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AI plagiarism changers: How academic leaders can prepare institutions

Part 2 of 2

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager






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In a previous post, we discussed AI plagiarism changers and how they work to capture vulnerable students in addition to how they utilize Natural Language Processing (NLP) to paraphrase text in even more sophisticated ways. When compared to older generation paraphrasing tools like word spinners and text spinners, AI-powered paraphrasing tools are powerful and produce language that looks natural and original.

More problematically, AI-powered plagiarism changers are often used with the intent of evading plagiarism detection; in fact, they’ re often marketed as “plagiarism free” to stressed and vulnerable students and writers unaware of the nuances of academic integrity and the spectrum of misconduct.

When students use these tools and develop a dependency on AI-powered plagiarism changers, they shortcut their own learning, diminish the meaning of a diploma, and make institutions vulnerable to scandal.

So how can institutions safeguard themselves from the evolving landscape of academic misconduct? And in this case, AI-powered plagiarism changers? We’ll discuss their impact on academic reputations and ways to mitigate the negative impact of plagiarism changers at institutions in this blog post.

What are the dangers of AI plagiarism changers?

It is important to be aware of the potential dangers AI plagiarism changers pose. Here are some key concerns associated with AI plagiarism changers:

Encouraging academic dishonesty

One of the primary dangers is that AI plagiarism changers may encourage academic dishonesty. These tools can provide an easy and convenient way for students to bypass plagiarism detection systems and represent the work as their own. This undermines the principles of academic integrity and the value of original thought and research.

Diminishing learning opportunities

When students rely heavily on AI plagiarism changers, they miss out on the opportunity to develop essential skills such as critical thinking, research proficiency, and effective writing. By depending on AI-generated content, students may not fully engage in the learning process or gain a deep understanding of the subject matter.

Increasing ethical concerns

The use of AI plagiarism changers raises ethical questions. While they may technically help students avoid detection, they do so by promoting deception and dishonesty. Students who misuse these tools compromise their own ethical growth and risk tarnishing their academic reputation.

Devaluing authentic assessment

AI plagiarism changers can undermine the value of authentic assessments that aim to evaluate students' originality, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. When students rely on AI-generated content, it becomes challenging for educators to assess their true understanding and skills accurately.

Producing inaccurate and poor-quality content

Despite their capabilities, AI plagiarism changers are not infallible. They may produce content that is grammatically correct but lacks coherence or clarity. This can result in lower-quality work that fails to convey the intended message effectively. Additionally, the automated nature of these tools may lead to inaccuracies or misinterpretations in the generated content. In other words, it produces factually incorrect content.

Developing a cat-and-mouse game with plagiarism detection

As AI plagiarism changers evolve, so do plagiarism detection systems. This creates a constant battle between those developing plagiarism detection software and those developing AI tools to circumvent them. It becomes a race to outsmart each other, making it challenging to maintain a balanced and reliable system for ensuring academic integrity.

Raising intellectual property concerns

AI plagiarism changers raise concerns about the infringement of intellectual property rights. When these tools generate new variations of existing content, there is a risk that they may inadvertently produce work that infringes on copyright or plagiarism rules.

To mitigate these dangers, it is essential to educate students on the responsible use of technology, foster a culture of academic integrity, and implement comprehensive policies and guidelines that address the ethical use of AI plagiarism changers.

How do plagiarism changers affect the reputation of academic institutions?

Multiple research reports spanning thirty years find that academic misconduct in school is an indicator for future deviance whether in the workplace or in the leadership role of a country as in the case of Orosz’s research (Mulisa, et. al., 2021, Guerrero-Dib, et al., 2020, Orosz, et. al., 2018, Grym & Liljander, 2017, Ma, 2011, Graves, 2008, Harding, et. al., 2004, Nonis & Swift, 2001, Sims 1993).

According to Graves, “The high correlation between cheating and workplace deviance has tremendous implications for both employers and academicians. Students who cultivate a cheating mentality in the academic arena will more than likely demonstrate the same behavior in the workplace…This study’s findings are similar to those of other studies focusing on the relationship between cheating and unethical behavior in the workplace. Students who cheat on tests and/or homework in high school and/or college are more likely to engage in property- and production-deviant activities than their counterparts who do not cheat.” (2008, p. 21).

Moreover, academic integrity scandals can devalue the meaning of a diploma and higher education. An opinion article in Times Higher Education concludes, “Authorship fraud is probed much less often by investigators—partly because it is so hard to prove. But it, too, needs more attention and greater sanction. The public needs to be able to trust that someone calling themselves an academic doctor has some relevant research and analytical skills. Otherwise, who would bother to genuinely acquire such skills by doing a doctorate the legitimate way?” (Bloch, 2021).

Bloch’s statement about authorship pertains to plagiarism changers in that not only do these tools contribute to paraphrasing plagiarism but also shortcut learning and authenticity. If the researcher themself is not doing the writing (such as in the case of article spinners), then the research itself (as well as the institution they represent) is in question. If the student themself is not absorbing ideas, synthesizing their own original ideas, and then writing them down in a cohesive way, they then do not graduate with these skills intact.

Misuse of plagiarism changers—using them to avoid detection and thereby omitting citations and thereby enacting paraphrasing plagiarism—is an example of deliberate academic dishonesty. And cause for concern.

How to mitigate the negative impact of AI plagiarism changers

While research has found that prior academic misconduct is a predictor of future workplace misbehavior, the opposite can also be true. Raising awareness of academic integrity and instilling a deep understanding of what academic integrity entails can inform future ethical behavior. In doing so, institutions can safeguard their academic reputations and ensure that students go on to contribute in a positive way to society.

Guerrero-Dib states, “It can be stated that a part of a professional’s ethical behaviour is related to their awareness of the risks or severity of getting involved in academic dishonesty, as well as having the opportunity to engage in these acts. For this reason, it is not enough to convince students of the importance of following integrity criteria, it is also necessary to create an environment where cheating or deceptions are very difficult to practice. It is essential that students are convinced to act with integrity during their college years and that they are made aware of the risks or penalties that come with not doing so. This will strengthen a positive behavioural pattern in different contexts of their lives, and encourage them to become ethical professionals, business people, and citizens” (2020).

Mulisa’s research also supports the idea that demonstrating academic integrity early on in education can fortify future ethical behavior. “As a result,” they state, “tolerating dishonest behaviors in college seems to support dishonest students who may continue to be dishonest in the future. Thus, maintaining academic integrity in college may increasingly contribute to the credibility of the workplace” (2021).

Secondary and higher education institutions are where students not only learn about the content of coursework but also ethical behavior and appropriate conduct within society. As Guerrero-Dibs puts it, a campus is “a favorable environment to train individuals and promote ethical behavior, meeting its commitment to the community and the world to develop more ethical and engaged citizens who do things well in all aspects of their lives” (2020). When institutions don’t promote academic success over academic integrity, they have the opportunity to foster healthy and contributing citizens.

Upholding academic integrity engages multiple levels of an institution, from instructor participation to campus-wide policies. Educators at all academic levels can openly state that cheating is unacceptable and make clear consequences of academic dishonesty. Furthermore, institutions with a written policy that explicitly defines misconduct and consequences can help align students to institutional values. According to Graves, “Research indicates that the best alternative is for educational institutions to implement and strictly enforce an honor code. Even modified honor codes prove to be a successful deterrent” (2008).

The next section delves more deeply into each of the actions an institution can take to uphold academic integrity and prepare for AI-powered paraphrasing tools and plagiarism changers.

How administrators can prepare their institutions for AI plagiarism changers

Academic integrity is best upheld when students, faculty, administrators and policymakers work together as a whole. Students have to have a deep comprehension of academic integrity, the short and long-term consequences of academic dishonesty, and understand why academic integrity is important. Faculty members also model academic integrity by offering fair assessments, discussing academic integrity issues and policies with students, and by intervening when appropriate. Administrators build a culture of academic integrity by maintaining and enforcing academic integrity policies. Finally, policymakers develop and update academic integrity policies as well as adopt technology that helps fortify a culture of academic integrity (Mulisa, 2021). Other researchers, too, like the work of Kenny and Eaton, also encourage multi-stakeholder intervention when it comes to academic integrity (Kenny & Eaton 2022).

What follows are some of the ways to prepare institutions for AI-powered paraphrasing tools:

Establish a culture of academic integrity

A major factor determining whether a student will cheat or not is the academic culture of the specific institution that he or she attends, according to leading academic integrity researchers McCabe, Trevino, and Butterfield (1993, 1999). A culture of academic integrity is defined “By setting high standards for trust, respect, responsibility, and accountability on every level,” and “ensures that students are developing the professional knowledge and personal integrity that is deeply valued in the workplace” (Campbell, Turnitin, 2021). Creating a culture of academic integrity combats the disruption of program delivery, sense of disaffection and distrust among students and faculty, and scandals that threaten reputations (Saddiqui, 2016).

Raise awareness of AI-powered paraphrasing tools and plagiarism changers

By acknowledging their existence via explicit instruction and policy, educators communicate their awareness to students and can head off misuse of AI-powered paraphrasing tools. Additionally, address the nuances around paraphrasing tool usage and ensure that students have the knowledge to understand and combat the manipulation tactics of paraphrasing tools. Vulnerable students often engage word spinners because the services use ambiguous language; show students that using paraphrasing without citation or attribution is still dishonesty and that learning to paraphrase is in and of itself an important skill.

Furthermore, educators themselves need to keep abreast of evolving trends in academic integrity. Thus, raising awareness benefits faculty and staff who can adapt teaching strategies, assessment methods, as well as develop classroom-level as well as contribute to institutional policies to evolving challenges like AI plagiarism changers.

Include paraphrasing in the teaching curriculum

According to Elaine Khoo, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, paraphrasing is challenging. In her 2021 ICAI panel entitled Investigating Undergraduates’ Perception of Academic Integrity and its Relationship to Their Reading-Writing Practice, she made the point that students, particularly ELL students, cannot tell the difference between text that should be paraphrased and text that contains common knowledge. Telling them to paraphrase without understanding this differentiation is inadequate instruction for promoting learning. And that what students need in order to understand how to paraphrase is “time and practice.” Explicit instruction, or telling students to cite sources or paraphrase, is not enough. “Missing is the recognition that students with limited academic language proficiency need support and feedback and practice and [it] takes time [for students to learn].”

Paraphrasing is a sophisticated writing skill. It requires that a writer interpret an idea and then restate it in writing to demonstrate Bloom Taxonomy’s higher orders of thinking, which encompass understanding, analysis, and evaluation. And it is important to include this skill development within the curriculum.

Plagiarism changers disrupt this process, according to research: “It is an important skill that needs to be introduced and developed in terms of written, visual and oral forms. The capacity of students and academics to rephrase, frame and restate the ideas and intentions of original authors themselves with appropriate acknowledgements of sources is fundamental to the principles of academic integrity and personal development. The proliferation of fee-based and free Internet-based tools designed to re-engineer text is a concern. Of greater concern is that tools contracted to identify original source materials cannot necessarily be used at this time to identify where writing has been repurposed” (Rogerson & McCarthy, 2017).

Teach research and citation skills

Emphasize the proper methods of conducting research, including finding reliable sources, evaluating information, and citing references accurately. By teaching students effective research and citation skills, educators equip them with the tools necessary to produce original work.

Increase transparency into student work

Encourage faculty to provide frequent, low-stakes assessments that provide insights into student learning. By observing student work through intermediate drafts or outlines, educators can track student progress, make appropriate interventions, as well as identify any inconsistencies in student work. Struggling students may feel seen and empowered to do their own work instead of turning to paraphrasing tools. Furthermore, having transparency into student work and authorial voice may help determine authorship if any situation escalates to an investigation.

Assign authentic assessments

Design assessments that require critical thinking, original analysis, and synthesis of ideas. Authentic assessments, such as projects, presentations, or problem-solving tasks, provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and creativity in ways that cannot be easily replicated or manipulated by AI plagiarism changers.

Research also recommends authentic assessments to combat shortcut solutions stating that, “As we learned from students and teachers, some examples of the topics of such assignments are writing a summary of a book, writing an informative essay about a famous writer or philosopher, solving a number of math problems etc. As such assignment topics are far from being authentic, they are very easy-to-plagiarize. In such an assessment design where exams are central to the evaluation of student performance, and assignments are given to increase student GPA, misconduct forms other than exam cheating, especially plagiarism, remain obscure. However, authentic assessments are essential tools to help students embrace the fundamental values of academic integrity, such as honesty, respect and responsibility” (Celik & Razi, 2023).

Celik and Razi further state that an “educative approach to academic integrity strives to raise awareness of students through activities that promote student involvement. Students are more likely to internalize academic integrity when they engage in academic integrity-related activities. Such activities allow students to be active researchers about academic integrity rather than being passive receivers of knowledge”

Another upside to authentic assessment is that with decreased misconduct, they are a more accurate measurement of student learning. If your institution has assessment software like Gradescope or ExamSoft, the data there can then accurately inform curriculum design.

Additionally, assessments that address higher-order thinking also encourage students to delve deeper in their learning and avoid temptations to use shortcut solutions like plagiarism changers.

An Inside Higher Education article affirms the above, stating that in the wake of paraphrasing tools, “We should consider how we can better design assignments to help students avoid the temptation to plagiarize. As John Warner suggests, having students respond to an assignment that allows them to personalize it from the perspective of their own lived experience or asking them to clearly demonstrate the steps they took as part of the process of the assignment can help curb the tendency to plagiarize. David Rettinger and Kate McConnell note the usefulness of assignments that promote higher-level thinking and metacognition. In my own experience, I have found it helpful to use very recent or lesser known texts as the focus of analysis, to construct distinct prompts that ask students to approach a writing assignment in a creative, original way unlikely to have been duplicated elsewhere, or to focus less on having a student produce a traditional essay and instead ask them to create a more meaningful, personal project that culminates in a video or presentation” (Steere, 2022).

Emphasize personal growth and learning

In addition to authentic assessment, shifting the focus from grades and performance to a growth mindset and a passion for learning can also mitigate academic dishonesty and misuse of AI-powered plagiarism changers. In fact, the “prioritization of academic success over academic integrity can lead to a normalization of unethical behavior at the institutional level and undermines a culture of academic integrity,” according to researchers Celik and Razi.

Encourage students to view assignments as opportunities for personal development, encouraging them to take pride in their original work and derive satisfaction from their own intellectual achievements. Consider advising faculty to steer away from grading on a curve or other practices that may increase competitiveness between students.

Set clear expectations

Clearly communicate your expectations regarding academic integrity and plagiarism; in the case of paraphrasing tools, include language about paraphrasing plagiarism. Provide detailed guidelines on what constitutes acceptable use (if at all), what defines misuse, the importance of citation, and the consequences of academic dishonesty. By setting clear expectations from the outset, educators can discourage students from resorting to unethical practices.

Being clear also helps students understand academic integrity and the nuances of plagiarism, especially when it comes to paraphrasing, which can easily be misunderstood.

Promote academic dialogue and feedback

Encourage open discussions about academic integrity, plagiarism, and the responsible use of technology. Foster an environment where students feel comfortable seeking feedback and guidance from educators and peers. Providing constructive feedback and engaging in dialogue about originality and ethics can reinforce the importance of academic integrity and build trust between educators and students.

Implement honor codes

If your institution does not yet have one, consider implementing an honor code around academic integrity. Honor codes are effective at upholding academic integrity. They make clear the expectations of your institution, define what constitutes misconduct, and provide detailed consequences for dishonesty.

On a holistic level, according to Miller, “Signing an honor code can, among other things, serve as a moral reminder. As we know from both ordinary life and recent experimental findings, most of us are willing to cheat to some extent if we think it would be rewarding and we can get away with it. At the same time, we also want to think of ourselves as honest people and genuinely believe that cheating is wrong. But our more honorable intentions can be pushed to one side in our minds when tempting opportunities arise to come out ahead, even if by cheating. What a moral reminder does, then, is help to place our values front and center in our minds” (Miller, The New York Times, 2020).

Donald McCabe, often referred to as the “founding father” of the field of academic integrity, found that honor codes mitigated cheating, with the caveat that this outcome depends on a peer environment that condemns dishonesty. Making students answerable to their peers (and potential professional peers) is one such strategy to expand the notion of personal accountability (McCabe, et. al., 2002).

Implement policies around AI

To strike a balance, it becomes essential for educational institutions to implement comprehensive academic integrity policies and guidelines regarding the use of AI plagiarism changers. Effective education and awareness programs should be developed to emphasize the importance of academic integrity, instill ethical values, and educate students on the responsible use of these tools.

According to McCabe and Drinan, “Lack of awareness of new educational trends affecting [sic] academic integrity on campuses. The first step in dealing with issues of academic dishonesty is often defining for students what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behavior. An outdated policy—one that doesn’t include new ways to define academic integrity in light of changing situations—is of little value to students” (Chronicle of Higher Education, 1999).

Turnitin created a resource for updating your academic policy in the age of AI.

Utilize similarity detection and AI detection software

As a backstop solution, administrators can incorporate AI detection software capable of detecting AI-generated content. While AI plagiarism changers can bypass traditional detection methods, more advanced plagiarism detection tools are emerging to identify subtle changes and alterations made by AI systems. Regularly check student submissions using reliable plagiarism detection software to identify potential instances of plagiarism.

By implementing these strategies, educators can create an environment that promotes academic integrity, empowers students to produce original work, and mitigates the risks associated with AI plagiarism changers.

Conclusion: How administrators can prepare their institutions for AI-powered plagiarism changers

As the field of AI continues to advance, so do the tools they power, from AI-powered paraphrasing tools to ChatGPT to grading software to AI-writing detection tools. Technology has always had a hand in academic integrity for better and for worse.

Raising awareness is a critical component of academic integrity; and while evolving challenges like sophisticated AI-powered paraphrasing tools can be alarming, the measures through which we mitigate misconduct have largely stayed steady. It is critical to continue fostering a culture of academic integrity at institutions and updating our language to ensure that students know we see what they do.