Webinar recording

Identifying Plagiarism

This resource page contains the proceedings of the Show and Share webinar led by Robin Price. In this webinar Robin shared strategies on how to identify different types of misconduct through Turnitin.

– Okay, welcome everybody to our second OneHE Show & Share on identifying plagiarism. My name is Simon Jones and I’m co-founder of OneHE, and in a moment, I’m gonna hand over to Robin Price who is joining us from Brisbane at a ungodly hour to run today’s session. Before I do, I’ve got a little bit of housekeeping to do. We are recording this webinar which will be uploaded into the community afterwards. So if you don’t want to appear on camera then please keep your video switched off. If you have any questions or comments, and we hope you do, you can either raise your hand in the time-honored fashion or use the chat and I can put your questions to Robin, or Nikki will do so. And finally, this is only our second webinar and we’re really keen to get your feedback. Please email us at [email protected] or post into the community using either the feedback option on your dashboard or via ask, answer, or share on the community wall. And if you’re interested in running one of these sessions in future, please do get in touch. And so without further ado, I’ll hand over to Robin for today’s session. Thank you, Robin.

– Okay, thank you Simon. So. Let’s go full screen. Alrighty. First up, I just want to set the scene for this. The basis of this is the session that I put together for academic… Well, yeah, academic staff that I work with across a number of different universities, many of whom are practitioners and have a master’s degree but didn’t necessarily have much in the way of exposure to Turnitin or interpreting it. So this was sort of set up as a session to help them, kind of, basically understand what was going on. So, I retired from being a full-time academic at an Australian university about five years ago and ’cause I got bored, I started teaching across a range of different universities and actually for a few different providers. And I’ve now kind of segued into working as a learning designer which is really, really good fun. So that’s me. I’m not necessarily, you know, a fabulous expert in academic misconduct but I have chaired a misconduct committee in a very large business school where we had, you know, several hundred cases a year which were getting more and more creative over time.

So I wanna sort of set the scene. What I’m focusing on here is just interpreting Turnitin scores. So there’s a lot of different forms of misconduct that occur in universities but what we’re doing here is just narrowing the focus and it may well be that that is a little bit simple for some of you, and for that, I apologize. So to get you thinking about misconduct broadly and poor academic practice, what is your idea of the difference? Now. I’m not particularly comfortable with Zoom because I tend to use different software packages but I would generally get my students to click on the annotate button at the top and write something on the screen in text, if you want to, or you can put it in the chat box. Whatever you would prefer to do. So what do you think the difference is, and how would you determine whether it’s misconduct or not? Anyone got any ideas? Everyone say hello in Spanish. Ah, Nicaragua. Ha ha, yes. Diana, I think that’s a fabulous suggestion. Maybe malice is a little too strong but another way of phrasing… Yeah, purposeful. There’s an intent. So when you look at what the student has done, you are trying to ascertain intent. So I might just write that one up there actually, and then we’ve all got it. What else do you look for if you’re gonna make an informed choice? Inadvertent. Okay Laurie, great suggestion. What do you mean by inadvertent? I’ll write it up there. What does inadvertent… Okay, inadvertent look like? Merely attempting to undermine the purpose of the assessment or dodge it. Okay, yep. And how to paraphrase and not just copy. All right, so this is perhaps students who are not particularly good at paraphrasing and copy it because they don’t know how to do it properly. Quite common with students who don’t have English, as a first or you know whatever language, as their first language. So they’re learning in a non-native language.

Okay, so great suggestions about the sort of things we should be, you know, looking forward to help shape our discussion. Okay. I’m going to… What else have we got here? I’m trying to read the screen. , ‘ A lot of students are not aware of what plagiarism is.’ You are quite correct. Just write that over here. So, all done I think. Now. What do you think is going on here? I’m gonna have to get rid of those words, aren’t I? Sorry. I want to annotate clear. Clear all drawings. Okay. Suggestions?

So this assignment has shown up in Turnitin as a 98% match, and it’s shown up as a 98% match to the student’s own work from our previous semester. Do you think that this classifies as misconduct or plagiarism? Thank you, Laurie. Yeah, ‘Why can’t I use something I wrote cause it’s my work.’ Yep. Okay. So self-plagiarism is plagiarism, yes. So unfortunately for this student, reproducing your own work from one semester to a next is classified as plagiarism, under most sets of policies that I’ve come in contact with. Sometimes… Are there any things that you can think of where you might not treat this as plagiarism? And then, do we actually explain to students? Is it written down anywhere that this is not okay? Okay, ‘They haven’t been credited already with the work.’ Yep. Great suggestion. And sometimes I might actually develop an assessment item that has a formative part, and I’m quite happy for students to reproduce that material in various forms in their next assignment ’cause I want them to build on it, or unpack it, or do something with it. In which case I might actually be quite fine with it. So… ‘You can get students to ask if they can do it.’ Okay, that’s a great suggestion. Really practical. Alrighty. So this is probably plagiarism in most cases. Let’s see, I’ll go to the next one. No, doesn’t wanna move.

All right. What about this case? So we have a very large chunk of text, most of which matches ausveg.com.au. So it’s a corporate website which looks like it’s a, you know, vegetable association. Right, ‘Is it properly cited?’ Well, what do you think? This is the one and only reference that we have here, and I did open this website and the website does not have anyone by the name… I think this is actually supposed to be Keogh, but does not have anyone by that name on it anywhere. Right, so it’s literally the homepage of a, you know, agricultural society. So no, it’s not properly cited. Yeah. ‘Just copy and pasting someone else’s work.’ Right. All right, yes. So probably would do something about that and this, you know, 29%? I quite often teach in law subjects where it’s not uncommon to have a 50% Turnitin rapport. I mean, report. And that’s perfectly legitimate because the students are quoting chunks of legislation which is exactly what they should be doing. So, you know, I’d be very, very hesitant to say any particular percent was acceptable or not.

Right. Okay. What about this one? What do we think is going on here? Oh, my internet connection’s unstable and I’m off my phone anyway ’cause my Internet’s forever dropping out. Brisbane was quite badly flooded a week ago so all the infrastructure’s really dodgy at the moment. Okay, ‘Undergrad or?’ Yes and that is a really good point, Diana. So the student’s stage in their study also needs to be considered as part of this process. In this case, the material has come from the authors that are mentioned. So Tillott, Walsh and Moxhan, and it is actually on the page that the student says but they have not included the, you know, the year next to the authors. So they haven’t done the right style of referencing and they haven’t, you know, used quotation marks ’cause this stuff’s showing up as word for word. So they haven’t referenced correctly. Yeah. Good start but it’s not correct. Yeah, okay. So prevailing view here seems to be this is, you know, poor practice, more than a deliberate attempt to deceive, right.

So there, we would probably, you know, have a word to them and depending on your organization’s policy… So some universities I’ve worked at and when I chaired this conduct committee, we actually spoke to all the students and asked them, you know, ‘Well, how do you think you do it?’ And you know, ‘Why did you do it like this, and where did you get the information from?’ And basically unpacked and sort of educated as part of the process. Other universities, and one university, actually recently I found out, just outsources all of their misconduct dealings. ‘Grad level,’ yes. Less forgiving but I mean, they should know better. I think it depends. There’s a whole series of cultural expectations. So one of the universities I worked at has a very high proportion of postgraduate students but they’re all from the Indian subcontinent and they don’t have a culture of referencing and acknowledging, and it’s literally a completely foreign concept. We have to put a lot of work in, in the first couple of semesters, basically to educate them about, ‘Well, this is the expectation in this education system.’ ‘Outsourcing misconduct management,’ yes. Let’s talk about that. Quite creative. One of the things this organization did. They ran exams that were, you know, online exams, and what they did was automatically sent students notices of allegations of misconduct if they used the same IP address. So of course, you know, there were students who were hot-spotting off other people’s phones in various places who all got pinged for misconduct, quite wrongly. So there’s also interesting issues that flowed from that one. All right. So.

What would you like to do about this? Thank you, Nikki. So Nikki’s put a link to the slides if they’re too hard to read. So this is quite a high match. Holland says, ‘You know, there’s quotation marks.’ So you know, if you’re reading along when you’re marking, you might think, ‘Okay, well you know they’ve left the year off and the page number, but you know, there’s some attempt to do the right thing.’ But when you look at it, all their information has actually come from reporting someone’s book from a website. What would you like to do about this one? Let’s assume it’s a postgraduate student. ‘Quotation is like quota.’ Yeah, hard for the reader to predict. Yeah. That’s it, I mean, it’s clearly not properly attributed. It’s cut, paste or copy and pasted from a website and dropped into an assignment. And the fact that it makes you go hunt for it is usually enough to make me or convince me that it might be worth pinging them for misconduct. Okay.

Now they start to get a little more complicated. So. I’ve had to try to hide which university we’re talking about here. What happened was this first piece of writing was submitted as a piece of assessment for a unit, and 24 hours later, this piece of assessment was submitted for exactly the same unit. Now this first piece when it was submitted, only got 3%. So. Nine times out of 10, you would look at it and think, what? What do you think? Would you even bother to look at something that was 3%? Bother to open it up? Anyone? All right. What happens if I said to you, reading along, this is the textbook for the unit, right. Okay, sensitivity at five. Okay. This is actually a reference that has nothing to do with the topic of the assignment. So the assignment was about workforce management in aged care, and this article is about manufacturing in Malaysia. So what do you think might have happened here? ‘I had a site write it all,’ okay. ‘External help.’ Yeah, okay. ‘Faking,’ yep. So. That’s one of the classic signs that something has been outsourced, right. So quite often if people, you know, are producing assignments and it’s relatively inexpensive if you ever Google it and try to find where it came from. You know, what these people will do is they’ll have bodies of references and they literally just drop them in. Drag and drop using, you know, EndNote or a bibliographic package basically. So you kind of write, and if you look, most of this is unlikely to show up as being plagiarized because it’s all paraphrased beautifully. They put it in their own words. Yep, like Chegg, or there’s quite a few ones that sort of show up as vaguely educational and they’re basically sharing sites where students can upload their work and share it with other students, and you get X number of credits for uploading X number of assignments. And because most universities don’t refresh their assessment every semester, we get repeats. So what has happened here is this student’s bought their assignment and has given it to this student, right. So, who showed up as a 14% match to this piece of assessment. And that’s when I looked at it and thought, ‘Okay, that’s a bit strange.’ What was even weirder was that given the way this reads. So, ‘Given the horrific recognition of current work, health, and safety, one of the primary strategies of recruitment of high-quality-source personnel is to pay more…,’ right. And then, ‘most of the affected body of workers artwork on…’ So the language starts to be really weird. Unusual choices of words. So what they’ve done is they’ve run this assignment that this student bought through a, you know, a spin bot. Basically a text-changing software package to end up with different words, and then they’ve just gone back and double-checked that the references are the same. So both of those students actually did the wrong thing. Okay, now.

This is one that was quite creative. Oops, sorry. What they’ve done. Like it only showed up at 2%. So you would think, ‘Yeah, probably fine.’ If it’s very, very low? There has to be some reason why it’s very, very low. Like a student should cite the same material as everybody else, you know? Like especially within one particular subject, right. You should see similarities. So, you know, the name of the author. The key authors in the area should show up in everybody’s assignment. So you know, I reckon you should get at least 5%, and depending on the area that you’re talking about. Okay. So I don’t know how they’ve done this and I don’t know if they actually just went ‘i-i-i-i’ or whether they did a whole page advise and then typed their assignment over the top of it, or pasted it. I actually don’t know. But I would’ve thought it’d take me so long to type I’s that this would take just as long to actually do the work. I don’t know.

Okay. So. A list of summary points for you. Yeah, Find and Replace is a good one, right. Okay, so you’ve got more skills, Shouna, than I do. I’m technologically illiterate. So the Australian government has actually legislated against contract-cheating and they’re not penalizing the students because it’s up to the university to do that. What they’re doing is penalizing the providers where they can find out who the providers are. So if you’re interested, there was rather a large research project on how many students do it. And you know, they surveyed students and staff, and came out with policies across the sector. And there’s some, you know, really good websites, okay, that you can go and have a look at. But things to watch out for. You know, you can read more and research more about this. Don’t really have time today.

But if you’ve got text that has, you know, sections with or without citations? So if the text matches and all the citations don’t then they’re sprinkling references that have come from somewhere else.

Unusually high matches to whatever the name of the university is, right. So that’s an example of student-sharing.

So, you know, irregular highlighting patterns. So they might have done what- Pardon me. What Diana suggests. And for all you know, Shouna, done Find and Replace on various things. And a lot of us will change, sort of, in the business sector. We change the industry every semester. So the actual assignment might be largely the same but we changed the industry they’re supposed to apply the principles to. So basically students have tweaked texts and they just, the last time’s assessment, changed the names of the industry and some of the key terms. I’ve seen that quite a lot.

Changes in text-formatting. Okay, they copied it from a website, pasted it in, haven’t changed the formatting. That’s really quite common.

And similarity matches where, you know, you’ve asked them to do a reflection on something and that should not show up as similar to someone else’s reflection ’cause it’s supposed to be, you know, your personal work.

Very high percentages and very low percentages, right. The high percentages is a lot of the commercial stuff where, you know, you’re buying an assignment. It often is a copy and paste, but there, you know, there will be references.

So if there’s some kind of weird language that’s usually an indicator that they’ve used some kind of text-spinning software. And I would encourage you to go and have a look. You know, search text-spinning software and there’s a lot of free ones, Spinbot. The marketers use it and you could have some fabulous fun just putting in blocks of text and seeing what it comes up with, and you can kind of understand why some of your students are choosing to do that.

Outdated references. You know, particularly if they’ve got their viewing sites before the unit even started. And as far as the reference list goes, you know, things that don’t relate to the discipline. Maybe it’s something completely random. They don’t match the in-text citations. You know, the sources are largely irrelevant or fictional. You’ll think like, ‘Oh, that looks interesting.’ You go looking for it. Doesn’t exist. Fictional journals, right.

Okay, and then something that is a lot of quotes. Now, that depends. So you know, in some of the law subjects I teach, more than 10% would probably be fine, but in other subjects, generally not. So you know, you know your area of study.

And if you start to see generic templates that sort of a lot of those contract-cheating sites use exactly the same essay sort of format and they use the same border, like having a double line border on the front page occurs. I can’t remember the name of the company but it’s really quite frequent, you know, to see them like that.

Okay. So. 07:29, I’m doing well. Does anybody else… I’m losing my voice too. Does anybody else have any great examples or anything they wanna add that you discovered with Turnitin? You all use it? Do you like it? No? You love it. What do you like about it, Diana? ‘I like being able to set it up so that students can upload a draft, so they get a feel for how plagiarized their work is.’ And if you upload a draft that doesn’t actually sit within the database so they don’t show up as a match when they upload the original. I mean, upload the, you know, the final version but it does have a really good educative function if you use it like that. Renley, yeah. They can. And the fact that they can click on it and open it up and have a look, you know? I probably think we need to do a better job of showing students how to paraphrase, and a lot of that is kind of we assume that our students come to us with those skills and they don’t necessarily. Okay. Other comments? ‘Misconceptions.’ Okay, thank you. Right. Love good resources. , okay. Yeah, I worry about them too. I think, where I’ve had students who’ve used text-spinners, I’ve spotted it because the flow of writing does not make sense. So I think, you know. And English is such a difficult language to learn for those people that, you know, if you’re used to speaking it, it’s relatively easy to pick up things that don’t flow particularly well. Yeah, eventually I suspect not. Eventually, they’ll probably replace us with, you know, AI. We don’t get to do anything. A bit sad. Okay. So, a bit lower stake. Yeah. Ah yeah, good plan. Yep, if they’re handing in something and you can see it and it’s when they start using, you know, foreign words and you think, ‘Okay, you’re from a completely different country.’ Yeah, that’s a great idea. Okay folks, well-

– Yeah.

– We might leave it there.

– Okay, well thank you very much, Robin.

– You’re welcome.

– That was very good-

– and thank you for being so fabulous participants and playing along. Very much appreciated.

– Yes, thank you everybody.

– Yeah.

– So that was interesting, and thank you to everybody for your questions, and your observations, and your comments. We will send a link to the recording of this session, and to the PDF for the Padlet, into the community in the next few days. So please continue to put your comments into that for the benefit of the wider community. If you’d like to explore the subject of academic integrity further, we have a course with Camilla Roberts called introduction to enhancing academic integrity in the community already. And we’ll shortly be publishing a new course with Tricia Bertram Gallant on academic integrity in the online context. Our next webinar is sympathy versus empathy as an online facilitator, which takes place on 31st of March at the same time, same channel, and there is a link I believe. I believe it’s gone in, but there is a link to that to register. So until next time, thanks for joining us. Thank you Robin, for getting up so early. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject today, and we hope to see everybody at the next one. Have a good evening Robin, or sorry-

– Great.

– Good day, Robin. And good evening to everybody-

– It’s a pleasure.

– Thank you.

– Okay, have a lovely day/evening-

– Yes.

– Night, whatever. Thank you. Goodbye everybody.

– Bye.

During her Show and Share webinar, Robin Price discussed how to identify different types of misconduct through Turnitin. Robin spent many years as an academic in a large triple-accredited Australian business school and chaired a Misconduct Committee with several hundred cases a year.

Download the webinar slides.

The Padlet below was created during the session. We encourage you to still participate by sharing links to useful resources, your thoughts and ideas.


What do you think of the suggestions here? How do you approach misconduct in your classes?

Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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