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'Cloning' Most Common and Severe Form of Plagiarism, Survey Finds

Turnitin, a company that develops plagiarism detection and prevention tools, has released the results of a survey that identifies 10 types of plagiarism and ranks them according to frequency and severity. The survey included educators at the middle and high school and post-secondary levels.

Turnitin assigns a clever name to each of the 10 types of plagiarism to make them easier to understand and discuss. Blatant plagiarism, or the act of copying somebody else's work word-for-word, is called cloning, and according to the educators surveyed, it is both the most common and problematic form of plagiarism.

Two other common and problematic forms of plagiarism are called ctrl-c, work that copies significant portions from a single source without alteration or attribution, and mashup, work that copies material from multiple sources without alteration or attribution.

The survey found the least common forms of plagiarism to be the 404 error, work that includes inaccurate or fictitious citations, and the hybrid, work that includes copied passages with and without citation.

The least problematic forms of plagiarism were found to be the remix, work that paraphrases multiple sources, and the re-tweet, work that uses proper citation but follows the source's original wording and structure too closely.

The report offers educators a number of recommendations for dealing with plagiarism. According to Turnitin, "academic policies too often take the approach of adopting a one size fits all response to plagiarism." The company suggests that severe forms of blatant plagiarism, such as cloning and ctrl-c, may warrant extreme responses, but lesser forms may simply require better education. In some cases, students may be plagiarising unintentionally simply because they aren't aware of the different forms of plagiarism.

Turnitin software provides originality reports that identify problems such as blatant copying, improper paraphrasing, and insufficient citation in student work. The company recommends sharing those reports with the students and using them as a learning tool.

"Nearly every school has an academic integrity policy, yet instructors tell us that blatant, intentional plagiarism is still frequently encountered," said Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing at Turnitin, in a prepared statement. "This study helps educators identify the nuances between the various forms of plagiarism and gives them some insights to effectively address plagiarism with their students."

The complete study is available at

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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