HELENA — The online plagiarism detection service iThenticate determined that U.S. Sen. John Walsh’s final paper at the U.S. Army War College had a similarity index of 79 percent.
This index indicates “how much of the document matches other sources,” the online services said. “Please note that iThenticate does not determine whether a manuscript contains plagiarism.
The Gazette State Bureau ran an electronic version of Walsh’s paper through iThenticate, which is used by corporations to detect plagiarism. It is part of IParadigms LLC of Oakland, which also operates two other similar websites, Turnitin, which helps professors detect plagiarism in students’ papers, and Plagiarism.org.
iThenticate’s website explained that it electronically compares an uploaded article to millions of others on the Internet, plus “more than 37 million published research articles from 500 plus global scientific, technical and medical publishers.” It said this cache “is larger than most university libraries maintain.”
David Parker, a political science professor at Montana State University, said he’s used Turnitin for two semesters to detect plagiarism in his students’ papers. He said Walsh’s “similarity index” is higher than any he’s seen from any students over the two semesters.
What if a student of Parker’s turned in a paper that wound up having a 79 percent similarity index?
“I would fail him,” Parker said. “That’s a problem. I’d probably charge him with plagiarism.”
He said a note would go in the student’s academic file. If the student received another “F” for cause, it would be grounds for instant dismissal from the university, Parker said.
The New York Times, which broke the story, said its examination of Walsh’s paper “indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.”