Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Feed a Hungry Child While Improving Your Writing

Better Writing + Feeding Hungry Kids

Grammar Check
For the month of December, we want to empower patrons of PaperRater to make a difference in the world of someone in need while improving your writing.  So today we are announcing a partnership with GO Pantry, a charity that feeds needy children who slip through the cracks of other social institutions and programs within the United States.  Schools do a fabulous job of feeding children who are food-insecure via free or reduced lunch programs, but what about weekends and the summer?  The sad reality is that many of the most at risk children go without food for extended periods of time when school is not in session.  Through food drives, corporate sponsors, volunteers, and charitable individuals, GO Pantry sends "GO Boxes" and "GO Bags" full of food to children identified by their school as being the most at risk.

Make a Difference

If you've been on the fence about signing up for PaperRater, now is the best time to join!  For every new subscriber in December, we will donate $5 to GO Pantry.  Imagine the smiles that you put on the faces of children in need.  What could be better than that?

Learn more about GO Pantry   |   Learn more about the PaperRater checker

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Can paraphrasing be considered plagiarism?

Every writing task usually implies reading. Whether it's an academic paper, blog post or newspaper article, it rarely gets written from scratch. Even subject matter experts consult sources and other experts before writing.

In this situation, how do you draw the line between original and borrowed ideas? And if an external text has been rewritten in other words rather than simply copied, is it still plagiarized? Finally, do well-knownfacts require citation? In this article, we’ll give the answers to these and other important questions.
What is a paraphrase?
According to Merriam-Webster, a paraphrase is “a restatement of a text, passage, or work giving the meaning in another form.” In other words, authors who want to paraphrase someone's ideas should interpret them in a new way, yet keep the original meaning.
In academic papers, paraphrasing is preferred over quoting. By avoiding copying the exact wording, students get (and demonstrate) a deeper understanding of the subject. It makes sense to use quotation instead of paraphrasing only when an original text is so impactful that it would lose its value when rewritten.
Paraphrased text is plagiarized when
1. It doesn't contain proper acknowledgement. By re-expressing someone's idea in our own words, we don't make it ours. A reader should be able to distinguish our insights from those that belong to someone else. The right way to do that is to provide proper attribution to the relevant source. If authors don't give credit, they end up taking it and thus plagiarizing, whether it's been done intentionally or by accident.

2. It's too close to the original version. Paraphrasing is a fresh expression of an idea, not a trivial rewording. It's not enough to change some words here and there and leave the main text unaltered. Instead, authors should completely restate the original passage using their own vocabulary.

Superficial changes often consist of a simple synonym replacement or altered sentence order while keeping the original sentence structure. In academic writing, this situation may show that students don't have a significant understanding of the subject.

If an author fails to articulate an idea in a new way, then he is plagiarizing even if he's provided a reference. As a rule, good rewriting implies that there are no identical sequences consisting of 7 or more words. When checking for plagiarism with PaperRater's plagiarism checker, you can find a list of such matching phrases.
Paraphrased text is NOT plagiarized when
1. It's formatted properly. On the contrary, paraphrasing cannot be considered plagiarism when applied correctly. This means that an author should both cite an external source and use as few words as possible from it.

Quite often, rephrasing leads to a reinvention of the original idea. Therefore, when checking provided sources, it's a good idea to see if an author has actually succeeded in conveying the original meaning.

2. It describes widely-known facts

It's pretty clear that ideas and interpretations need to be cited, but what about well-known facts that can't be attributed to anyone? Let's say a paper contains this sentence: "Gravity was discovered by Sir Isaac Newton, an English mathematician and physicist who lived from 1642-1727." Yes, there are many similar and even identical phrases on the Internet, yet it cannot be considered plagiarized, as it's common knowledge.

While there's no clear boundary on what common knowledge is, the two general criteria are ubiquity and anonymity. Before considering a fact common knowledge, try to find it on five independent and reputable sources. If none of them gives a credit to a certain author, then it's common knowledge.
The bottom line
Paraphrasing can be both plagiarism and a way to avoid it. When correctly cited and expressed in original words, paraphrasing is absolutely legit and even welcome. If any of these conditions hasn't been met, then plagiarism has taken place. For example, if an author provides a reference but his language is too close to the original, it's plagiarism. Alternatively, even if an author distills a borrowed idea into his own words, he still needs to give credit rather than take it.

At the same time, paraphrased well-known facts can be used without citation and shouldn't be considered plagiarism, as they convey common knowledge. Practically everything we know and write about is somehow based on these facts. That's why when getting a plagiarism report, it's wise to check if matching phrases express stolen ideas or well-known facts.

This blog article was written by Linda Emerson from iSpringSolutions, an e-Learning software development company.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Announcing Free Premium EDU Subscriptions

Today is a historic moment in time for PaperRater.  It represents the convergence of our mission with the work we have put in to offer accessible automated writing instruction.  We began this mission several years ago by unrolling our AI proofreading and plagiarism checker for free -- something unheard of at the time.  We take the next step on our journey today by publicly announcing a 100% free subscription to our premium service available to schools.  Teachers and students can now get state of the art grammar checking, plagiarism detection, automated scoring, and automated writing instruction for FREE.  To schools that are already paying for similar services, this represents an opportunity to save thousands of dollars per year.  For institutions that could not afford the excessive costs of automated proofreading and plagiarism check, we now provide a free way to tap into these benefits of an indispensable tool for the modern writer.

How it Works

Our EDU subscriptions reduce the hassle that schools typically encounter when setting up services for their classrooms.  Our system does not require any logins, student rosters, or admin accounts, yet still provides premium benefits to both students and teachers.

Better than Basic
The premium service allows you to submit longer documents, receive enhanced plagiarism detection, access premium-only modules, and more.  Competing companies are charging as much as $8 per document for these same premium-level benefits.  Your students and teachers can gain access to this technology for free. To get started, email us with your contact info, name of institution, and number of students; and we will provide you with all the info you need to begin using our premium service.


Q:  What is the difference between the Free Premium and the Basic membership?
A:  For schools, both are free and ad-supported, but the Premium accepts longer documents, includes better plagiarism detection, and additional benefits listed here.

Q:  Are there limits on the size of the educational institution?
A:  We welcome schools of all sizes.  We work with high schools of 500 students and universities with 10,000 students.  All are welcome to signup.

Q:  This sounds neat, but I'm still confused by the whole thing.  What can I do to understand better how this works?
A:  If you are new to our service, please use our basic service first to understand how it works and what it does.  Missing premium features will be posted visibly throughout the basic service.  The Premium EDU subscription will function similarly to the basic service but with the premium benefits mentioned here.  More documentation on the Premium EDU service is here.

Q:  Are there any restrictions on which institutions can signup?
A:  This offer is for educational institutions and priority will be given to high schools, colleges, and universities within the United States and portions of Europe.

Additional Questions

Please don't hesitate to contact us with any additional questions that you have. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Automated Essay Scoring Updates

Today, September 23rd, 2015, we are rolling out the most significant change to our Automated Essay Scoring system in its history.  This involves many improvements summarized below:

  • Enhanced usage of grammar features in our predictive models
  • Ensemble methods for increased accuracy and reduced variability
  • Elimination of length bias
  • Additional predictors
  • More uniform distribution of scores
  • Incorporation of other Machine Learning and NLP techniques...
Although these changes represent an improvement in our AES technology, we recognize that classrooms as well as individuals may track changes in a score on a thesis or other written work over time, and that these changes could disrupt that process.  To mitigate this issue and ease the transition, we are blending the scores from our previous AES model with scores generated using our new scoring models.  As always, we welcome any feedback on the new scoring system.

We hope to continue with another round of major enhancements to the automated grader in the summer of 2016 when it will likely be less disruptive to most users of our service.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Anatomy of a Plagiarism Checker

If you've ever wondered how our plagiarism checker works on the inside or what our originality score means, then this article is required reading.  The green plus icon and the "100% originality" are a wonderful reassurance for writers that submit their work to our service, but what does it mean?  Similarly, if you receive an Originality of 70%, should you be concerned? Each of these questions will be answered as we take a look under the hood of our plagiarism detector.

A Daunting Task

When we say that we are checking for plagiarism, we are attempting to discover if portions of the given text might have been taken from other previously written texts.  Fifty years ago a teacher may be concerned that a work was taken from a book, or perhaps from another student in the same class or from a class years earlier.  Today, there are many reasons to want a measure of a text's originality, and this task is as daunting as ever.  While our ability to process text has improved dramatically from the scenario fifty years ago, so has the availability of text to would be plagiarizers.  In fact, the text that is publicly available on the Internet already exceeds trillions of pages and continues to grow exponentially.  The task of plagiarism detection is all about finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.  

How It's Done

For the curious, precise details of storing and rapidly searching massive amounts of text can be found under the field of Information Retrieval.  But for our purposes, high level details will suffice.  As stated earlier, we wish to search trillions of documents efficiently, so we turn to the companies that already do exactly this -- search engines.  Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo maintain the software and thousands of computers necessary to track, store, and search the massively growing index of Internet content.  They offer to us the ability to search their content via an API.  By using their search APIs, we tap into their vast data stores without the overhead of attempting to crawl the entire Internet ourselves.  

Specifically, when a document comes into our plagiarism detection service, we chop it up into small snippets of text and run a sample of those snippets through the search APIs. Consider the following snippets pulled from a paper on Abraham Lincoln:

  • Lincoln grew up on the western frontier in Kentucky
  • confronted Radical Republicans, who demanded harsher treatment of the South
  • remaining land he held in Kentucky in
  • became an able and successful lawyer with a reputation as a formidable
  • compensation for the owners, enforcement to capture fugitive slaves
  • ....
Imagine pulling 100 snippets from this document and then running a Google phrase search on each of these snippets.  How many of the 100 snippets would match a document on the Internet?  Since these excerpts of text come from the Wikipedia page, we would expect all (or nearly all) of them to have at least that page in the search results.  If these excerpts came from a completely original source, then we would expect all of the search results to come back with no matches (or perhaps a few false positives).  This is approximately the approach taken by our plagiarism detection service.  The originality score that you receive is represented by this simple formula:

1 - (Number of Searches with Matches / Total Number of Searches)

According to this formula, the originality is 0% when all of the searches have matches, which is exactly what we expect. Now this is a simplified overview of what is actually a much more complicated process, but it conveys a general appreciation of the methodology used at PaperRater.

Checking Against Past Submissions

One question we receive from time to time is whether past submissions are used in calculating the originality score.  The answer is 'No', but this deserves an explanation.  Sites like TurnItIn bank previous submissions and check against these in addition to using search APIs.  This creates concerns for false positives as well as privacy that we would rather avoid.  Imagine submitting an original paper to our service before you turn it in and then being accused of plagiarism when your teacher checks it with the same service one week later.  Rest assured that PaperRater checks papers using only the search APIs.