Stamping out essay writing cheats for students: some hope at last

Some of you may have noticed that I have been ranting for some time about essay (plus thesis, dissertation etc.) writing offered online so students can pay someone else to write their work – cheating.

Hellping university students to cheat

Essay mills to help students cheat: approx 250 million on Google alone

Finally here in the UK someone has taken notice of this easy rip-off for cheating students and is hoping to do something about it. To quote the BBC news website’s headline:

PayPal urged to block essay firm cheats

Will shaking a stick at PayPal deliver any real results? Not in isolation, no. But with luck, it’s a start. [Read more…]

Plagiarism at universities: a stamp-it-out service set up by some savvy students

A guest post by Emilia Sukhova

Last week I ran an article about how Emilia and her colleagues believe that plagiarism amongst university students should be dealt with. I found the approach interesting and honorable, so I asked Emilia to share with us how she and her colleagues came to develop their service. Here is what she replied to me…

Dear Suze

Plagtracker is a startup that evolved from our graduation project we had in university few years ago. It all started when we were graduating and had to pick up something for our graduation project. We thought that a system able to check text content matches was going to be something interesting to work with. Few months later graduation project was completed and we were happy to be graduates ourselves, but we noticed something interesting.

The thing is that our plagiarism checker was in a very poor form back in these days, it was literally just a raw code with one action button and window with provided text. But some students on campus started to use it to check their essays and the rest of their paperwork for plagiarism. Later on, a few teachers asked us if it would be okay for them to use it as well.

This was the point when we decided to group up and regard this project as our main focus of activity

A bit later we researched the market of plagiarism checkers and discovered that the niche is not complete yet. There were lots of paid services and some free ones, but all of them were kind of outdated services from 90s with poor designs and lots of information required to be filled by their users.

That pushed us to one of the most important decisions in project – make it completely free-to-use and with minimum requirements from our users. Another important thing is that we wanted to make our site look really beautiful with pretty colors and easy navigation, and that’s something we succeed on, I think.

Our university experience showed us that students and teachers are lacking in tools like ours, so we decided to pick them as our target audience. Also, we were in need to choose a brand name for our service and Plagtracker fitted in well here, since it was a unique name and related to plagiarism in general.

Exponential growth led to premium (paid) services as well as the free one

As for our business model, I noted above that we decided to be a free service to cover needs of students and teachers as a plagiarism checker. But later on we noticed that we are being used by some writing companies, book publishers and professional writers, too. They were creating huge pressure on our servers, since they were uploading really massive amounts of data to check. It pushed us into implementing premium access accounts with some extra features for this kind of user.

And they were glad to see it, because it allows them to upload much larger amounts of data and process it a bit faster than free access users can do. It works pretty well now. Premium subscription sales are growing well, so we can spend some extra funds to make our service even better. It’s not earning us excessive profits yet, but it’s more than good for a startup by people of our ages.

By ‘us’ I mean myself Emilia (support representative/Plagtracker representative; 26 years old), Svetlana (project manager, computer science specialist; 24 years old), Timur (marketing manager; 24 years old), Alex (developer; 24 years old), Sergey (developer; 24 years old) and few other people who were helping us on various stages of development. Our team is multinational: members are spread across the USA, Poland and Ukraine.

But the crucial point is to keep our team small and comfortable – a place for like-minded people working together.

Best regards,

Emilia Sukhova

How nice it is to see young people grasp enterprise opportunities and make them work, not only as businesses to support themselves, but also to help others on the basis of their own experience and vision of a much needed, gap-filling service.

Make your writing uniquely successful:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

 

photo credit: Jörg Weingrill via photo pin cc

Plagiarism at universities: a way to solve the problem?

A guest post by Emilia Sukhova

As the parent of a university student in the UK, I’m deeply concerned about the issue of plagiarism by students in their academic work and more to the point – the fact that it is so hideously widespread. Although I know my son doesn’t indulge in this (I would strangle him if he did) I’m impressed with Emilia’s article that follows, which valiantly tries not only to stamp it out, but also to educate students on why it’s such a negative and foolish thing to do in the first place.

Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work such as words or ideas and passing it off as your own. Student cheating goes beyond plagiarized essays. There is a higher rate of cheating on exams. Although there are stringent rules and regulations for cheating, many students often slip through the cracks. University officials are more likely to prevent such unscrupulous actions on exams than essays.

Detecting plagiarism in essays is almost impossible. Professors may have to read essays four times before detecting any plagiarism. This strategy may only detect plagiarized work from published sources or other essays, which defeats the overall purpose. As a result, professors are brought back to the starting point of figuring out whether the work under review has been plagiarized.

Educating students on plagiarism

University lecturers should dedicate more time to educating their students on the meaning of plagiarism and under what circumstances should credit be attributed to an author of a specific work.

Take for instance, at the beginning of the semester, professors can provide students with an outline of the work they must complete throughout the semester. Some work may involve essay writing. Although these essays may not be required at the start of the semester, it is essential that the professor spend time enlightening his/her students on the subject of plagiarism. During that discussion s/he can also provide examples of accurately credited work.

Furthermore, students should be provided with resources where they can spend time educating themselves on the issue. The majority of students view plagiarism as a serious offence and seek to abide by the rules. However, these rules may often be overlooked by students who are following the writing style of different aspects of society where credit may not be given to the source. To avoid the conflict between university academic writing and the one accepted by other aspects of society, departments and professors should create a standard set of guidelines for students.

Decreasing the occurrence of plagiarism

Creating essay questions that require students to think critically and originally can significantly reduce the occurrence of plagiarism. Students will be encouraged to develop their own conclusions based on newspaper or magazine articles, personal experiences, or theoretical analysis.

Providing written statements for collaboration

Sometimes students may be given group projects. When such projects are assigned, lecturers should have students submit their work along with a document with the signature of each group member. This will serve to verify the part they played in the work’s production.

Setting  a good example for students

When professors use the work of others in their lectures or subject notes, they should state from where such ideas were derived. This will teach students how to value the work put forth by their professors, as well as how they can use resources to convey someone else’s ideas without plagiarizing.

Enforcing an honor code

At some universities, students may have to sign a pledge vowing not to cheat as well as report other students caught cheating. This may be a long term strategy that departments or faculties can implement.

Allowing students to resubmit their work

There are times when students may not be fully educated on the subject of plagiarism, thus leading them to commit the act unknowingly. Such work may be failed or have marks subtracted. In such cases, students should be given the opportunity to rewrite their work by giving appropriate credit where necessary. Now that they’ve been updated on the issue of plagiarism, their work can be graded based on the academic guidelines.

Receiving discipline from their peers

Many universities elect students for disciplinary committees. Such students are required to handle student cheating. Students on these committees tend to be stricter than staff. Furthermore, they lend more credibility to the disciplinary process as they emphasize the importance of academic honesty and fairness. Those accused of plagiarism must be treated with respect. However, they are not let off the hook that easily as they are subject to being forbidden for their offence.

While plagiarism is a serious academic offence that may occur a few times in a student’s academic life, the penalties may be a bit extreme. In some cases, students may commit minor plagiarism and may receive the same harsh penalty as a peer with major plagiarism. Instead of penalizing students for these offences, greater emphasis should be placed on educating them about giving credit in an academic setting.

Emilia can be found at http://Plagtracker.com

I was impressed with Emilia’s article and intrigued by the nature of her project, Plagtracker.com, and how it came to be formed. It’s an inspiring story which I will share next week, so look out for it. Sz.

Make your writing uniquely excellent:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

 

photo credit: j.o.h.n. walker via photo pin cc

css.php