At this year’s paste©conference at the University of Cologne PlagScan CEO Markus Goldbach gave an answer to the question: “Why is plagiarism software fair?”. If want to know more about the conference itself please check our post here.
We all agree that plagiarism is persona non grata in higher education. Students should not be able to get away with plagiarized exams or homework by earning decent grades for their stolen content. This is when plagiarism software has become an important medium of investigating the authenticity of students’ works.
But is an plagiarism software actually fair? It insinuates wrongdoing, heartlessly marks any matches between texts – ‘stolen’ or not – and may only do this by storing the document on some database out of control for the author?
Before answering this question, a closer look at the meaning of the word “fair” is necessary to understand the subject. According to the free Oxford dictionary, this adjective has two meanings: “treating people equally without favoritism or discrimination” and “just or appropriate in the circumstances.”
A plagiarism detection software covers both of these meanings because:
- Plagiarism software helps that credit is given, where credit is due
- Everybody can scan everybody’s work
- Software is blind for who the author may be
- The plagiarism software usage itself can fully regard copyright laws
- Money is not an issue
- Different languages are not an issue
- It helps educating creative writers and thinkers
1. Plagiarism software helps that credit is given, where credit is due
The foremost purpose of using plagiarism software, is to find out, whether someone has actually written the text claiming authorship for. Obviously, it is just to appraise the person that created a piece of work, but not someone who merely uses someone else’s work.
2. Everybody can scan everybody’s work
The problem of checking everybody’s work for plagiarism manually without a software tool is that it takes quite some time to research and analyze. The task can be exhausting. Finally, you are just comparing the papers with a couple of sources. Furthermore, the sources available to check is different from user to user. That’s why plagiarism software is by definition fair because by reducing the work load on the revisor it allows every document for plagiarism detection on the same vast amount of sources.
3. Software is blind for who the author may be
It seems obvious to say that plagiarism software is fair because it is a software. It does not have sympathy or a judgment. Therefore recognizes skin color, gender, religion or class. E-mail addresses is the only identification to register: they are names without a face or personality. The user becomes a report analysis based on those algorithmic similarities.
Picture 1: Sketch of the algorithm
If you want to know more about the technology behind the algorithm, click here
4. Does plagiarism software itself not hurt copyright laws?
Plagiarism software with the right design does not infringe copyright law. PlagScan, for example, temporally saves submitted documents on a private cloud. Users themselves decide whether to delete the documents after the investigation or to save them in a portal for future comparisons. They have full control over who sees their full-text and when to delete their documents traceless from any databases – that’s fair, isn’t it?
Picture 2: Sketch Dataflow
5. Money is not an issue
Some might claim that plagiarism software is only available to people who can financially afford it – thus discriminate based on wealth. The fairness of plagiarism software offers a vast price range and test credits, which enable anyone to verify their work for less than 10 Euro. That’s less than a movie ticket nowadays.
6. Different languages are not an issue
The world counts more than 4,000 languages, ranging from the Indo-European ones to the pictogram-based ones like Chinese or Japanese. Plagiarism software can be designed to cover all of them. And anything that is freely accessible on the internet plus any proprietary data from users and cooperating publishers can be used as a basis of the plagiarism search. Accordingly, the algorithm is up for the task and in our digital age also has the data to work with.
7. It helps educating creative writers and thinkers
Using a plagiarism software helps teachers to ensure that students create their own thoughts. Students also learn to express individually, rather than simply reproducing what others have thought before. It works two ways: Firstly, the knowledge of their work being checked with mechanical precision itself can already be a strong motivation to not consider blunt copying as an option. Secondly, the documentation of potential plagiarism you get at the push of a button from plagiarism software is a descriptive and vivid exemplification of what mistakes have been made. And then it’s a short step to realising how to prevent those in the future.
Even if a plagiarism software is fair, prevention ensures fairness in education.
A plagiarism checker is but one piece of the puzzle, of course. Students should learn actively about plagiarism and the use of citations and quotations. Many students plagiarize unintentionally. Others do it intentionally. It comes much more of an ethical choice. However, they are often unaware of the impact and consequences of plagiarism.
Let us know about your opinion! Can you agree with the post? Do you have a different view on the fairness of plagiarism software? Looking forward to hearing from you!