Between 8 and 20% of all graduate school applications in the United States contain significant evidence of plagiarism, collusion, and unethically presented materials. For those of you working out the math in your head, that's as much as 1 in 5 personal statements, critical to most graduate admissions processes, are not the original work of the applicant.
This according to several proof-of-concept studies by iParadigms, the company behind Turnitin and, more recently, Turnitin for Admissions. I blogged about Turnitin for Admissions last year, shortly after they released the results of one of these studies. It was conducted with the Penn State MBA program and is documented in a case study here.
The takeaway from the case study is striking:
The admissions staff determined that [their traditional, internal] plagiarism review, analysis, decision-making, and communication for this case took over 150 hours to complete. With Turnitin for Admissions, they estimate they could have reduced that time to 12 hours. In addition, their conﬁdence in the quality of the review as well as the consistency of documentation and communication would be greatly increased. The software removes human error and limited memory, and it ensures equitable assessment of every individual.
Clearly, Turnitin for Admissions, like the iParadigm's classroom Turnitin product with which it shares its underlying technology, is highly effective at identifying surprisingly high rates of unethical behavior among university applicants. To that end, iParadigms announced Wednesday that it was partnering with Hobsons, whose ApplyYourself application management system is used by hundreds of universities and colleges and whose technology drives the nationwide Common App, to integrate their plagiarism detection tools with the application system.
While the exact details of the partnership are still being ironed out, universities will be able to apply Turnitin for Admissions to all applications that come in through ApplyYourself. They will immediately be able to sort the wheat from the chaff and automatically reject for flag for review non-original application materials at the beginning of the process. This sort of integration will not only save time, but give many colleges and graduate schools the ability to rapidly assess what amounts to a statistical surrogate for applicant integrity.
The Turnitin for Admissions technology leaves little ambiguity and can provide detailed reports on the extent and nature of apparent plagiarism. Students who thought to share personal statements, reuse examples found online, pay professional essay writers whose work invariably takes on detectable patterns across students, or to simply plagiarize even small portions of their essays will be flagged by the software.
It's unfortunate that such software even needs to exist. As I said last year,
"I tend to romanticize the college application process. I remember how much effort I put into my essays and personal statements, my carefully considered sources of recommendation letters, my nervous interviews."
However, in an age where literally anything you want (including seemingly reusable college application essays) can be found with a bit of Googling, iParadigms has found themselves quite a market.