New steps in plagiarism

09/15/2014 14:26

Tutors fight a continuous battle with plagiarism, worsened by the escalating amount of information openly obtainable on the Web at the push of a button.  This ongoing struggle is experienced by producers of plagiarism checkers like, which are continually being developed to deal with new threats and techniques being used to cheat. It seems that those few students who cannot or do not want to carry out their assignments honestly have constantly got a new trick up their sleeve to bypass university plagiarism detection software. So what is the latest trick to deceive plagiarism checkers such as and Turnitin?

Sneaky pupils have been taking essays written in another language, running them through a free translator like Google Translate, and passing off the work as their own. This works particularly well for foreign language pupils'’ coursework but could be utilized in any subject as long as the student is wise enough to translate their search into their target language to begin with. Although the free translators produce some relatively strange translations, it is simple enough for them to tidy up the final results. Is this an issue plagiarism checkers can deal with?

Languages don’t translate word for word to other languages – the word order is often rearranged from language-to-language. The scanner would also have to digest the doc, translate it into however many languages are to be examined, and then run those scans against the web, as well as scanning for plagiarism in the document’s language. The procedure would be complex and lengthy. The fix for this without doubt won’t be straight forward.

So what can be achieved to overcome this new breed of cheating? Rather than attempting to identify plagiarism, maybe teachers should be investigating the underlying cause. Many students turn to cheating simply because they can’t complete their papers themselves. This might be for several different reasons. A typical factor is that they are an international student who has been accepted onto a course for a higher course fee, and as such the entry requirements for that course have been relaxed or waived altogether. It is attractive for both the school and the Government to accept these pupils, as they invest more and bring more funds into the country. But there is hardly any additional support once they arrive – with universities typically stretched already in their resources and unable to offer additional schooling to support those pupils get past the language barrier.

Other students simply don’t understand their course and struggle, not knowing who to turn to. Lecturers are pressed for time and spread too thinly, and not able to give them the time they need to get through. Larger than expected classes typically leave students hesitant to speak up when they are falling behind.

Where there is no extra tuition presented, there’s an extra cost in time, resources and priority to set up training assistance in the first place. So the bottom line is that some pupils aren’t supported as much as they need to be and it’s usually those pupils who turn to cheating. Should we focus on trying to discover these pupils? Or should we center on avoiding the issue by dealing with it before they cheat? You decide.