Wikipedia Edits Get Student Paper-Style Plagiarism Check

The most cited source in secondary and higher education student papers is getting the same kind of plagiarism check those student papers often get. The non-profit Wikipedia has struck an informal, non-exclusive agreement with Turnitin to run the technology company's plagiarism checking software on the English version of the digital encyclopedia to identify potential copyright violations.

Turnitin's software is intended to help students learn how to use, cite and paraphrase source material properly as part of the process of improving their writing and critical thinking skills.

The Turnitin technology works alongside a copy-and-paste detection program developed by the Wikipedia community named EranBot. The addition of Turnitin to EranBot allows the latter to examine individual edits instead of just whole articles. Each day new edits are checked for potential copyright abuse. Those that require additional research by Wikipedia's army of volunteer editors are flagged and reported for follow-up.

"As an openly licensed free encyclopedia, Wikipedia respects copyright the same way traditional publishers do. In fact, each contributor in our community is a copyright owner who chooses to freely license his or her own work," said Jake Orlowitz, in a press release. Orlowitz is head of the Wikipedia Library, a program that helps its volunteer editors access reliable sources to improve the resource. "Turnitin now gives us access to a more sophisticated system for flagging potential copyright violations."

WikiEdu, the Wiki Education Foundation, which encourages college faculty to have their students contribute to the Wikipedia knowledge base as part of classroom assignments, is also working with Turnitin to check student edits through Wiki Ed's Classroom Program.

A 2011 research project by Turnitin's former owner, iParadigms, found that Wikipedia was the most popular plagiarized source for both secondary and higher education.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.