Plagiarism Just Isn’t for Everybody Stephen Burd () Presentation copies available online

Plagiarism Just Isn’t for Everybody
Stephen Burd (
Academic Technology Liaison
Presentation copies available online
Last revised: 7/17/2016 3:38 AM
Dictionary definition: the act of
 using another person's words or ideas
 without giving credit to that person
A humorous musical perspective:
 “… in one word he told secret of success in
mathematics: PLAGIARIZE, plagiarize, let no one
else’s work evade your eyes, remember why the good
Lord made your eyes, so don’t shade your eyes, but
plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize, … only be sure always
to please call it … RESEARCH”
 Tom Lehrer – Lobachevsky – Songs and More Songs
by Tom Lehrer – Rhino Records
Plagiarism - Perspectives and Implications
Ideas, words, images, and data are the “product”
of researchers’ labor
 Who owns them – author, funder, publisher, public
Giving credit where credit is due
 It isn’t plagiarism if you do this
 Enable readers of your work to find related work
Honesty about your contribution
 Show how your work builds on others’ work
 Compare and contrast your ideas/work to others’ work
 Definitively show your unique contribution
Editor and Funding Agency Perspectives
Is this original work?
 What’s the balance of original and un-original content?
 Has any portion been published elsewhere?
 If so, where and how much?
Is included material properly cited?
 Is everything that should be cited actually cited?
 Do the citations reference the proper sources?
Has the work been funded before?
By other funding agencies?
By other PIs doing similar things?
By the same PI(s) in the past?
If yes, are the earlier projects cited in this proposal?
What is a Plagiarism Detection Tool?
Modern plagiarism detection software/services
perform the following functions:
 Search for similar or identical text on the web, in publication
databases, and in other document repositories
 Annotate the document to identify matched text
 Enable viewing of matched text sources
 Optionally report an originality or plagiarism “score”
Best to think of the tools as:
 Match detection or originality tools
 NOT – plagiarism detection tools
The distinction implies that plagiarism is a judgment
based in part on evidence of matching and originality
Available Tools
 Anyone can search for matches using the search engine of
their choice (e.g., Google or Bing)
 Though workable, using search engines directly has
disadvantages that include:
Lots of cutting, pasting, and typing
Inability to easily get behind “pay walls”
Inefficient for large amounts of suspect material or large numbers of
 The clear market leader
 Turnitin – optimized for class-related use
 iThenticate – optimized for research-oriented use
Capabilities and Limitations
The good:
 Works very well with text, including simple paraphrasing
 Searches documents in multiple languages
The bad:
 Type I (false negative) and Type II (false positive) errors
 Images and sounds aren’t matched
 Not easily applied to larger bodies of work including
document collections, web sites, and blogs
The ugly:
 As with any tool, automated plagiarism detection:
Can be well-used or misused
 Training helps to achieve desired outcomes
iThenticate at UNM
iThenticate currently licensed UNM-wide
Current license expires August 2015
Renewal currently being negotiated
Free use by UNM users
Authorized users – all faculty, staff, and students
Register for an account
 Visit
Click the big red button on the right
Access training materials
Access iThenticate
 Accessed as an online application (i.e., a Web application or
software as a service)
About iThenticate Originality Reports
Originality reports contain information about
matches between submission content and various
source databases including:
 Internet-accessible content
 Publication databases and repositories
Originality reports contain a similarity index
 A percentage of matched or unoriginal content
 Lower score is better – but what’s a good score?
Sample Turnitin Originality Report
Drilling Down to Sources
Using Originality Reports - Advice
iThenticate is a tool for identifying some instances of potential
 The tool will generate false positives and negatives
 The author or reviewer needs to:
Examine the matches and decide whether they constitutes plagiarism
Watch for missed matches (e.g., passages that sound too sophisticated/polished,
style mismatches, …)
Determine how similarity (proper or improper) impacts the publication or funding
iThenticate streamlines the process of identifying potential
plagiarism and follow-up investigation
 Similarity indices can be used to identify targets for investigation (e.g.,
above a certain percentage or the top few percentage values)
 Matches are visually summarized and paired to sources
 Source material can be viewed with a single click in most cases
Summary – the tool is simply that – a tool – not a substitute for
human judgment or follow-up effort
 “Every (or any?) tool is a weapon - if you hold it right” – Ani diFranco
Editors and funding agencies use originality
checking tools to detect plagiarism
You have access to the same tools that they use
 Free to you
 Easy use
Don’t you want to see what they’re going to see
BEFORE they see it?