TL; DR: Created by Turnitin, iThenticate is a comprehensive, web-based plagiarism prevention tool used to ensure the originality of content in advance of publication. In just seconds, the intuitive platform uses algorithms to compare submitted manuscripts with a robust database of existing content, including more than 45 billion web pages. With a forward-thinking focus on combatting new forms of contract cheating, iThenticate is working to ensure a future of authenticity in written works.
A spike in plagiarism has sparked an arms race between proponents of intellectual integrity and those looking to circumvent the system.
While advancements in technology have given rise to a growing plagiarism-detection industry designed to prevent misconduct, the widespread availability of information has made it easier than ever to act on dishonest intentions.
The folks behind iThenticate, a cloud-based plagiarism detection platform, know this all too well. “Each time a new tool is introduced, people will find a way to work around it,” said Amanda Zeligs Hand, Senior Marketing Communications Manager at Turnitin.
Turnitin, founded in 1998 by UC Berkeley students as a peer-review application intended for universities, launched iThenticate in 2004 to serve the professional market.
“We realized that universities weren’t the only groups that needed to prevent plagiarism, so we introduced iThenticate as a corporate solution for Turnitin’s plagiarism-checking features,” Amanda said. “We brought it to market to benefit professionals, research organizations, scholarly publishers, news agencies, and government agencies, among others.”
In 2007, iThenticate formed an exclusive partnership with Crossref that enabled the company to expand its reference database. “The exclusive partnership allows us to check submitted works against journal articles, conference proceedings, and books that are behind a paywall and not accessible via traditional search engines,” Amanda said.
Today, the worldwide team continues to provide customers with an intuitive way to verify the originality of content before publication. The easy-to-use web app can be accessed from any internet-enabled device and includes flexible payment options. With ongoing product evolution, including efforts to detect contract cheating, iThenticate is making its mark on the future of plagiarism prevention.
A Reliable, Web-Based Plagiarism Prevention System
The consequences of plagiarism are far-reaching, ranging from damaged reputations and severed careers to financial penalties and legal repercussions. Intellectual dishonesty may also spur negative effects on our society at large. Amanda said iThenticate uses its experience combatting plagiarism in the educational field to shape the company’s road map for the integrity landscape as a whole.
“We see a clear link between education and business,” Amanda said. “Plagiarism patterns emerging in schools right now may translate to the workforce, possibly affecting businesses down the line. That informs our development processes more than anything.”
Though the company serves a large pool of scholarly publishers, its solutions are well-suited for a wide range of customers. “This is really a corporate solution, and it’s very easy to adopt,” Amanda said.
Customers include online content creators looking to safeguard their reputations — including major players like Wikipedia, which runs its articles through iThenticate to verify originality. “The perception of Wikipedia in the minds of academics has altered over the years,” Amanda said. “Now, it is a trusted resource, and they want to uphold their articles to the same standards that we would uphold any other publication.”
Publications such as the Journal of Medical Biochemistry proudly display the iThenticate badge to add a layer of authority through brand recognition. “When people see the iThenticate badge, they know that the content has been checked against this vast database that we have, and they trust that the content produced is the original and properly cited,” Amanda said.
An Intuitive Platform with Usage-Based Fees
The most effective platform is worthless if it’s too difficult to use, which is why iThenticate was designed to provide side-by-side comparisons of uploaded content juxtaposed with matching sources in iThenticate’s database — all in just seconds.
According to a demonstration video, iThenticate rates each comparison by the system’s similarity index, a percentage that indicates the amount of text in the submission that matches various sources in the database.
Amanda said the platform is available as standalone software, but it also fits seamlessly into existing workflows. “There’s an API you can integrate directly into an existing content management system — you can just use the API to plug iThenticate into the tools that you’re already using as a part of your editorial process to check a piece of content for plagiarism,” she said.
Organizations that wish to use the software on an ongoing basis may purchase an annual license, but subscriptions are not required. For example, a graduate student looking to run his or her thesis through the service for peace of mind can buy an individual package for $100. The fee would cover the submission of one manuscript containing 25,000 words or fewer. Alternatively, users may check multiple documents with a three-credit package of up to 75,000 words for $300.
“This might be a use case for an individual writer,” Amanda said. “A scholarly publisher of an academic journal, on the other hand, would have a subscription. We would be an integral part of their editorial process.”
Machine Learning and AI Experts Ensure Integrity of Content
Amanda told us the global team at Turnitin runs iThenticate. The company, headquartered in Oakland, California, also has offices in Austin and Pittsburgh. Worldwide, the company spans the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, India, and South Korea.
“We’re a pretty big group, and we do have a lot of developers,” Amanda said. “For our new technologies, we have machine learning experts, as well as artificial intelligence experts, who specialize in creating algorithms that help ensure academic integrity and prevent plagiarism.” The staff also includes an instructional support team made up of former educators.
Amanda said the company’s worldwide presence provides broad cultural perspectives on plagiarism. “We view ourselves as a global company and understand that in different regions of the world, a recognition of the importance of original work and original thinking varies,” she said. “But we definitely feel like we have a variety of solutions that can fit markets of varying maturity levels — and we’re happy that all of those perspectives contribute to the tools that we create.”
From a corporate perspective, Amanda said it’s important for institutions worldwide to implement certain practices and policies surrounding the tool to promote an environment of original work. “It should be clear that the plagiarism checking process is not a punitive moment, but actually a learning moment that’s part of a larger culture of integrity and original work,” she said.
Helping Tackle Hard-to-Detect Contract Cheating
Regarding the aforementioned plagiarism arms race, Amanda said Turnitin is always looking to strengthen iThenticate, and other product offerings, such as Feedback Studio and the forthcoming Authorship Investigate, in step with ever-evolving plagiarism tactics. As advanced forms of cheating emerge, the company’s goal is to create new tools to help institutions and brands combat new problems.
“One of the challenges that we’re currently tackling — and this is an education industry problem — is this notion of contract cheating, which is when students hire or engage third parties to complete an assignment for them,” she said.
Amanda said this is a unique form of plagiarism, as the purchased content is technically original and undetectable using traditional plagiarism detectors. But Turnitin has found a way to fight back with a new solution that will be released early this year.
“The behavior of purchasing essays that are written by third parties affects not just students in school, but also the quality of future workforces,” she said. “We’re really proud of the work that we’ve done to tackle this new form of cheating that’s very hard to detect.”