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An approach to plagiarism

Checking Text

This session was presented by Jeff Meyerholz and Lynn Olson that started with a few statistics about our typical student body that includes:

-The majority of ages fall between 25 and 50 – in that age range, these students are involved with many things such as family, attending their children’s extracurricular activities, mortgages, and so on, leaving little time to focus on school, so some may want to take short cuts in writing papers.

-25% are in the military, so they are many times overseas, and have limited internet access.

-51% are from the South of the U.S, may be first generations for completing college, and not have much of a support system from someone who has completed college level work before.

Social Media is also a big influence, as is copying and pasting or sharing others work, which students may not consider wrong when writing their own papers. They also may have a fear about not being good enough in their own writing to produce acceptable papers.

TurnItIn is a useful tool for showing similar work, but high scores aren’t necessarily equated with plagiarism – they each must be evaluated on their own merits. Phrases should be copied and put in a search engine like Bing, as Google may not find their source. The phrases from Bing may point to so—called tutoring sites which are just sites that buy and sell student papers from former Ashford classes. Matching phrases from these sites may be considered plagiarized. There are over 100 “tutoring” websites.

Smaller exact matches interspaced with similar thesaurus words may be a result of using a tool like Spinbot or Text Spinner and used to artificially lower a TurnItIn score.

If you’re not sure about plagiarism, consider giving coaching to the student as a learning experience, or contact with general questions. The whole intent of writing should be knowing what the student learned, not what someone else did, and coaching is a better approach than, “I caught you!”.

Tony Sgarlatti

Associate Faculty Senator, Forbes School of Business & Technology

Ashford University

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