Thursday, March 08, 2007

On Ucas, Plagiarism and Pyjamas

The BBC carried an interesting story yesterday that brings together someof the issues facing those of us interested in Higher Education and Web 2.o.

Ucas commissioned research from CFL software development, a company who describe themselves as "specialists in finding similarities between documents and the detection and prevention of collusion and plagiarism"

CFL were asked to analyse the application forms of 50,000 prospective Oxbridge students of veterinary science, medicine and dentistry. The results are fascinating but I'm not sure what they tell us or what is to be done.

5% of these forms carried personal statements containing material copied / material from the web; that's 2500 forms! Of those nearly 800 drew on exemplar material to be found on a free advisory website, which carries advice on "Writing a Personal Statement"

Within this guidance can be found the following sentences.

"From looking at example personal statements you have probably found some language which you like or think works well. The first thing to remember is don't directly copy any of it - not even a single sentence! The reason is, copying statements is plagiarism, and if an admissions tutor sees a statement they recognise they will probably reject you instantly. You should also not copy single sentences for the same reason, sentences which stick out in your mind, may stick out in the examiners also. It is ok to find a sentence or paragraph which is saying what you want to say and adapt it to fit yourself though."

Despite that "CFL found :-
  • 370 sentences contained a statement beginning: "a fascination for how the human body works..."
  • 234 contained a statement relating a dramatic incident involving "burning a hole in pyjamas at age eight"
  • 175 contained a statement which involved "an elderly or infirm grandfather"."
You can read the originals here!

It appears that Ucas does not intend to take any action against the applicants caught copying. One can only hope that university admission tutors are aware of this work and can make their own judgements when reviewing this years' applicants for places at Oxbridge Schools of medical, veterinary and dental science!

Higher Education admission tutors, prospective students and parents can learn from this story. Children in pyjamas should not be allowed to play with chemicals or surf the net unsupervised!

CFL point to the same story being reported by the Evening Standard and the Telegraph.


  1. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u...


  2. Writing a grad school personal statement will be a frightening and troublesome task. you're merchandising yourself and making an attempt to let the admissions representatives recognize WHY you must be chosen over different qualified candidates. veterinary personal statement

  3. Thank you so much for writing this article. It is a really good one. And what about plagiarism. The problem is, peopple (and especially students, who face this all the time) are not experienced in writing. Moreover, they are not interested in that. From the one side, it is understandable, as writing is not an easy deal, it requires a lot of time, energy, patience and a knowledge about which structure and format should be used, how to handle UCAS plagiarism for example, which style is appropriate. But from the other site, the Internet is full of tips and hacks. Much time should be given to learning writing.