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Software Helps Professors Detect Plagiarism

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Montana State University has new technology that allows professors to detect plagiarism. The software "Turn It In" was introduced campus wide in the fall of 2012.
BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Montana State University has new technology that allows professors to detect plagiarism.
The software "Turn It In" was introduced campus wide in the fall of 2012.

"It sort of frees up the instructor to focus on the quality of the student's written work itself rather than sort of always be scanning a paper wondering if this is the student's own work," explains Ritchie Boyd, an academic technology specialist at Montana State.

Boyd has been with the university 14 years.  As the academic technology specialist, he dealt with the software called "Turn it In" when it was first introduced.  "It's great any time you have students submitting written work."

The program allows professors to get a better picture of where a students work is coming from.

For example, Boyd wrote a paper but he copied and pasted from several different sources.

Highlighted on your screen is the portion he took from CNN.

On your right hand side you can see turn it in calculated CNN made up about 17 percent of his paper.

"Just as it's easy for somebody to copy and paste, it's easy for turn it in to compare to those same documents."

Making it easier for professors to see possible red flags in their students written work.

"What I would do first is look at the context. I would say is this a match against another student paper that's in the database. That's fairly compelling," Boyd says.

He says it could take an hour for the software to process a paper depending on the length.  It scours..."20+billion web pages, 200 million student pages and library databases."

Boyd says since the launch of turn it in he is finding professors are not coming to him because of an increase in plagiarism

"I could count on less than one hand faculty who have said, I think I'm starting to see more of a problem or I am seeing more of a problem."

Rather they are using it as a teaching tool.

"This looks like another good tool to add to the list of things I use use to both educate the students but also to make sure that they understand what academic honesty is."

KTVM TV reports university officials have only seen 94 cases of plagiarism over the past year.  That makes up less than one percent of the student body.


(KTVM for CNN)

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