June 19, 2006

School coursework being scanned for plagiarism

LONDON (Reuters) - A new computer program, sensitive enough to detect even small fragments of copied work, is scanning school coursework this Summer, to see whether candidates have been lifting essays wholesale from the Internet.

Exam board Edexcel is using the Turnitin program on coursework submitted for GCSEs and A-levels.

Students accused of plagiarism will receive no grade for the module or possibly for the whole exam.

"We are determined to ensure that those who cheat are caught," said John Black, Edexcel's Head of Compliance and Quality Management.

"Additionally, this software will also benefit head teachers by providing detailed information and evidence, which they can use when discussing plagiarism with colleagues and candidates."

The Turnitin program scans billions of pages from the Internet, checking for match-ups between submitted coursework and previously published work.

Concerns about plagiarism resurfaced earlier this month after a study revealed the phenomenon of "contract cheating" in which students use legitimate out-sourcing Web sites to employ others to write essays for them.

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