Automated Paraphrasing Tools: A growing threat to academic integrity
A review on the growing use of Automated Paraphrasing Tools as a threat to educational integrity seeks to understand the technology and how academia deals with the problem.
"Universities are going through a period of unprecedented disruption, and concerns regarding breaches of academic integrity can be seen as part of the wider context of social, economic, and technological changes in higher education,” says Dr Jasper Roe FHEA, Head of Department Language School at James Cook University in Singapore.
Dr Roe is referring to how the growth of technology has enabled us to manipulate information in ways that may result in academic misconduct — including plagiarism, cheating, lying, and deception. One key example, Dr Roe highlights, lies in Automated Paraphrasing Tools (APTs). Such tools “can help writers transform words, phrases, and entire sentences and paragraphs at the click of a button.”
He adds, “This allows students to copy a page of a textbook, an essay found online, or another piece of text, and pass it off as their own work.”
As these technological solutions become more sophisticated, it becomes increasingly difficult for text-matching anti-plagiarism software like Turnitin to identify and address plagiarism.
Given the ease of use of APTs, along with the uncanny writing they can produce, it stands to reason that some students may choose to make use of them. However, by doing so, students may not fully understand the information they have compiled, and end up learning close to nothing (if at all).
In addition, since APTs are overly reliant on Artificial Intelligence, they may still produce works of low overall quality. Mistakes from these tools may include irregular capitalisation of words and replacement of author names.
However, increased usage of these tools by students can provide the developers with data to refine APTs. In turn, the works that APTs produce may become more polished and harder to discern as plagiarism.
“Rather than focusing on a technological approach to resolving academic dishonesty, if we instead provide more effective training for our students, this could have much better outcomes for all concerned,” explains Dr Roe.
At the same time, APTs have been shown to help students learn a language, as well as how to use the language in the ways necessary for academic success. These tools have been successfully used in English language education. Thus, it is likely that students who do not have English as their first language have encountered them before.
In fact, non-native English writers may struggle with finding ways to paraphrase ideas, and tend to rely more heavily on copying from source material. Therefore, it is important to coach students in the correct use of both English and the range of tools in an academic environment to reduce plagiarism in a university.
Roe, J., Perkins, M. What are Automated Paraphrasing Tools and how do we address them? A review of a growing threat to academic integrity. Int J Educ Integr 18, 15 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-022-00109-w
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