Detecting Plagiarism in Admissions Essays

Tackling plagiarism in admissions

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education some colleges in the US are stepping up their efforts to detect plagiarism among applicants:

About 25 universities and 20 application services are testing a plagiarism-detection service offered by iParadigms, the same company that provides Turnitin.com, a popular tool for catching plagiarism in academic writing, said Jeff Lorton, business manager at Turnitin for Admissions.

Turnitin for Admissions runs essays through a database of Internet content, journals, books, and previously submitted papers. It then provides a report detailing the number and nature of matches to see if any admissions essays appear to be copied from others.


You wouldn’t think this would be a huge problem but it seems that when Turnitin for Admissions conducted a study in which it analyzed about 450,000 personal statements it found that “36 percent contained a “significant” amount of matching text (more than 10 percent).” That seems pretty high.

It certainly seems high compared to the 1 in 20 quoted in a UK study by UCAS as noted in an earlier post. The real question remains though, what do you do when you find a bit of plagiarism in a personal statement? It could perhaps be seen as one way to deal with excess student demand over number of available places.

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