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Preventative software can't stop all kinds of cheating

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Insert catchy first line here, followed by a prepackaged second sentence and finish with a generic mission statement.

Plagiarizing content off the Internet has been a common practice among students since the information superhighway was invented. Turnitin.com was invented as a website that checks for the authenticity of documents against other web content. Now, Turnitin for Admissions, a branch of Turnitin.com, has paired with ApplyYourself, an online application site used for college admissions, to check the authenticity of applications, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

While fairly new, Turnitin for Admissions' first round of study results found similar language between personal statements.

Of 450,000 personal statements, 36 percent had a significant amount of similar language. Similar language was described in the article as having more than 10 percent of matching texts.

Turnitin for Admissions works by checking documents against both current and archived web content as well as previously submitted documents in ApplyYourself. The program also checks for recycled applications, purchased documents and other illegal sources. College admission officers can compare an applicant's work side-by-side with other documents and receive alerts when similar work appears.

Ultimately, the program acts as a gatekeeper to prevent false application practices.

In the case study of 360 applications to Pennsylvania State's MBA program, a total of 29 contained plagiarism, enough that one applicant's admission was revoked. If someone can't be academically honest when applying for a program, how can one expect that person to be academically honest while performing for that program?

A level of integrity must be upheld in order to ensure one fully understands the topic. Once this integrity is forfeited, the entire institution suffers. This isn't a small issue 8212; universities are ultimately liable if a student's work is published and it's found to be stolen.

This program would do wonders to increase the sincerity of the application process. If students knew their work was going to be checked even before they were accepted, they might lose the temptation to look in the first place.

The problem comes when we ask how many different personal mission statements there can be. There are only so many high ideals and appealing language combinations one can use before they all start to sound the same. What really qualifies as a match? Before checking applications for plagiarism becomes standard, the process needs to be refined.

Another issue is that of shadow writing, which is described as help on work from either a teacher or a parent. This is almost impossible to track or eradicate. The next step would be to figure out some way to stop it.

Overall, honesty is imperative in all levels of education. The only way to guarantee integrity is to have a zero-tolerance policy. TCU would do well to utilize this program, because it does not at the moment, according to an e-mail from Dean of Admission Ray Brown. Even with the controversy behind the plan, the first study results prove this is the next step in improving the higher education application process.

Bailey McGowan is a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Burkburnett.

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