Berkeley Uses Web to Detect Plagiarism: Class-Notes Providers Face Lawsuits
Elias, Thomas D., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
BERKELEY, Calif. - The University of California has taken the lead nationally in fighting plagiarism, using the speed and resources of the Internet to check for cheating.
The campaign by the United States' largest university system involves both attacks on the prime sources of plagiarized papers and class notes and checking on individual term papers submitted by students.
In one early result, the teacher of a neurobiology class on the Berkeley campus caught 45 of his 320 students stealing large amounts of material for their papers from on-line sources.
The university is using both traditional means - including the threat of lawsuits - and innovative high technology to combat what it sees as a major threat to its academic integrity.
"There is no question that plagiarism has been and continues to be an issue, and with the Internet, there has almost certainly been an increase," Rutgers University Prof. Donald McCabe, president of the Center for Academic Integrity, told a reporter.
Previously, professors had to be able to recognize texts as someone else's work before accusing a student of plagiarism.
But the current University of California campaign began when professors started using a new Web site called Plagiarism.org last spring, taking advantage of a program that allows them to scan term papers against a large database of books, journals and previously written student projects.
The Web site was designed by Berkeley doctoral student John Barrie, who noticed that after he posted term papers from one class on the Web, portions of them began turning up in student papers submitted for other courses.
He then enlisted eight other graduate students to help design a site that locks onto copied phrases of at least eight words and flags those cases where longer quotes or phrases are lifted. In the neurobiology class, where the program got its first test run at the end of the last spring quarter, students were asked to upload their papers into the Web site, where the program found obvious cheating on more than one of every eight papers scanned. One five-page paper in the neurobiology class had only a few phrases that were not completely lifted from Internet sources. …