Students could eventually have their assignments scanned electronically for plagiarism if the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland employ software currently available.
“We are currently half way through a project comparing software solutions, ” said Janine Schmidt, Corporate Services Librarian at the University of Queensland.
“Up until now many academics have only been able to detect plagiarism by noticing style changes within the essay,” said Mrs Schmidt.
The university is currently comparing checking computer programs and search engines to determine the best validating system, said Mrs Schmidt.
The Australian newspaper recently reported that six Victorian universities had discovered more than 8% of student’s essays contained text taken from web sites. The universities had used the Turnitin.com detection system.
Mrs Schmidt said that one of the problems with using a software solution is that it requires that the essay be available in digital form.
Mike Lean, Copyright Officer of the QUT, said the QUT does not currently scan student’s essays electronically.
Mr Lean said electronic scanning is an option for the problem of plagiarism
although the University is also looking at other options, especially at
Mr Lean said that the QUT is also concerned about legal aspects of using electronic scanning systems, particularly at copyright issues.
“We have a concern with using the Turnitin system because the student’s essay is copied back into the Turnitin database whilst the intellectual property of the essay still belongs to the individual student”.
The QUT also realises that there is a wider aspect to plagiarism, he said.
“For instance other cultures have a different view of plagiarism. In those cultures it is a mark of respect to copy the work of others without attribution. As well students also have the pressure of assignments. Plagiarism is not always done with the worst of motives,” he said.
The original story in The Australian was called “Plagiarism tracked at 8 per cent” and it appeared Wednesday 11/9/02 in the Higher Education supplement. I tried to update this story with a local angle. I consider it is mainly an education story though it could also be a science (ie InfoTech) story.
Enquiries at the QUT referred me to Mike Lean, the Copyright Officer on 38644024. Enquiries at the UQ referred me to the Corporate Services librarian, Janine Schmidt on 33652571. I tried to get some info from Bond University but they never got back to me.
The general direction of electronic scanning will probably be some model that allows for random electronic scanning of student’s assignments. However the issue of copyright remains to be resolved particularly if universities use Turnitin.com. If they use this company a student could possibly sue the university for unauthorised use of copyright as the company keeps a copy of the material submitted. Other software/systems however don’t require any such breach of copyright.
I also downloaded and played around with some of the software. I cut and pasted a story together and set a program called Eve (considered one of the best) to find out if I plagiarised it…it only found 50% of the stolen material. Turnitin.com is supposedly the best and easiest to use system, though it seems to have a 24 hour turnaround assessment time.