I recently attended the International Turnitin User Group meeting on Monday 16th July at the Sage in Gateshead (see picture). This was held just before the start of the 5th International Plagiarism Conference, so there was a healthy attendance. This was quite a unique event, in which the whole iParadigms management team were present, to answer a whole raft of questions posed prior to, and during the session.
Given the recent UK outages, the Q&A sessions were quite civilised, with some very useful questions being posed about the direction of the company and its suite of products. On that note, Lucy Cave a Phd researcher here at Aston – gave a presentation on her latest findings. Lucy’s presentation was reported in their local paper, which covered student’s attitudes/understanding towards plagiarism and collusion. This raises further questions about student use and support of the WriteCheck tool.
Dr Christian Storm, Chief Technology Officer and last remaining founder of Turnitin covered their current research projects. These include;
- Improving the audio feedback length of time (from the current 3 minutes), and the ability to embed the audio feedback into a pdf download,
- Continual refinement of their algorithms to ensure fewer noisy matches and false positives, as a result of the growing paper database of papers and indexed internet matches,
- Tackling translated paraphrasing as a form of plagiarism,
- Support for right to left languages (e.g. Arabic),
- Advanced phrase exclusion, so that particular phrases or “boilerplate” text can be excluded from reports by assignment or all assignments.
- Stylometrics, which can identify changes in writing style, which will help address the problem of identifying students employing ghost writers. This was mentioned in relation to the new e-rater tool which is still in the testing phase, and requires further refinement,
- New “role types are to be developed, i.e. reviewers and viewers.
- And finally he mentioned developments into extracting text from “scanned” pdf files using new OCR methods.
In my view, the statement that had the most impact by Dr Storm was his reinforcement that the underlying purpose of Turnitin is as a teaching and learning tool, used to improve student academic writing skills. NOT just as a “checking” tool. This was reassuring to hear from a founder member – and underpins my ethos of this tool.