You’ve probably heard of the new anti-plagiarism software that can detect a different writing style. Worried about it? Relax – it’s unlikely to change much. Here are two reasons why.
Firstly, such systems will cause lots of false alarms. Here is Cindy Chan. She came to the UK with rather poor English. Struggling through her first year, she spent the next summer honing her English skills. In September she comes back to the university and produces drastically improved work.
The system detects an uncommon writing style, supposedly too good for this student. But Cindy can easily dispel the suspicion by producing another writing sample in the tutor’s presence.
The tutor has lots of other students. Some may be working as hard as Cindy to improve their writing. The system will be triggered each time they make a good progress. Annoyed by the ‘false positive’ results, the tutor will eventually turn the system off or stop taking it seriously.
Secondly, the new software falls short of its main purpose – detecting those who abuse writing services. Here comes another student, Peter Smith. He uses the same ghost writer to do all of his assignments.
When Peter submits another paper, the system rings no bell. Why should it? The style matches perfectly since Peter keeps hiring the same writer.
These two problems will likely lead to the new software being abandoned soon or simply ignored. It’s no revolution, just a ripple.