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Plagiarism: How the smart cheaters beat the technology?

In fact, smart cheaters always find a way to beat the technology. These criminals can easily escape Turnitin, the similarity index detection tool, with impunity. They successfully maneuver, to outsmart the software algorithm and nothing is going to stop them. Some of the tricks played by the students with the manuscript of their assignments are elucidated here in detail:

  1. Enclosing the text in double quotes: Some students enclose the entire text of his/her assignment with each sentence, in each paragraph in double quotes such as “…….” and then subsequently change the colour of the inverted commas (whiten it) to make it invisible such as “…….”. The text in the double quotes escapes the Turnitin and the teacher/ instructor cannot find any problem with the submitted assignment as the same deception is not detectable with the naked eye and prima facie there is no issue with it. Moreover, the hidden double quotes cannot be detected by the Turnitin as it reports 0% similarity index.
  2. Replacing the alphabet “o” with “0” in the text: Some students replace the English alphabet “o”  with numeric “0” in his/her entire text in each word, each sentence and each paragraph of his assignment and then subsequently change the size of the alphabet “0” so as to look alike “o” in the text. It is almost impossible for the teacher/ instructors to pinpoint the trick here and the Turnitin software cannot make it out and reports 0% similarity index.
  3. Add “o” or any other alphabet in-between the words: Some students add “o” or any other alphabet at various places in-between different words in the middle of the sentence and subsequently hide these added alphabets by changing its colour from black to white. These newly added alphabets with changed (whitened) colour cannot be detected by the teacher/ instructor on the face of it and it also deceives the Turnitin as it reports 0% similarity index.
  4. Converting text from MS Word to MS PowerPoint presentation: Some of the students convert the text of their assignment from MS Word to MS PowerPoint Presentation by arranging it in bullet format and then reconverting the same text from MS PowerPoint presentation to the MS Word format. The Turnitin fails to detect plagiarism in the text in the new format and comes up with 0% similarity index.

Combating plagiarism

There are numerous software available online for checking similarity index such as Dupli Checker, Copyleaks, PlagScan, PlagTracker Wcopyfind and Plagiarism Checker. Among these, Turnitin is the most widely used online tools made available by the HEC in the universities in Pakistan, helping professionals to tackle the plagiarism nightmare. Search engines supplement the teachers/ instructors ability to look for suspicious texts or doubtful passages. However, detecting and proving plagiarism is not always an easy job, although these electronic sources are of immense assistance to combat plagiarism by keying out the similarity index.

Besides, there are numerous ways that can help the teachers/instructors to deal with the menace posed by the plagiarists to the academic world. With an orthodox approach, frequent seminars and workshops need to be organized on the subject to sensitize the student about the unpleasant consequences of plagiarizing. Expectations from the students should always be kept to the minimum low. Their assignments and projects need to be meticulously examined. The instructors can easily discern whether the language of the manuscript submitted by the students is their original work or not. They may be conveyed the message that their written assignments and projects shall be assessed on the basis of their genuine efforts and actual contribution and not on the basis of producing masterpieces.

As a matter of fact, the curse of plagiarism cannot be wiped out, overnight. However, certain drastic measures, at the national level, can help fix the problem to a greater extent. For instance, the people at the helm of HEC affairs must convey a strong message across the board that no one shall be spared if found involved, irrespective of his stature or political clout.