Making money with plagiarism

Nieuws | de redactie
12 september 2011 | Turnitin facilitates catching copy/paste students for universities. Less known is that the creators of Turnitin also offer software to avoid getting caught by the system. American professors are not amused.

Universities’ preferred weapon against plagiarism is made ofbits and bytes: software scanning papers and comparing them withmaterial online as well as archived work from other students. EvenPhD dissertations can be tested retroactively this way, which canlead to the doctor title being revoked as seen in the zu Guttenberg case.

One of the bigger players in this league is iParadigms with itsTurnitin system. This software product dominates the U.S.market and also gained popularity in the Netherlands, e.g. at theVU in Amsterdam.

Anti-Plagiarism and anti-anti Plagiarism

Recently, a number of American university teachers have heavilycriticized iParadigms over offering another product,WriteCheck, which would help students to avoid the veryanti-plagiarism system it is selling to universities.

WriteCheck was created two years ago and enablesstudents to check whether their work would be consideredplagiarized. It checks whether citations and paraphrasing washandled properly next to controlling for grammar, spelling andstyle.

After registering for this service, a student can (re)submit apaper up to 4 times and have it tested. A 5.000 word piece forinstance would then cost around 5 Euros. Unlike withTurnitin, any submitted papers are not archived byiParadigms to guarantee confidentiality.

Not the same after all?

“It teaches you to obey the letter of the law, but not thespirit of the law,” commented Alex Tabarrok, professor of economicsat George Mason University. “They are warlords who are arming bothsides in this plagiarism war.”

In terms of user numbers, WriteCheck is less successfulthan its sister program Turnitin. While Turnitinis used by over 10.000 educational institutions in 126 countriesand 20 million students, WriteCheck caters to currentlyaround 230.000 students.

Chris Harrick, Vice President of Marketing at iParadigms, doesnot understand the criticism. “They are different products. One isfocused on engaging instructors in the classroom. And the other ishelping students check for grammar and proper citation as theyengage in the writing process. When you think as marketer, it’sjust totally different targets and different use cases.”


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