Category Archives: Uncategorized

Turnitin users and non-users: Google to the rescue!

Plagiarism sleuths: don’t throw Google out with the bathwater just yet.

I’ve gotten feedback from instructors about their use of Google to detect student paper plagiarism (pasting in some parts of a student paper into Google may identify the Web pages the text came from).

My stance about Google for plagiarism detection has been, Well, now that we’ve got Turnitin, the proprietary Web-based plagiarism detection service, we won’t need Google anymore  (and that’s how instructors probably view this modern marvel called Turnitin).

Wrong.

Several instructors have told me they used Google to catch plagiarism that Turnitin missed.

Wow, is that an eye opener. Turnitin is not perfect? Turnitin is not everything it’s cracked up to be?

Well, yes.

Why? What gives? Well, let’s cut to the chase. Here’s an excerpt from an economics professor’s blog that I found, yes, by googling:

…teachers might think, “I’m using Turnitin, so I don’t have to watch out for plagiarists.”  The instructor quoted on Turnitin’s website certainly thinks so, implicitly arguing that Turnitin is a perfect substitute for her own investigations using Google.  Not surprisingly, Turnitin encourages this belief.  On its website—right next to her quote—Turnitin advertises that it has crawled and indexed “14+ billion web pages.”  Choosing between Turnitin and instructor investigations seems like a no-brainer.

But wait, how many web pages are there on the Internet?

A few years ago, Google announced that it had crawled and indexed a trillion web pages.  That makes TurnItIn’s crawlers look puny, having searched and indexed only 1.4 percent as much of the Internet as Google’s.

I’m not here to debunk Turnitin—I’m one of its strongest supporters. But we have to be realistic that no single tool is perfect or infallible. I teach this to students about information literacy—trust, but verify the information you find. Take everything, no matter how authoritative, with a grain of salt.

Instructors who use Turnitin should consider it just one gadget in their toolbox.

Google is a good supplement to Turnitin, or, for those who don’t use Turnitin, a useful tool by itself. Remember, though, that Google will identify lots of text from Web pages, but little or nothing from periodical articles and books. Thus Google is incomplete without Turnitin. And vice versa.

And even Google is not all-encompassing. No single search engine can index the entire vastness of the Internet. That’s why, along with Google, the savvy plagiarism sleuth will use other search engines—such as Bing, Yahoo!, and Yippy.

I might also mention some free “plagiarism checkers” that can be useful: Dustball and Plagium.

These free tools are useful not just for teachers, but also for students who wish to check their work before they turn it in.

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February 4, 2012 · 7:51 pm

Changes in Delicious leave a certain taste in the mouth

Delicious, the librarians’ favorite social bookmarking tool, has gone through some major upheavals, which, like a roller coaster ride, can impact a queasy stomach.

Rumors of a shutdown of Delicious were greatly exaggerated, it turns out. After acquiring Delicious from the original developer in 2005, the financially fragile Yahoo! was looking to unload the much loved but unprofitable venture.

Yikes! After slaving over a hot keyboard bookmarking hundreds and even thousands of bookmarks, would your precious listing of sites be on the chopping block? Would your work end up burned to a crisp? No worry, as you were able to migrate your bookmarks to the alternative Digg.

Then, another turn of events: AVOS Systems, consisting of former YouTube founders, saved the day by buying Delicious in 2011. AVOS is re-designing Delicious, re-launching it with new social networking bells and whistles.

But can you trust AVOS not to screw it up? Will this still be your beloved Delicious when they get through tinkering with the original recipe? The new beta version of Delicious was launched perhaps prematurely, because it had bugs and imperfections that could make you feel nervous, seeing your familiar Delicious looking like a messed up omelet, not to mention inaccessible busy servers not experienced under the previous ownership. But the company blog has assured everyone that things are under control and that things will turn out okay.  And uh-oh, if you missed the new owners’ deadline to migrate your bookmarks to Digg, you’re stuck and out of luck. You better hope the new reincarnation is as advertised.

But if your stomach likes new taste sensations, you might be in for a treat. AVOS appears to be very imaginative and on the cutting edge, promising to take a previously solid but bland Delicious to some new heights, finding new ways to extend the social bookmarking concept. A little excitement for Delicious might not be a bad thing—pass the hot sauce.

In fact, here’s the latest news: AVOS has bought trunk.ly and will integrate it into Delicious. Trunk.ly collects in one place what is shared or liked in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Wow, can your stomach handle that? Where’s the Pepto-Bismol?

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