The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Software seeks to detect plagiarism

All is not lost: the unconquerable will, And study of revenge, immortal
hate. And courage never to submit or yield: and what is else not to be
overcome?

Are these my words? Not even close on a good day. Rather it is the
profound angst of literary icon John Milton in “Paradise Lost.”
Plagiarism, using an author’s work without giving due credit and
pretending it is your own, is a growing phenomenon on college campuses.
According to the New York Times Syndicate, there are more than 49 Web
sites that offer the public access to pre-prepared papers. Of those 49,
25 are geared toward college students in the areas of literature and
philosophy. It is a happening that threatens to undermine the very
foundation of academic development.

Admittedly, at around 3 in the morning, while trying to put together a
last-minute paper, anyone’s writing seems better than my own. Often, I
have been inclined to “borrow” a sentence or two from an author, without
giving him or her the proper recognition. We’ve all fallen prey to this.
Today, however, professors are determined to eliminate plagiarism, even
in its most minute form. According to the Academic Discipline Procedures
put forth by the university, students found committing plagiarism are
subject to disciplinary action, based upon the severity of the incident.
Consequences may include losing academic credits, probation from classes
and even expulsion.

Professors today place a lot of emphasis on the analytical aspect of
writing. They want to be able to see that students actually put careful
thought into their work. Most professors are adamant about harsh
penalties for plagiarizing. They will lock the gate and throw away the
key, requesting that you visit the dean?s office. Other professors will
simply make their students aware of the problem and request that it not
occur again.

Due to the rise in the number of cases of plagiarism, not only within
college classrooms, but within the writing profession, a new software
program has been developed to assist in determining if plagiarism exists
in the specified work. The program attempts to filter plagiarized
sentences, by maintaining databases with copyrighted material and then
cross – referencing it to patterns of words found in the work. St.
John’s has yet to adopt the software program due to its expense. Other
software programs, such as the Glatt Plagiarism Screening Program takes
a more practical approach. It takes the suspected paper and eliminates
every fifth word, replacing it with blank spaces. Students are then
asked to supply the missing words. The program then determines the
“Plagiarism Probability Score,” by analyzing the number of correct
responses in comparison with the time taken to give the answers. Since
its use no students have been wrongly accused of plagiarizing.

So how does one go about preventing plagiarism? Students must always be
mindful to cite all sources used for quotations and even paraphrased
facts. Including a source index at the end of every completed work is a
good idea. The source index will provide an overview of all sources: the
names of authors and their works, where they can be located and even
page numbers.

Often, too, students are misinformed about the idea behind paraphrasing.
Simply changing a couple of words in someone else’s statement does not
constitute paraphrasing. To successfully paraphrase a thought, you must
first interpret the given text and then reiterate the main points of the
work expressed in your own words. Paraphrasing allows for an open
interpretation of the given text and can therefore produce more
effectual results. Paraphrasing is the easiest way of using another
author?s thoughts without falling into risky territory.

There will always be that one student who finds it easier to use
someone else’s words as their own rather than using their knowledge to
decipher the main point of the thought. This is not a judgment, but
rather a fact. The next time I’m up at 3 a.m. writing a paper, I’ll try
to remember my own advice, keep my dignity and write in my own voice.

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