The proliferation of web sites that offer pre-written reportssuch as School Sucks (http://www.schoolsucks.com), Papers Inn (http://www.papersinn.com), and Evil House of Cheat (http://www.cheathouse.com)as well as the informational essays provided by many traditional web sites have made plagiarism easy for today’s students. But a cadre of new web sites are helping teachers catch students who plagiarize from online sources.
The sites, which are fee-based, compare student papers with papers available online and claim to identify those that are word-for-word copies, or close to that standard. Some of these sites compile the essays available from plagiarism sites like School Sucks into their own databases for purposes of comparison; others search the entire web for matches to strings of words from a student essay to determine if it has been plagiarized.
The methodology these sites use is neither simple, nor simplistic. One anti-plagiarism site, TurnItIn.com (http://www.turnitin.com), requires papers be submitted in Microsoft Word or ASCII format. Then, within 24 hours, it returns an annotated version of each student’s paper to the teacher. By highlighting passages that duplicate essays found elsewhere (minimum of eight consecutive words, in the case of TurnItIn.com) and providing a link to the similar essay, the service lets teachers decide if the copying is acceptable.
A different anti-plagiarism service, Eve2 (http://www.eve2.com), looks at three-sentence combinations of a student’s essay and compares them to essays available for purchase online or reports found through wider web searches.
Teachers in the International Baccalaureate program at Florida’s St. Petersburg High have been using TurnItIn.com for more than a year and are happy with the results. But not all teachers think technology is the answer; some say teachers who pay attention to students’ writing styles should be able to detect plagiarism.