Plagiarists Beware: M.B.A. Program Checks Essays for Copying

If you plagiarize, you won't win

You’re writing the dreaded “personal statement” essay on a grad school application, and somebody’s said what you are trying to in a much more eloquent way. You’re tired from the application process and you’re heavily considering secretly borrowing a paragraph or two from this article or that essay.

Well, if you were applying for the M.B.A. program at Penn State, you’d get yourself busted for plagiarism. There’s a new service called that checks students’ essays against previously published material, and it shows if the work’s not your own.

The New York Times reports that Penn State is the first school to use the service, but in light of its success, others can’t be too far behind. Turnitin conducted a trial run and found 70,000 “significant matches” to other writings out of 450,000 applicants’ essays–that’s about 15%.

The company doesn’t report phrases everyone uses in their essays as suspicious (e.g. “I want to study business because…”). If 15% of an essay corresponds to something already published, Turnitin marks it as suspicious. And it doesn’t only check for verbatim matches; word patterns in sentences, like if the words have been replaced with synonyms (e.g.  “Michigan” and “talentless”), can be picked up by Turnitin as well.

Maybe they would pick up this post if I submitted it, since I’ve pretty much been paraphrasing the Times throughout. That makes me a little nervous about not having a full bibliography in MLA format at the end of this. Oh well, if I get kicked out of school next week, I’ll know why…


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About the Author

Dan McCool

Dan is a senior and has been writing for Onward State since January 2010. Did you miss him? Nah, neither did we. He's returning after a semester abroad in England and will be serving as Arts Editor. Favorite things in life include references to The Big Lebowski.


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