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Plagiarism Detection Software: How to Read Your Reports Well!. Dr. Gene Kleppinger Eastern Kentucky University Friday 10:45-11:45, Auditorium Cross-Conferenced to BbSEUG, Savannah via Elluminate! Live. Plagiarism Detection.

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Plagiarism Detection Software: How to Read Your Reports Well!

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Plagiarism Detection Software: How to Read Your Reports Well!

Dr. Gene Kleppinger

Eastern Kentucky University

Friday 10:45-11:45, Auditorium

Cross-Conferenced to BbSEUG, Savannah

via Elluminate! Live


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Plagiarism Detection

  • SafeAssignments and Turnitin reveal how students’ texts match source materials.

  • Text matches can be honest citations, innocuous coincidences or outright plagiarism

  • Wise interpretation of the program’s reports is crucial.


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About SafeAssignment

  • Provides results similar to Turnitin

  • Implemented at EKU in 2004 because they had the first Bb Building Block, and we continue using it because it works.

  • Data from MyDropBox, the parent company:

    • Client institutions: 368 (including 74 installations of SA for Blackboard and over 100 institutions using our services through our partner publishers) and individual users from over 500 institutions

    • Papers processed: peaks up to 6,000/day now, projected peaks of over 10,000/day by the end of this year


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The SafeAssignment database . . .

  • Almost 8 billion Internet documents;

  • All major publicly accessible digital databases, such as PubMed, Project Guttenberg™ and other;

  • The FindArticles™ database by LookSmart™ (over 5.5 million articles from over 900 periodical publications);

  • The ProQuest™ ABI/Inform databases (over 1100 publication titles, about 2.7 million articles);

  • MyDropBox’ proprietary database of over 300,000 documents that are known to be offered for sale by paper-mill Web sites;

  • Proprietary institutional archives and databases provided by clients;

  • ZIP archives and password-protected areas available on the Internet indexed on demand.


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Accessing SafeAssignment . . .

  • Through Blackboard: integrated to work like Bb’s “Assignment” file-exchange feature, available in every course (no limits).

    • Students submit files through a “View/Complete” link, placed in any content area

    • Instructors create links just as for Assignments, and obtain reports in the Control Panel and Gradebook

    • Instructors also can submit any file at any time

  • Through partnerships with textbook publishers’ Web sites (individual and institutional accounts), primarily in the “writing” area.

    • Pearson Education, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, Bedford/St. Martins, Stoas, etc.

    • Not necessarily connected directly with Bb


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Open the list of Safe Assignments for this class


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Open the SA report window for Essay 2


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Text-matching score

Link to student’s file

Link to SA report

The Gradebook holds links to the same information, listed by student.


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Basic information

Sites with matched text

Student’s text, with color

highlights for passages

detected as matching,

keyed to the list of sites.


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Email this report anywhere


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Click to see the contextual matchingtexts


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Evidence shows that the student’s text matches another student’s paper, at the level of quoting similarly from the textbook, with citation. (GOOD WORK!)


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“43%” figure is attention-grabbing, but you mustinvestigate further


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The evidence shows that this studenthas copied verbatim from a Webdocument without citation,representing this work as her own.


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Matching texts can be:

  • honest citations

    • Praise good documentation!

  • innocuous coincidences

    • Seeing multicolored sentences “here and there” is far less alarming than single-color paragraphs, or the same color again and again.

    • Always give clear directions about quoting from the textbook or your questions.

  • outright plagiarism

    • Punishment must be heavy (not “-5 points”).


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Text-matching scores of 0-25% usually represent low probabilities of plagiarism. 21% is the average SA score.

Scores over 40% almost always indicate significant plagiarism or too much quoted content.

Scores of 95-100% indicate duplicate submissions, which may or may not represent plagiarism.

A source matched by the software may not be the actual source used by the student.

Weighing the evidence . . .


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Uncovering Unusual (?) Plagiarism

  • “CD liner notes” – students’ expositions of musical performances, etc., contained passages copied from blurbs on music store Web sites.

  • “Quoting the citation” – students’ texts appear to contain appropriate citations for quotations, but the SA report reveals that the citation itself may have been plagiarized.Compare these stylized SA report fragments:He says that “blah blah” (Miller, 1954a, 63).He says that “blah blah” (Miller, 1954a, 63).


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Foolish instructors might misunderstand the text-matching score to be a direct plagiarism indicator, or they might overlook other clues, e.g., citing sources that aren’t available, or sudden changes in writing style

Foolish students might submit irrelevant texts, or attempt to trick the text-matching algorithm (such as by deliberately misspelling words or packing white spaces)

Is SA Foolproof? No.


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Attempting to trick the text-matcher

  • I took two sentences from a famous speech and fed them to SafeAssignment. It reported (only) “97%” matching, apparently because the source it located first was actually an abridged version.

  • I doctored the text with some misspellings and some wording changes . . . and submitted that.


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My doctored text (earning “0%” from SA)

I have a dream that one day soon this nation will raise up and live out the true meaning of this creed: "We hold these truth’s to be self-evident: that all people are created equally." I have a dreem that some day on the hills of Georgia and Alabama the sons of former slaves and the daughters of former slaveholders will be able to sit down at a table of brotherly love.


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Special SA design features available to instructors on setup

  • “Draft” option: each student’s file is scanned and the results are preserved, but the scanned text is not added to the database. So, when the final version is submitted (through an additional SA link), it will be scanned “like new.”

  • “Resubmittable” option: each student’s file is scanned and the results are available as usual, but a student can elect to submit a new file, and the previously submitted text is deleted from the database.


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Strategies for Course Design

  • Prepare a plagiarism policy statementthat explains plagiarism detection.

  • Design essay assignments to emphasize originality. Avoid asking for

    • standard sets of facts,

    • canned interpretations, or

    • traditional position statements.

  • Monitor student-chosen “research topics” closely!


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Strategies for Course Design (cont.)

  • Design assignments to require personal reflection/evaluation, or connections to current events. Change assignments every time you teach the course.

  • Wherever possible, arrange semester-long projects in sequential stages. SA’s “draft” option allows the stages to be treated separately from the final product.

  • Use SA’s “Quick Submit” method to get files from earlier semesters scanned.


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SA limitations/challenges

  • Current file formats accepted: Microsoft Word, RTF, text, PDF, HTML. Cannot process native formats from WordPerfect, Microsoft Works, etc.

  • Current file types analyzed: word processor documents. Cannot process spreadsheets, presentations, databases, or tables and charts loaded in other documents.


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Discussion-and-Demonstration Time

  • EKU Blackboard

  • Plagiarism Policy

  • SafeAssignment

    [email protected]


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