The Cheating is dead

by Will Martins/ Updated February 19, 2019

Hey, hey, hey, everyone! It’s time to get a closer look on another attempt of TurnItIn to fight cheating that is caused by and indirectly stimulated by the development of various paper writing services. For those of you, who don’t know, TurnItIn is one of the leading companies providing plagiarism-detection solutions for both universities and private users. In order not to overload you with unnecessary details about the company, I’ll just tell you that currently TurnItIn is one of the strongest and most reliable plagiarism checkers. That’s why, if your university uses TurnItIn to check texts for plagiarism, I strongly recommend to ensure the full originality of your paper, otherwise, you’ll most probably get caught.

Therefore, it is not surprising that TurnItIn also leads in providing various anti-cheating solutions for colleges and universities. In fact, additionally to its famous anti-plagiarism software, the company intends to check the originality of submitted texts in a different way. It is expected that their new software will detect if you’re an original author of the text or not. Their solution is called “Authorship Investigation”, which is intended to realize this ambitious goal.

So, what does it mean? It means that additionally to plagiarism software, TurnItIn will create an algorithm that proves your authorship of the text. Or not. Personally, I can hardly understand how can you prove the authorship using an electronic algorithm, so, I personally think that TurnItIn’s new idea will create more misunderstanding and confusion among users instead of helping them. And here’s why.

It’s still under development…

Basically, we don’t know much about this software including its algorithms, its mechanisms and principles of functioning etc. that will directly rationalize the authorship detection process. The only thing we currently know is that “With the help of academic integrity researchers, forensic linguists, and machine learning experts, Authorship Investigation counters” (“Turnitin – Authorship Investigation”, 2018) the threat of online cheating and ghostwriting.

In other words, we don’t know how exactly this thing will work.

But the report already exists!

Despite the fact that this feature remains raw and unexplained clearly, the users of TurnItIn are already given an opportunity to use it and prove the authorship of their texts. And believe it or not, this is one of the silliest reports I’ve ever seen in my life. According to the information we have regarding the use of Authorship Report, it contains the so-called “readability scale”, document information, punctuation and vocabulary. Let me make things clear, these parameters will not show the authorship of the text and never prove it. Let’s take a closer look, why.

  • The readability scale just uses a specific algorithm to figure out the overall complexity of submitted text. It assumes that with more simplistic use of words and phrases, the text will most probably be detected as “high school level” for example. On the contrary, more complex texts will be marked as “bachelor”, “master” level etc.
  • Document information just checks the metadata of submitted files. In case the file has been initially completed by one person and “last saved by” another person, it will be considered a red flag.
  • They also say that the use of punctuation is unique to certain authors. No offence, really, but I thought that punctuation is a matter of grammar and not a matter of personal taste or aesthetic.
  • Vocabulary check is intended to figure out the writing style of a certain writer. In particular, it is assumed that a certain writer will most probably use similar word to write his texts. In that case, use of different words will be marked as a red flag, apparently.

Does it prove something? No.

I mean, you cannot prove the authorship of the text just using 4 parameters. Moreover, these 4 parameters also are not capable of proving or disproving the authorship of the text. Additionally, let me assure you that this feature will not stop cheating, but will most probably stimulate it even further.

Using same ghostwriter maybe?

The majority of “cheaters” that refuse to do their papers by themselves rarely change their ghostwriters. In other words, when they order their papers online, they request that their paper needs to be done by their previous writer. Therefore, the authorship report provided by TurnItIn will be useless for the people using the services of the same ghostwriter on a continuous basis.

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