STUDENTS LIFTING text from articles and passing it off as their own work is older than the internet, and anti-plagiarism software to detect this has become standard equipment for universities. A new trend is emerging in the plagiarism arms race – ‘internet-savvy students who are proficient in English’ increasingly seek out English language articles online, cut and paste them and then translate them into the language used as their own country’s medium of education.
According to anti-plagiarism software developers iParadigms, plagiarism of English language articles which are then translated has become such a problem that their customers in the university sector regularly ask them for the means to detect plagiarism in translation.
The company has responded to this demand by producing Turnitin, which translates work handed in by students into English and looks for matches between this and material contained in its ‘massive content database’. Current and forthcoming versions of Turnitin can spot cut-and-pastes of English internet articles passed off as students’ own work even after translation into fifteen European languages.
There’s apparently no software yet to do the reverse – spotting whether English language essays by international students on English-medium courses are cut-and-paste translations of works online in other languages. Languages other than English account for an increasing proportion of global internet content, while English-medium degree courses continue to proliferate worldwide.
Since the publication of this article in the March 2012 EL Gazette, iParadigms sent me an update saying they are working on versions that can handle non-European languages, and a version of Turnitin that can do the opposite - spot cut-and-paste translations into English, is in development.