’t list it. you can’t do such a thing with your papers.

JK says:


I know an honest student who about a year ago was accussed of plagerism because 6 sequential words in her paper matched a review site. She claimed she did use the site as reviewing, which was perfectly acceptable, but she did not copy or use the review site directly to write her paper. She was given a zero on a major paper, and a mark was put on her record for nothing. Taking it too far!

Anonymous Coward says:

I am an honest student who gets good grades without needing to cheat. That being said, I am still opposed to Turnitin, which happens to be used at my college. I do not like the fact that my work becomes part of the database that Turnitin uses to make a profit. If they truly cared about academic honesty, they should make it freely available to schools as a charitable act. They would still be able to combat plagiarism, but wouldn’t be profiting from my (and other students work).

Lay Person says:

Why use teachers at all?

Why even have teachers or professors?

Seems to me teachers need to do less and less. I’ve gone to many classes where the teacher simply uses a text as a reference; the text is not only the reference but the backbone to the entire class.

It contains readings, quizes, exercises… other than asking the professor specific questions regarding the text which can be done through email, the classroom and the requirement of the teacher needing to be there seems stupid and a waste of money, resources and time.

All that is needed nowadays to learn is a good text, internet, and someone to answer pertinent questions. All else is done by the student.

So why do we need these teachers who do nothing?

University Student says:

Re: Why use teachers at all?

Excellent point!! Why do we need all these teachers? Half of the time, they don’t know the answers to complex questions themselves, or they skirt the issue with a bunch of “mumbo jumbo” in an effort to make themselves look good. That said, I have had the pleasure of studying under a number of very good professors – but it is not the norm.

Only problem is the tuition keeps getting more expensive and the teacher-student ratio keeps getting higher and the quality of the work (or grading) is getting less and less. This is just another way for the “educator” (term used loosely in some cases) to shave more time off of their schedule and place more burden on the student.

“All that is needed nowadays to learn is a good text, internet, and someone to answer pertinent questions. All else is done by the student.”

Nathan (profile) says:

My experience

I haven’t ever plagarized, but I have been accused of it. They believed the paper was above the level that someone could write for that age group. It’s almost impossible to prove you didn’t plagarize. This product won’t help that group. It will only catch those that plagarize blatantly. Nor will it catch those that just pay to have others write their papers for them.

However, Turnitin is building their company on top of the work of people who are not being compensated for their production. Without the papers of the students, Turnitin would have no service to offer. Why are the students not compensated for their efforts? Their papers are the key to Turnitin’s company. Without them, Turnitin goes out of business.

I’m sure that the schools signed away the IP rights of the students for them, but ethically it seems like students are given the short end of the stick. It doesn’t help that everyone is held to the guilty until proven innocent standard now.

A chicken passeth by says:

PD stuff should not be used to directly make a profit, but that said…

Enforced PD isn’t an issue. The issue is system accuracy – you’d need something just short of a supercomputer to know the nuances of the English language in full. As it is, Turnitin is an overglorified OCR – it works by character matching, using a software similar to Copyscape.

Ignoring the image and page name detection – Copyscape will catch strings of text X words or characters long, where X can be any arbitary number set by the Copyscape crew.

You can’t really win using this method:
If X is short, you get “false positive”.
If X is long, you’ll get misses.

And, if your database is empty – nothing to match X with – automatic success.

Pat says:


It’s not just the issue of assumed guilt. It’s the violation of my rights as a parent. As the parent of several high school and college students, I am concerned. My children who are under the age of majority (and some are in college) do not have the legal right to make legally binding decisions. As such, TurnItIn does not have the right to save, archive, use or anything else with their papers because they cannot give consent.

I have talked to the legal people at TurnItIn and asked that my children’s papers be removed and was told to get the school administrator to have them removed. And for the college students, the professors won’t even talk to me.

One of my children has to justify all “hits” prior to turning in the final paper. This presumes guilt and wastes this child’s time.

The use of red yellow green coding presumes guilt. It is particularly alarming when properly cited references turn up as “hits.” After talking with TurnItIn, they remove all “white text” which means formatting so that even underlined things will get a “hit” including titles of books, etc.

Every student should be told that they do not have to accept TurnItIn. Even if forced to TurnItIn, they should be offered the opportunity to have their paper removed. It should be an option at turn in. The teacher should not have the final say. The author/legal guardian should.

Every underage student should have to have parent’s approval and consent.

Stephen says:


I beleive that TurnItIn can violate a students rights. After all, if they write a paper THEY OWN THE COPYRIGHT TO IT under the Berne Convention. After all, TurnItIn is making money off student papers by determining plagarism.

But, is TurnItIn PLAGARIZING papers to put in its database itself? Well, for one it is running a massive data mining operation, making entire copies of students works and more importantly, making PROFIT off of searching them. This kind of massive copying for commercial use may NOT fall under the fair use doctorine, and I beleive it even goes farther than Google as it is actually caching and storing data, rather than just making databases of links.

Next of all, there is another issue. They are flagging peoples papers againt further reuse without permission. This actually infringes a kids ownerships of their work. They may want to share or reuse portions of their own work for later use, and why should TurnItIn have a right to take away what they legally have the right to do, because after all the STUDENT OWNS HIS/HER WORK!

I beleive TurnItIn should at least provide an opt-out, or maybe make storing a full paper opt-in.


Samuel Owusu-Brefo says:

Sermon copying

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong when a pastor uses an online sermon or online sermon resources to aid him/her in preaching to a congregation. If we believe that the author or generator of every good sermon is the Holy Spirit, then human credit should be out of the issue.

It is The Holy Spirit that enables preachers to write a sermon, therefore if anyone uses my online sermons without selling it, but for the benefit of a congregation, then I thank the LORD for it.

Aggrieved says:

Wrongfully Accused

So, there needs to be case law on this and I may be the pioneer there!! My HS Jr. was required to do a 30-35 page assignment (for one class mind you) which included writing a 8-10 page essay after selecting 4 works on oppression in American society. After 15-20 hours of work, she is threatened with receiving a ZERO because she neglected to submit a work cited page — none of the alleged plagiarism is contained in her 9 page essay but rather for submitting the 4 works that her paper was based on without the work cited page! This assignment had to be in a 3-ringed binder and every page needed a sheet protector. Specific details were given to include failure to submit the assignment instruction sheet would result in a 10 point deduction but it failed to mention the work cited page so I ask, should this teacher’s position be vindicated merely because she’s a teacher?

Cris says:


Turnitin is not very useful. Least this is my opinion, as an older adult, who just recently went back to college. I am the type of student who writes the paper first, then finds the resources to back up my thesis/statements. I am required to process all my work through Turnitin. If it comes up 25% or higher in originality report, then I have to redo it or take a zero. The redo it option is only pertaining if I have time, before the due date, to rewrite the paper. Most of the time just by changing the title of my paper, finding a new reference and deleting a couple of sentences, my originality report can go from 39% to 18% (or least under 25%). The funny part it was my original work, even before I made the changes to the paper(s). There is no such thing as an original idea. Someone, somewhere, will conceptualize the same thesis and finding the same resources just like yours. Sadly a lot of my professors do not take this into account. They do not even read your paper if it shows above 25%. Therefore I think Turnitin is a joke.

jackabrams33 (profile) says:


Different levels of BIM can be achieved for various types of projects. Each level represents a different set of criteria that demonstrates a particular level of ‘maturity.’ BIM levels start with 0 and go to 4D, 5D, and even 6D BIM. The purpose of these levels is to gauge how effectively, or how much information is being shared and managed throughout the entire process.

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