Turnitin Stops Application Plagiarism

The days of recycling, repurposing, lifting or otherwise finessing application content that is not completely 100% original–a.k.a. plagiarizing–may soon be at an end, according to Louis Lavelle‘s recent story in BusinessWeek.

Turnitin.com, a website dedicated to finding and preventing plagiarism, launched the web-based tool Turnitin for Admissions in December, after much urging from admissions deans frustrated by receiving identical personal statements from multiple applicants.

According to the accompanying news release, “Turnitin for Admissions automatically analyzes materials for instances of unoriginal content, enabling admissions officers to quickly identify plagiarism, recycled submissions, duplicate responses, purchased documents, and other potential violations of application standards.”

Admissions committees may frown upon the practice, but so-called “self-plagiarism”–as when you send the same essay to all ten schools to which you are applying–isn’t really the problem. In fact, Turnitin’s process and business development manager Jeff Lorton, in commenting on the BW article, says the service has various safeguards to avoid self-matches to the applicant.

“We refer to recycled submissions as those application documents that are submitted by multiple applicants,” Lorton writes. “The volume of applications and the number of folks reading those applications make it difficult to identify those recycled essay answers. Technology is one way to help the admissions professional level the playing field and help them make fair well-informed decisions about applicants.”

The story generated a lot of feedback on BusinessWeek, both from readers perplexed as to how reusing one’s own work constitutes plagiarism, and wondering whether schools will notify applicants of their use of Turnitin for Admissions. What do you think? Please leave us a comment with your reaction below.

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