Universities' preferred weapon against plagiarism is made of
bits and bytes: software scanning papers and comparing them with
material online as well as archived work from other students. Even
PhD dissertations can be tested retroactively this way, which can
lead to the doctor title being revoked as seen in the
zu Guttenberg case.
One of the bigger players in this league is iParadigms with its
Turnitin system. This software product dominates the U.S.
market and also gained popularity in the Netherlands, e.g. at the
VU in Amsterdam.
Anti-Plagiarism and anti-anti Plagiarism
Recently, a number of American university teachers have heavily
criticized iParadigms over offering another product,
WriteCheck, which would help students to avoid the very
anti-plagiarism system it is selling to universities.
WriteCheck was created two years ago and enables
students to check whether their work would be considered
plagiarized. It checks whether citations and paraphrasing was
handled properly next to controlling for grammar, spelling and
After registering for this service, a student can (re)submit a
paper up to 4 times and have it tested. A 5.000 word piece for
instance would then cost around 5 Euros. Unlike with
Turnitin, any submitted papers are not archived by
iParadigms to guarantee confidentiality.
Not the same after all?
"It teaches you to obey the letter of the law, but not the
spirit of the law," commented Alex Tabarrok, professor of economics
at George Mason University. "They are warlords who are arming both
sides in this plagiarism war."
than its sister program Turnitin. While Turnitin
is used by over 10.000 educational institutions in 126 countries
and 20 million students, WriteCheck caters to currently
around 230.000 students.
Chris Harrick, Vice President of Marketing at iParadigms, does
not understand the criticism. "They are different products. One is
focused on engaging instructors in the classroom. And the other is
helping students check for grammar and proper citation as they
engage in the writing process. When you think as marketer, it's
just totally different targets and different use cases."