Plagiarism and Essay Writing Sites

For many schools in Michigan, today was the first day back to school. So many students will go to school in the morning and feel behind by the time they return home in the afternoon. They wonder, how can I be behind on the first day of school?  

Don’t feel like the only choice is homework assistance and essay writing sites. Those sites are not there to help you—they encourage you to plagiarize someone else’s work, leading to suspensions and expulsions.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Essay Writing Sites
In a very particular order…

  1. Plagiarism. We’ll revisit that concept momentarily.
  2. You don’t learn what you were assigned to do (and no, the teacher didn’t assign an essay to keep you busy!)
  3. You don’t practice your writing/handwriting/grammar/punctuation skills (thus the essay you would write would stink and then you’ll have to pay lots of money to for practice ACT/SAT courses because you can’t write).
  4. You’ll be unable to get the job you actually want because you can’t write a grant to fund your cure for cancer (feel free to substitute the required writing component for any/every profession and/or job).
  5. It’s probably not originally and you’ll get caught by Turnitin.com.  For $35, you really think their giving you an original?  Would you write a 5-page, original essay, with 7 citations for $35?
  6. The writer probably was paid next to nothing and the website took all the money (sweatshops for essays!)
  7. The writer probably isn’t that good of a writer, if you’re a good writer, would you be working for an essay writing service?
  8. It doesn’t actually save you money because you spent money (you spent money on the essay, possibly even your private education, and you’ll be kicked out for plagiarism).

A Quick Review of Plagiarism
What is the definition of “to plagiarize”? The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s quick definition is: “to use the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own words or ideas”. Their full definition is broken down into both the transitive and intransitive forms.

transitive verb
:  to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own :  use (another’s production) without crediting the source
intransitive verb
:  to commit literary theft :  present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

So…according to the full definition, plagiarism is taking someone else’s words without their permission and passing them off as your own.

But let’s split hairs…

What if you paid your friend to write it. Or, what if you bought the essay? Technically, you had it “ghostwritten” and they gave permission, right? You paid them…aren’t the words yours now? (Hint: No, not in an academic setting.)

What does plagiarism look like?
The University of Illinois Springfield has a detailed guide (with examples) explaining all about plagiarism.  But let’s just look at their headings…

    • Using a direct quotation without quotation marks or a citation
    • Paraphrasing or changing an author’s words or style without citation
    • Insufficiently acknowledging sources or providing a partial citation
    • Failing to cite sources for information considered non-common
    • Using an essay from course for another without instructor permission
    • Failing to attach all group members’ names to a group project
    • Using someone else to heavily edit or re-write your essay

In that last section they specifically give the examples, “If you purchase an essay from the internet, a writer (including a TA or GA), or another student, you are plagiarizing.” and “If you pay your roommate, friend, brother, sister, mom, TA/GA, or anyone else to write your paper, you are plagiarizing.”

Essay Writing Sites to Avoid
Okay, so you finally understand.  Don’t buy that research paper. Spend the time and do it.  If necessary, spend that money you would have spent on a paper on a good tutor to help you with your paper. Now the question is, which homework help and essay writing sites should you avoid?

Below is a non-comprehensive list of sites found through a few Google searches. There are no links to these sites because Teaching & Technology does not advocate the use of these sites and will not add to their Google Page Rank by linking to them. Add any more you find to the comments section or email me.

  • DoneResearchPaper.com
  • EssayTigers.com
  • BestEssays.com
  • SuperiorPapers.com
  • RushEssays.com
  • EssayOnTime.com
  • EssayInTime.com
  • NinjaEssays.com
  • SleekWriters.org
  • Essay-Company.com
  • EssayPenguins.com
  • CoolCustomEssay.com
  • EssayEdge.com
  • EssaysCapital.com
  • BuyEssayOnline.org
  • FreshEssays.com
  • EssayJedi.com
  • EssayShark.com/
  • iessaywriter.com
  • EssayAcademia.com
  • Zessay.com
  • EssayShop.org
  • AcademicEssayWriters.com
  • MyPaperGeek.com
  • PremiereEssay.com
  • EssayPlanet.org
  • ClassyEssayWriter.com
  • Bid4Papers.com
  • WriteEssay.net

I’m only on the 3rd page of a Google search that resulted in 27,800,000 results. I think I’ll stop. Many of these sites sounds disreputable and those that sound like honest companies…they many in fact be.  However, if you turn in a paper that you purchased and don’t acknowledge the other writer, in an academic setting, it is plagiarism.

 

 

 

NPR: Turnitin And The Debate Over Anti-Plagiarism Software

Transcript available at NPR.org.

I highly recommend you listen to the whole bit or read the transcript.  It brings up the issue that while Turnitin is a tool, some teachers use it more like a “scalpel” (with “care and discretion”) while others use it more like a “hammer” (as in a gavel).

Some students and teachers noticed that when drafts were required to be submitted to Turnitin, but not final drafts, there was less plagiarism as students were able to learn from their mistakes and avoid accidental plagiarism.  No one really wins when teachers are the zero-tolerance thought police with a one-way ticket to an academic integrity review board meeting in which the teachers were lobbying for expulsion.

It really is better to not turn in a paper than turn in someone else’s work. As Emma Zaballos, a student at American University, said in the interview, “A zero will ruin your GPA but it won’t get you thrown out of school.”

Source: LA Johnson/NPR

Source: LA Johnson/NPR

turnitin-data-02_custom-a93c7b4c6186d8b730b45a5387b8bad0f9ac63c1-s40-c85

Source: LA Johnson/NPR

Turnitin.com – How good is it at identifying plagarism?

Would you submit your paper to Turnitin.com?

It sounds like a useful tool for aiding teachers, professors, and college admissions staff in identifying essays that have been plagiarized.  According to the website, Turnitin.com (“Turn it in”), “Ensures original work by checking submitted papers against 17+ billion web pages, 200+ million student papers and leading library databases and publications.”

Turnitin.com is a useful tool, when used correctly.  Let me say that caveat again, when used correctly.  The website searched thousands of databases and will identify phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that appear verbatim elsewhere. And there is bound to be phrases and even sentences that could be identified as plagiarized because they are commonly written together.  “The boy walked the dog to the park,” is a sentence of my own creation.  But if someone turned in a creative writing piece with the same sentence, it could potentially be flagged as plagiarized.  The fact of the matter is, I could submit a three page essay to Turnitin.com and because of these common phrases, the resulting percent given by Turnitin.com for how much of my paper is plagiarized could be as high as 30%.  [This actually is the average percent I’ve received on work that I wrote myself.]

Turnitin.com emphasizes that it only identifies potential issues and it is up to the teachers, professors, and admissions staff to look at what was flagged and make a judgement call.  If multiple sentences in a row or paragraphs have been plagiarized, then there is an issue.  But those grading the papers (or the ones writing them) should expect a 0% plagiarism score.  TurnitIn.com’s blog Words & Ideas wrote:

There is a very distinct difference between what Turnitin flags as matching text (aka: similarity index) and plagiarism. Turnitin will highlight ANY matching material in a paper—even if it is properly quoted and cited. Just because it appears as unoriginal does not mean it is plagiarized; it just means that the material matches something in the Turnitin databases.  We leave it to the instructors to look at a paper and the originality report to make the determination of whether or not something is plagiarism, and to what extent—intentional plagiarism, unintentional plagiarism, improper/lack of citation, or mere coincidence. Best practices from instructors suggest that Turnitin OriginalityCheck be used as a teaching tool to address citation and academic honesty, not only as a punitive tool.

As I somewhat mentioned, admissions staff are now able to use Turnitin.com to identify plagiarized admissions essays.  This helps admissions staff make well-informed decisions about candidates when there are more applications than spots available.  A recent article in the Los Angeles Times details how admissions staff members have used Turnitin.com.

The student’s admissions essay for Boston University’s MBA program was about persevering in the business world. “I have worked for organizations in which the culture has been open and nurturing, and for others that have been elitist. In the latter case, arrogance becomes pervasive, straining external partnerships.”

Another applicant’s essay for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management was about his father. He “worked for organizations in which the culture has been open and nurturing, and for others that have been elitist. In the latter case, arrogance becomes pervasive, straining external partnerships.”

Sound familiar? The Boston University student’s essay was written in 2003 and had been posted at businessweek.com. The UCLA applicant was rejected this year — for plagiarism.

So should you force your students to use Turnitin.com?  With the exception of a district-wide or school-wide policy, the choice is yours.  But be sure to educate your students before you have them upload their paper to Turnitin.com.  The last thing you want is angry parents (or students) complaining about how the paper is original yet it came up 20% plagiarized.  Some parents make not accept this from their child and punish them because they don’t understand what Turnitin.com does and doesn’t do.  And of course, DO NOT punish students simply based on the numerical score.  Review the paper and the flags yourself.  Plagiarism is taken very seriously so be sure you have your evidence before you accuse someone of plagiarizing.

 

Would you submit your paper to Turnitin.com?

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