Monday, February 11, 2013

Using Google Translate to Beat Plagiarism Detection Software

Last week I tweeted about about "Five Ways to Defeat Automated Plagiarism Detection" and have got some reaction about this from both inside and outside the College. One of the ways was to use a translator to change original text from one language to another. Taking this a step further I decided to conduct a small experiment and use Google Translate to translate some text from English to Spanish, then to French, Polish, Chinese, and back to English. The results are in brown and italic text below.

The sentence I chose was from Wikipedia - I copied word-for-word the first paragraph (removing the hyperlinks) of the Wikipedia page about US President Abraham Lincoln. After the translations had been done, I submitted all the text in all languages to Turnitin. Turnitin correctly detected that the first (original) paragraph was copied from Wikipedia. Interestingly, only a short piece of the Spanish version, and NONE of the French, Polish, or Chinese versions was detected as being similar to anything else. The final paragraph, in English is of course not the same as the original after being translated five times. Here's the before and after Turnitin report:

Before Translation:

After Translation:

As you can see, the translations has had an effect, but not enough in this example to clear a paper of plagiarism. If this second example was presented to me in an assignment it would be referred to the Plagiarism/Discipline Committees. If you are a student reading this post to learn how to beat tools like Turnitin, I'm afraid to tell you that you are running a very high risk of still being caught. Turnitin has done a good job in detecting cheating like this. The message is: DON'T DO IT - YOU WILL BE CAUGHT!

Complete Text of Translations:

English (copied directly from Wikipedia)

Abraham (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln successfully led the United States through its greatest constitutional, military, and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union. Reared in a poor family on the western frontier, Lincoln was mostly self-educated, and became a country lawyer, a Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives during the 1840s.


Abraham (12 febrero 1809 a 15 abril 1865) fue el 16 º Presidente de los Estados Unidos, sirviendo a partir de marzo de 1861 hasta su asesinato en abril de 1865. Lincoln éxito llevó a los Estados Unidos a través de su mayor crisis constitucional, militar y moral - la guerra civil americana - la conservación de la Unión. Criado en una familia pobre en la frontera occidental, Lincoln fue principalmente autodidacta, y se convirtió en un abogado del país, un líder del Partido Whig, legislador estatal de Illinois durante la década de 1830, y un miembro de un solo mandato de la Cámara de Representantes de Estados Unidos durante la década de 1840.


Abraham (12 Février 1809 au 15 abril 1865) a été le 16e président des États-Unis, servant de Mars 1861 jusqu'à son assassinat en Avril 1865. Lincoln a dirigé avec succès aux États-Unis grâce à sa plus grande crise constitutionnelle, militaire et morale - Guerre de Sécession - la préservation de l'Union. Élevé dans une famille pauvre sur la frontière occidentale, Lincoln était essentiellement autodidacte et est devenu un avocat de province, un chef de file du Parti Whig, la législature de l'Illinois état pendant les années 1830, et membre d'un mandat de la Chambre les représentants des États-Unis pendant les années 1840.


Abraham (12 lutego 1809 15 april 1865) był 16. prezydentem Stanów Zjednoczonych, obsługujących od marca 1861 aż do jego śmierci w kwietniu 1865 roku. Lincoln sukcesem przeprowadził Stany Zjednoczone przez jego największego kryzysu konstytucyjnego, wojskowych i moralnym - Civil War - zachowując Unii. Wychowany w biednej rodzinie na granicy zachodniej, Lincoln był głównie samoukiem i został prawnikiem kraj, lider Partii Wigów, ustawodawca stan Illinois w 1830 oraz członkiem mandatu izba Reprezentantów Stanów Zjednoczonych w trakcie 1840 roku.

Chinese (simplified)

亚伯拉罕(1809年2月12日1865年4月15日)是第16美国总统,直到他的死亡在1865年4月,从1861年3月服役。林肯成功地领导了美国通过其最大的宪政危机,军事和道义 - 内战 - 保护联盟。提出了一个可怜的家庭在西部边境,林肯大多是自学成才,并成为一个国家的律师,辉格党的领导,在1830年的立法机关,的状态,伊利诺伊州和一个成员的商会代表美国在1840年的任务。

English (again)

Abraham (1809, 1865, April 15, 2011) is the 16th President of the United States, until his death in April 1865, serving from March 1861. Lincoln successfully led the United States through its greatest constitutional crisis, military and moral - civil war - Conservation Union. A poor family on the western frontier, Lincoln is mostly self-taught, and became a country lawyer, Whig Party leadership in the legislature in 1830, the state of Illinois and a member of the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the United States in 1840 the task of the year.

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