But You Can Fool Turnitin, Right? (Not Likely)

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In our last post we talked about the arms race unfolding between AI writing program users and AI plagiarism detection tools. Students and services like Turnitin play a constant game of cat and mouse as detection companies improve their programs to catch new ways of tricking them.

A surprising number of students (and essay mills) think they outsmart these systems and stay ahead of the game, fooling Turnitin and other tools with newer and more creative ways to avoid detection.

But the truth is, you’re gambling with a huge risk when you play that hand, and the odds are against you. Most likely, you’re going to lose.

That doesn’t stop people from trying, though. Strategies to fool plagiarism detection tools are always evolving. But the most common methods include the following:

1. Rewriting and Paraphrasing:

Heavily rephrasing or paraphrasing existing content.

  • Problem: Turnitin and similar programs are designed to detect paraphrased and reworded text by comparing sentence structures and word choices. This includes text produced by automated paraphrasing and article spinning programs.

2. Copy-Pasting and Manipulating Citations:

Copying text from various sources and altering citations or references to make them appear legit.

  • Problem: Plagiarism detection systems can usually identify this by analyzing the text’s source and citation patterns.

3. Using Unpublished Sources:

Using content from sources that are not available in Turnitin’s database, such as unpublished works or obscure websites.

  • Problem: Though this might sometimes avoid detection, it isn’t reliable. There’s no way to know exactly what is in a detection service’s database, and this won’t protect a student from traditional ways of identifying plagiarism.

4. Translating Content:

Translating writing from one language to another to try to bypass detection.

  • Problem: Sophisticated AI systems can identify this by comparing translated text to known sources.

5. Using Images or Graphs:

Including images, graphs, or other non-textual content to hide plagiarism has been shown, in limited instances, to avoid detection.

  • Problem: Services like Turnitin are already onto this and constantly fine-tuning their software to catch it.

What do some unsuccessful examples of this look like?

1. Space, The Final Font Here

Swapping all the spaces in an essay with invisible (white) text, e.g. like.this.but.with.the.periods.whited.out.

2. Trading Places

Replacing common, English-language letters with foreign language character, such as the English “e” with the Cyrillic language “e”.

3. Macros Masks

Using MS Word Macros or pdfs to disguise copied text.

4. I Swear “I Wrote This”

Putting quotation marks around an entire document.

5. Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

Inserting an image of the assignment text rather than the raw text itself.

Trying to fool AI plagiarism detection tools isn’t a game you want to play. This is clear for many reasons, most importantly the ethical and academic integrity issues involved.

If you or someone you know is facing a plagiarism accusation – whether legitimate or false, done intentionally or unintentionally – you’re most likely going to also face serious penalties, including suspension or dismissal. But you have options and there is support available. You don’t need to fight the accusations alone.

K Altman Law’s student defense team specializes in defending students against allegations of plagiarism and academic misconduct.

Visit the plagiarism section on our website or call us at (888) 984-1341 to learn more.

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