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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 09/29/2010

The new risk of plagiarizing college essays

By Valerie Strauss

We are at the start of a new college admissions cycle, and high school seniors are busy trying to maintain their grades, stay out of trouble, and fill out their college applications.

So here’s something anybody writing a college essay should know:

There is a technology called Turnitin for Admissions, introduced late last year by iParadigms LLC, that can detect plagiarism in essays from numerous sites on the Internet. It is a version of Turnitin, which is used in thousands of academic institutions around the world to detect plagiarism in academic work.

iParadigms was launched in 1996, when researchers at the University of California at Berkeley created a series of computer programs to monitor the recycling of research papers in their large undergraduate classes.

The admissions technology was used in a study that checked nearly 453,000 personal statements from the 2006-07 admissions season against sources on the Web and found the following:

There were 1,033,813 matches detected in 199,963 personal statements. The matches were found in the following sources:

49 percent of the matches came from Internet sources (see the list of the top 100 matched sites at the end
of this document).
29 percent of the matches came from Turnitin academic student documents.
2 percent of the matches came from proprietary subscription content.
20 percent of the matches came from the Turnitin for Admissions document database (i.e., the pool of applicant statements submitted in the test).

You can read the full report from Turnitin for Admissions here.

In the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, a study was published last summer by researchers who used a version of Turnitin for Admissions in a search of hospital residency applications and found that at least one in 20 personal statements included plagiarized content. The essays of non-U.S. citizens were more likely to demonstrate evidence of plagiarism, the study said.

Which schools are using it? Who knows?

Tell your kids to take that as a warning.

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By Valerie Strauss  | September 29, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions, High School, Higher Education  | Tags:  cheating on college essays, college admissions, college essay plagiarism, college essays, how to write an essay, writing college essays  
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