Bottle of bubbly is won by our top plagiarism spotter

June 4, 2004

Congratulations go to Nigel Morris who is the winner of The Times Higher "spot the plagiarism" competition run last week.

Mr Morris, a senior media production lecturer in the faculty of media and humanities at Lincoln University, receives a bottle of champagne.

His 11th-hour entry correctly identified seven of the eight plagiarism clues planted in our fake essay. The essay was "written" by Chris Willmott, a biochemist at Leicester University, who has developed procedures for preventing and spotting plagiarism.

No one correctly identified what was arguably the single most obvious clue to plagiarism, which was that the first citation (Furlong and Gallen, 2004) was entirely bogus.

Furlong and Gallen are not, in this case, experts on genetically modified plants, but the Paul Furlong and Kevin Gallen who play for Dr Willmott's beloved football team Queen's Park Rangers.

The single most spotted clue in the piece was the change in narrative tone between the first two, somewhat vague and colloquial, sentences in the first paragraph to the third sentence, which is more business-like and technical.

Dr Willmott did not set any clues in the fourth paragraph although many entrants suggested oddities about it that raised their suspicions.

As was hinted at in last week's story, Americanisms, most obviously spellings, are very often clues that plagiarism is taking place. This is because student plagiarists often lift text from American sources they find on the web but forget to change spellings.

There were two American spellings in our fake essay as well as a couple of other pointers that the work had been plagiarised from over the pond.

The full solution to Dr Willmott's plagiarism puzzle will be available on The Times Higher's website from June 4, along with tips on how to spot and prevent plagiarism.

Many thanks to all who took part and to Dr Willmott.

Related story
Spot eight clues in this essay and win a bottle of bubbly
Solution to Dr Willmot's plagiarism puzzle

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