Something’s off

In the last few weeks I’ve had a few teachers (middle school level) come to me with assignments of students asking me how they could check if they’re plagiarised. At this level we only have access to Grammarly, not the supposedly more powerful Turnitin (prohibitively expensive).

I like that teachers’ have instincts and follow them. They know their students best, and know what they are capable of (or not). I also appreciate that they are now including me in their circle of “let’s have a closer look” at this, because I believe that we shouldn’t be out to catch students in a punitive way but we need to be able to catch them before they fall into a web of lies about research and academic work and help them onto a more constructive path.

Nature recently had an article on plagiarism checkers and their limitations. It took the stance of common sense too – knowing that “something’s off”. My fellow librarian John Royce, also writes about the limitations at the IB level.

One of the things that I’m suspecting, that hasn’t been addressed, after looking at a couple of our students “dodgy” submissions is that they may be taking things written in other languages and then putting it through google translate and then polishing it. It’s just the strange turns of phrase and way of putting things with a combination of sophisticated words and phrases combined with sentence structures that are not quite right.

Do you think that may be going on at your school / university? How would that ever be detected?

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