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What is the purpose of paraphrasing? And when can students and educators recognize when it's become problematic?
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Plagiarism changers, word spinners, text spinners, and the like are part of an ever-evolving challenge to academic integrity. By taking existing text and, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and other applications, AI-powered plagiarism changers adjust words and phrases with the intent of evading plagiarism detection software.
Shortcut solutions prey on students with a lack of sophisticated knowledge, marketing themselves as “plagiarism free,” when in fact they are—in the case of essay mills—another form of misconduct or—in the case of plagiarism changers and text spinners—still committing plagiarism when ideas aren’t attributed, regardless of phrasing. These tools take advantage of stressed students who don’t understand nuances.
An unpleasant but true observation: when it comes to “plagiarism free,” they mean to say they evade plagiarism detection or similarity checking rather than adhere to academic integrity principles.
Raising awareness is one of the first steps towards upholding academic integrity. To that end, we will discuss what AI plagiarism changers are, and how they work.
Plagiarism changers are in some ways a new word for tools called “word spinners” or “paraphrasing tools” or “text spinners.” With the advancement of AI, plagiarism changers are more sophisticated, using machine learning algorithms to transform existing content while maintaining coherence, going beyond the use of synonyms. This is troublesome, because plagiarism changers are often used with the intention of avoiding plagiarism detection when not accompanied with citation.
“Article spinning” is a related term for plagiarism changers: article spinners rephrase entire manuscripts and retain the original meaning and ideas. Using them can also violate copyright laws, because writers are not producing their own original ideas and simultaneously not attributing prior work.
When plagiarism changers are used, the appearance of the words change, but the meaning remains the same; reusing these ideas without citations or attribution is a form of plagiarism called “paraphrasing plagiarism,” and may qualify as deliberate or intentional plagiarism. On the other hand, when students paraphrase original work on their own and forget to attribute, that may qualify as accidental plagiarism. Nevertheless, without attribution they are all forms of plagiarism, regardless of intent, as the writer is representing someone else’s ideas as their own.
On the other hand, when writers correctly cite their sources, paraphrasing is not plagiarism.
However, by shortcutting the process by which students learn how to paraphrase and attribute, plagiarism changers directly impact learning outcomes. It is important for students to learn how to write and properly paraphrase as well as distinguish when to cite and how to do so, in order to learn to absorb and then synthesize original thoughts, uphold academic integrity, academic reputation, and function as a “good academic citizen,” which is a precedent for future workplace behavior (Guerrero-Dib, et. al., 2020).
Some plagiarism changers and text spinners are subscription-based while others offer their services for free. Their quality runs the gamut and they are widely available online.
As with essay mills, higher fees may mean better quality products; as a result, those who have the means to pay for a more sophisticated text spinner like those backed with more sophisticated AI, may be able to avoid detection and thus, discipline. This may contribute to the widening inequality gap in education.
Plagiarism changers market themselves as “time-saving,” “easy,” “helpful,” “effective,” and most problematically, “plagiarism-free.” The corresponding audience for this messaging are writers, students, and researchers who are pressed for time, stressed, and struggling, precisely the people who need the most help.
Oftentimes, too, paraphrasing tools advertise themselves to professional and marketing writers, which can confuse students and muddy the waters. If other writers use plagiarism changers, why can’t they? It’s important to distinguish that students are in a learning process. However, even for professional writers utilizing paraphrasing tools, there are issues around copyright and plagiarism when work isn’t attributed.
AI plagiarism changers rely on the principles of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to analyze and comprehend the original content they are presented with. NLP is a branch of artificial intelligence that focuses on enabling computers to understand and process human language.
To begin the process, AI plagiarism changers utilize algorithms to break down the original content into its constituent parts, such as sentences, phrases, and words. They then apply various NLP techniques, including syntactic and semantic analysis, to decipher the underlying meaning, context, and structure of the text. This then makes for a more sophisticated output than word spinners that simply substitute synonyms.
When paraphrasing tools are powered by NLP, their output can be remarkably sophisticated, more so than old generation word spinners and text spinners. This is a cause for concern when AI plagiarism changers are misused.
Syntactic analysis involves examining the grammatical structure of the content. It helps the AI system identify parts of speech, sentence boundaries, and the relationship between words and phrases. By understanding the grammatical structure, the system can generate new variations of the text while maintaining coherence and readability.
Semantic analysis, on the other hand, delves deeper into the meaning of the original text. It enables the AI system to grasp the intended message, interpret the nuances, and identify key concepts and relationships within the content. This understanding allows the system to generate new versions that convey similar ideas but use different vocabulary or sentence structures.
AI plagiarism changers employ complex algorithms that combine syntactic and semantic analysis with machine learning techniques. These algorithms learn from vast amounts of training data, including pre-existing texts, to develop an understanding of language patterns and generate contextually appropriate variations.
By utilizing these algorithms, AI plagiarism changers can generate entirely new versions of the text that may differ significantly from the original while preserving the underlying meaning. These variations can involve paraphrasing, sentence restructuring, synonym substitution, or reorganization of ideas. The purpose is to create content that appears original and unique, making it challenging for plagiarism detection software to flag any similarities with existing sources.
The effectiveness of AI plagiarism changers lies in their ability to produce content that evades traditional plagiarism detection methods, which often rely on direct textual matches or similarities. By generating variations that are less likely to be detected, these tools pose a significant challenge to traditional plagiarism detection software and algorithms.
We were curious what ChatGPT, a popular LLM, would say about plagiarism changers. Being a common AI tool among students for shortcutting assignments, ChatGPT may be an information resource for students curious about AI-powered plagiarism changers. If students are looking to ChatGPT for answers, what is the information they receive?
According to ChatGPT:
“Plagiarism, the act of using someone else's work or ideas without proper attribution, has become a pervasive issue in educational institutions. However, with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), innovative solutions are being developed to address this problem.
AI plagiarism changers are sophisticated software applications that utilize the power of machine learning algorithms to transform and rephrase existing written content while preserving its meaning and coherence. These advanced systems are designed to help students, researchers, and writers avoid plagiarism by generating unique and original content from existing sources.
The use of AI in combating plagiarism represents a significant step forward in promoting academic integrity.”
Upon first reading, ChatGPT’s statement is utterly confusing; ChatGPT’s response is very wordy, turns a blind eye to contributing facts, and is ultimately self-promoting. Upon closer examination, ChatGPT manipulates concepts by saying that AI plagiarism changers “solve” plagiarism issues and “help students avoid plagiarism.” ChatGPT doesn’t actually say plagiarism changers uphold academic integrity as a whole. Notice too, that it completely overlooks the importance of citation. Its statement is very shallow. ChatGPT’s definition of AI plagiarism changers is similar to the way in which essay mills gaslight their audience by engaging with wordplay to take advantage of writers who may have gaps in understanding of academic integrity.
For vulnerable students, this messaging is dangerous. As more and more people ask ChatGPT for advice and input, false and/or incomplete information may be ingested.
AI-powered paraphrasing tools are more robust than ever. We addressed older generation plagiarism changers (e.g., word spinners, text spinners, or paraphrasing tools) in a prior post about word spinners. In that same post, we provided an example about the work produced by these paraphrasing tools.
“While the goal of word spinners is to retain the meaning of the original text, they don’t always succeed. And they certainly don’t replicate the student’s authentic voice. However, if a student uses word spinners throughout a course, instructors won’t be able to have insights into the student’s authentic writing style and voice.”
Original text run through an older generation word spinner:
“While the objective of word spinners is to hold the significance of the first content, they don't generally succeed. Also, they positively don't reproduce the understudy's credible voice. Be that as it may, if an understudy utilizes word spinners all through a course, teachers will not have the option to have bits of knowledge into the understudy's genuine composing style and voice.”
As you can see, the work of the older generation word spinner is awkward and shows a very obvious shift in command of language.
On the other hand, current AI-powered plagiarism changers produce disturbingly legitimate-looking output. The same text, when paraphrased by an AI-powered paraphrasing tool reads:
“Although word spinners aim to preserve the original text's meaning, they don't always succeed. And they most definitely don't capture the student's true voice. But if a student consistently employs word generators, teachers won't be able to discern the student's true writing voice and style.”
That said, there is certainly an authorial voice shift. When instructors have prior student work with which to compare paraphrasing tool output, it may be very obvious when students use AI-powered plagiarism changers.
AI plagiarism changers, when represented as a student’s own work, is a form of misuse and paraphrasing plagiarism. The act of learning how to paraphrase is an important skill to learn and encompasses the ability to absorb concepts, evaluate them, analyze, and synthesize original thoughts. A dependence on AI paraphrasing tools shortcuts this learning.
Furthermore, when ideas aren’t attributed or cited, the act of paraphrasing constitutes paraphrasing plagiarism; AI paraphrasing tools take advantage of students who aren’t aware of these nuances and market themselves as “plagiarism free.”
Recent versions of AI paraphrasing tools are more sophisticated than ever. And most problematically, can better evade detection and thus, decrease the opportunities for instructor intervention and shortcut student learning. It’s important to be aware of AI-powered paraphrasing tools and ensure that students are producing their own work so that learning outcomes can be accurate and upheld.