The software compares a student’s essay to all the text on the publicly available Internet, a vast library of books and academic journals and the 10 million essays already turned in to the service. Matching text shows up underlined, and the teacher can link to the writing it mirrors.
“If a student is caught cheating, there is this unambiguous evidence,” said John Barrie, the founder of Oakland, Calif.-based Turnitin.com. “Instead of asking a student how they came to write a paper so patently beyond their intellectual ability, I could ask, ‘Can you explain why 87 percent of this paper is underlined by this program?’ ”
Students told the Post that copying words is wrong but rewriting someone else’s ideas is OK. And the software won’t spot paraphrasing.
At least, students seem to be honest about cheating: 74 percent admitted they’d cheated in some way in 2002 in one survey, up from 61 percent 10 years earlier.
“There’s this mysterious perception about the Internet. . . . No one has created it — it’s just out there for you to take,” said Diane Waryold, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University.
Honor codes run into the new morality.
. . . teachers across the country are up against some students who question the concept of honor itself, who view cheating as a victimless offense (much the same way they see downloading music), who say it doesn’t feel like cheating if the assignment is stupid, who justify wrongdoing by citing their stress and who are scared about nothing other than getting caught.
In 30 percent of papers submitted to Turnitin.com, “more than one-quarter of the text was copied verbatim.”
Cheating is prevalent among the best high school students, says this New York Times story. Driven to get into elite colleges, more students are cutting ethical corners. The story quotes Donald McCabe, a Rutgers University professor, whose survey found 75 percent of high school students had “cheated at least once on a test, up from 50 percent in 1993 and 25 percent in 1963.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that students who come from privileged backgrounds develop a certain entitlement mentality,” Mr. McCabe said. “Also they are under much greater pressure from their parents on the college admissions issue.”
What’s changed is parenting, says another researcher. When a student is caught cheating, parents threaten to sue the school.