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The Days Of The Cheats Are Numbered

For immediate release
24th October 2002

Electronic Plagiarism: The Days Of The Cheats Are Numbered

A leading international expert on electronic plagiarism says the massive problem of plagiarism facing educators is gradually being overcome.

Dr John Barrie, founder and CEO of Oakland, California-based iParadigms Inc, will present a seminar at The University of Auckland on Friday entitled: Electronic Plagiarism and Its Impact on Educational Quality
iParadigm’s software package, Turnitin.com, enables educators to turn the tables on student-run cheat sites by providing a tool to check potentially plagiarised works.

Dr Barrie, whose visit is hosted by The University of Auckland Business School, says the problem is huge. “We’re seeing a 10 to 15 per cent rate of plagiarism in the universities we’re testing.”

Turnitin.com affects millions of students and faculty in more than 50 countries (including every university in the United Kingdom and leading US universities Cornell, Rutgers and Duke), and it receives more than 10,000 student papers each day.

Friday’s seminar will examine the critical issues related to the growth of electronic plagiarism in educational programs, its impact on the quality of these programs, the systems used to detect plagiarism, and future directions in this area.

Dr Barrie will speak about his experiences with plagiarism (both as an academic and as the developer of plagiarism detection methods) and about the developments planned for detection of electronic plagiarism to include electronic journals and other media, including movies, music and computer software.

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Robyne Lovelock, Managing Director of Melbourne-based ALDIS Associates, will co-present the seminar.

Turnitin's software converts each paper submitted for scrutiny into a long string of numbers. The resulting “digital fingerprint” is compared, using statistical techniques originally designed to analyse brain waves (Dr Barrie was previously a biophysicist), to more than a billion documents that have been fingerprinted in a similar fashion. These include the contents of online “paper mills” (which recycle term papers for profit), the classics of literature and the firm's own archive of all submitted term papers, as well as a snapshot of the current contents of the World Wide Web.

Whenever a matching pattern is found, the software makes a note. After highlighting instances of replication, or obvious paraphrasing (according to Turnitin, some 30% of submitted papers are “less than original”) the computer running the software returns the annotated document to the teacher who originally submitted it — leaving him with the final decision on what is and is not permissible.

During his experiences at the helm of iParadigms, Dr Barrie has appeared in numerous news stories on plagiarism (including 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, CNN, ABC News, the BBC, The New York Times and The Economist).

Dr Barrie completed his undergraduate studies in Rhetoric and Neurobiology at the University of California at Berkeley, going on to complete a PhD in Biophysics (with a specialty in Neurobiology) from the same university.

Media are welcome to attend Friday’s seminar. Dr Barrie will also be available for interviews from Thursday. It would be best to contact him through Robyne Lovelock.

Event: Electronic Plagiarism and Its Impact on Educational Quality
Venue: Federation of University Women Room, Old Government House (City Campus)
Date: Friday 25th October 2002
Time: 2.00-5.00 pm


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