Volume 96, Issue 6
Friday September 6, 2002

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Website battles crazy cheaters

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff


Western's use of Turnitin.com, the online plagiarism detection tool, has been a tremendous success since its implementation last year, according to Dr. Debra Dawson, director of Western's educational development office.

"Many [of the] faculty have noticed that since using Turnitin [plagiarism rates have] dropped," Dawson said. "The point is not to catch cheaters, but to deter people," she added.

Turnitin.com is a California-based company that checks documents for their originality. The Web site cross-checks 10,000 papers every day with its database, according to founder John Barrie.

"Canada, just after Great Britain, is one of the countries taking a [bigger] stand against plagiarism," Barrie said, adding Canada was ahead of the United States in the battle against the stolen word.

According to Walter Zimmerman, a reference librarian at D.B. Weldon Library in charge of combating plagiarism, the site protects honest students from cheating.

"Our general feeling is [Turnitin.com] is doing what it should," Zimmerman said.

"I think schools that don't have it may have their heads in the sand," he said. "Human nature is if you think you can cheat, some people will, some people won't."

Zimmerman explained the system prevented honest students from feeling pressured to cheat just because others do.

"[Lack of] time, high tuition, whatever it is, [it] doesn't entitle you to cheat," he said.

Second-year engineering student Saleem Majarali said he doesn't have a problem with the use of Turnitin.com by professors.

"It's fair, but there are ways to go around it," Majarali said.

Dawson agreed, saying there will likely never be a foolproof method to detect plagiarism.

"What the research suggests is that most people are honest," she said. "[Turnitin.com] levels the playing field for people who don't want to cheat."

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2002 THE GAZETTE