Friday, June 08, 2012

The PLAGIARISM SPECTRUM by the Turnitin Academy

A fact of life in education today is that people will plagiarise the work of others. I unfortunately have seen varying degrees of plagiarism in student work. The worst case I have come across was some years ago when an entire Higher Diploma dissertation was copied from a Government document - only the author's name was changed. More recently NCI has started using Turnitin which is a fantastic tool to help detect plagiarism. It is now standard practice that student work is submitted through Turnitin - this is good from two points: the first is that it takes the work out for Faculty in trying to find original sources of suspicious looking work, the second is that students know that their work will be scanned and so it acts as a deterrent. It also makes students more informed about plagiarism and how to correctly cite the works of others. 

The Turnitin Academy has published a report called The Plagiarism Spectrum: Instructor Insights into the 10 Types of Plagiarism, where they have "classified the most common types of plagiarism into 10 categories and asked our community of instructors to share with us how problematic and how often the different types of plagiarism occur". While there are no real surprises for me in the report, it makes for very interesting reading. They have classified plagiarism into 10 different types based on the findings of a recent survey they conducted. Check out the first part of their infographic below - a more detailed version is available here:
Infographic link to Turnitin.

By far the three most common types of plagiarism are:
  1. Clone - submitting another's work, word-for-word, as one's own
  2. Mashup - mixes copied material from multiple sources
  3. Ctrl-C - contains significant portions of text from a single source without alterations
The infographic shows examples of all 10 types of plagiarism in detail, and how it was detected. This should also be a great resource for students who want to learn how to avoid plagiarism, and how to cite the works of others correctly. This should be placed in a prominent place in all College libraries.

Thankfully I have had no cases of plagiarism in my own classes this year. I always warn students about it and tell them that no mercy will be shown to students where they have been found to plagiarise the work of others. Sometimes it is accidental or careless - where bad scholarship is discovered we have a scale of methods of dealing with this. More serious cases have lead to suspension and even expulsion (as in the case of the H. Dip dissertation above).

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