I am an experienced Computer Science academic, best known for research work into academic integrity, plagiarism and contract cheating. I have held leadership positions in several universities, with specialty in student recruitment and keen interest in working in partnership with students.
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One of the more interesting inter-disciplinary topics I’ve been involved with is that of cheating in healthcare. This covers examples that we’ve found in our research, ranging across nursing, pharmacy, medicine and other health disciplines.
I got the chance to present some of the findings from that research at a talk that formed part of the Pedagogies, Practitioners and Identities in Education Conference 2015. This conference was held at Birmingham City University, with a particular focus in both the health and education disciplines.
The slides for the talk are available for access. These can be viewed on my SlideShare account, or viewed below.
In the talk, I shared several examples of what cheating in health and nursing looks like. This includes examples from essay mills, term paper mills and other contract cheating sites. Generally, original work produced by an external writer is hard to tell apart from original work produced by a student.
The talk closed with a lively and interesting discussion, mainly from the nurses in attendance. I got the impression that cheating in nursing education was not considered at all unusual by them, with examples given of both students committing plagiarism and contract cheating. It was an issue that they considered serious, particularly due to the implications of fitness for practice required for nursing careers.
During the research process for this talk, I found several new examples relating to the wider essay industry, the types of ghostwriters that are being employed and how they are trained to mass produce assessed academic work. I look forward to sharing this research when the right opportunity arises.
Here’s a visual word cloud representation of what I talked about in the video for Examining The Ease Of Buying Nursing Essays Online Through Essay Mills And Contract Cheating Sites.
The word cloud was created from the automatic transcription generated for the video by YouTube.
The transcription wasn’t completely accurate, as it messed up quite a few phrases and made a terrible job with people’s names. To be expected, I suppose. There are also a few words in small text in the word cloud which weren’t used in the video. But the general summary and relative importance of the more common words used looks pretty accurate.
It would be an interesting student project or programming project to look at automating the process of turning YouTube videos into word clouds. I wonder if the results would throw up any new ideas, methods to explore videos, or visualisation opportunities?
As part of our research into contract cheating, we collect a lot of examples of the ways that students have tried to cheat in different subject areas and academic disciplines.
Along with Robert Clarke, I wrote a paper for the International Teaching Learning and Assessment of Databases workshop (also known as TLAD). This paper looked at contract cheating and the wider area of plagiarism as it applies to database teaching and database modules.
Although I have a broad knowledge of the plagiarism literature, I’m not a database specialist, so this paper preparation was useful as it allowed me to explore this field. Two factors immediately grabbed me. First, there’s relatively little research into technical methods of detecting plagiarism in database modules, despite this being a large part of Computer Science and other Computing degrees. Second, where there were reported figures relating to the extent of cheating in database modules, these seemed high.
You can see more about what I discovered in the slides for the talk, which can be accessed on my SlideShare account, or viewed below.
I do think that there’s a lot more to do be done regarding plagiarism research specific to database modules. Some of the techniques used for text and for source code could be converted across to work with databases. There’s also a whole area relating to assessment design that’s worth a further look.
As often happens, the verbal presentation led onto an interesting discussion about the wider areas of plagiarism and contract cheating, including a chat about how easy essay spinning is (where a piece of text can be converted into a new version through an automated process). Another discussion looked at how reliable Turnitin is for computing education. Lots of areas to continue to explore.
Birmingham City University holds a research conference, Rescon, in December of each year, providing short accessible shorts from staff and PhD students about their research.
My session built on work presented to the Higher Education academy looking at how text matching algorithms supplied by Turnitin could be used as part of the attribution of contract cheating. This is the challenging process where a request to have assessed work completed can be found online, but the academic institution to which the work is associated is hard to identify.
The slides, can be accessed on my SlideShare account, or viewed below.
The talk led to a wide-ranging discussion about wider aspects of contract cheating, plagiarism and academic misconduct. There was clearly a lot of local interest in the use of Turnitin and the associated training as well as the reasons that students cheat and how that could be avoided.
The group also had a discussion about translation plagiarism. Although I did undertake some initial research on this a few year’s ago, this is still a problem and needs to be the topic of continued research. Several academics believed that they had seen attempts to cheat by taking work and automatically translating it into different languages. The actual behaviour that I have previously observed and researched is more subtle and this may also be something that I discuss in more detail on this site in the future.