A new anti-plagiarism software which tracks down and monitors each student’s writing style, will be launched by many universities in the United Kingdom as soon as the second half of 2018.
The software, named “Authorship Investigation”, is developed by Turnitin, which is the most popular provider of plagiarism-detection software for British universities. Through machine-learning algorithms and forensic linguistic analysis, it will be able to monitor a student’s writing style, detecting major differences between the submitted papers.
Anti-plagiarism software currently used by UK universities can only detect essays which plagiarize published works.
The move has come in a bid to eradicate “contract cheating”, the practice of students having third parties – usually companies who employ freelancers and academics – write their papers. A suspicion that Turnitin, citing a recent Australian survey, claims one in three university tutors have regarding their own students.
Last year, The Daily Telegraph exposed the incredible popularity of third-party written essay in an investigation that revealed more than 20,000 students purchasing essays from online writing companies, with some racking up a bill of £6,500 for third-year dissertations and Ph.D. theses. A statistic confirmed by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which estimates that every year about 17,000 students are caught using essay mills in the UK alone.
Turnitin CEO Chris Caren commented on the launch of Authorship Investigation: “Taking on emerging threats to academic integrity like contract cheating is a natural extension of our mission. As forms of academic misconduct evolve, so must TurnItin’s offerings.”.
However, many experts warn that the measure will not be enough. Talking to Times Higher Education, anti-cheating expert and associate dean for student recruitment at Staffordshire University Thomas Lancaster, said that universities “must remember that technology like this can’t detect contract cheating”. He concluded that “All it can do is flag up assessments for further investigation, so staff will need training, and universities will have to make sure their academic integrity processes are in order to allow reports from this software as evidence”