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QuickWire: A Booming Business Based on Plagiarism

Turnitin.com has conducted a “research study” of its own effectiveness in discouraging plagiarism, and perhaps not surprisingly it reported on Wednesday that it’s doing a great job.

“Colleges and universities using Turnitin reduced unoriginal writing by 39 percent over the course of the study,” the company said. The report is vague, however, about whether there was a lot of plagiarism to start with, or just a little. All it says for sure is that there’s less now.

What’s more interesting is that students at some 1,000 American colleges and universities where the plagiarism-detection service is in use submit 3.8 million assignments a year to Turnitin’s library, which in the past five years has added 55 million papers from American colleges. By any standard, that’s a whole lot of writing—and a whole lot of licensing revenue for Turnitin’s owner, iParadigms, which in 2012 said worldwide revenue reached $50-million.

The report also says, by the way, that instructors who use the site to grade papers digitally spend about 30 percent less time on grading than they would if they were grading on paper. So the eight million papers in the study that were digitally graded, the company claims, saved instructors a total of 91 years’ worth of grading time.

For good measure, the company also says that submitting papers digitally saved nearly 20,000 trees.

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