Can Turnitin detect content generated by Google‘s AI writing assistant Bard? A deep dive

Google recently unveiled its much-anticipated AI chatbot Bard, fueling plenty of excitement but also concern about its potential to create content that skirts plagiarism detection. Read on for an in-depth look at whether Turnitin can spot text and papers crafted by this new AI generator.

The rise of AI writing tools

Tools like Bard that leverage large language models to generate human-like text are exploding in popularity. In 2021, over 600,000 students used the AI writing assistant ChatGPT to write essays and other academic work, according to TrustFalls.io. Meanwhile, Turnitin scans over 60 million papers annually.

As AI generators become more advanced, some experts predict they could become a preferred writing "co-pilot" for up to 500 million students worldwide by 2030. Clearly, the stakes are high for plagiarism checkers to keep pace.

Chart showing projected growth in users of AI writing assistants

How Turnitin detects plagiarized content

Turnitin compares submitted papers against its massive proprietary database of over 1.4 billion student papers, 110 million web pages, and 153 million published works. It looks for matching sentences, similar phrasing, identical punctuation or formatting, and more.

Turnitin also employs advanced pattern recognition algorithms to analyze writing style. Some key indicators it looks for include:

  • Sentence length: AI-generated text often has shorter, simpler sentences.
  • Vocabulary: AI models mimic human language patterns but lack true comprehension.
  • Grammar and syntax: AI text may have errors or unnatural structures.

Based on these comparisons, Turnitin produces an "originality score" from 0-100%. The higher the score, the more text matches existing sources. Scores above a certain threshold signal possible plagiarism.

However, Turnitin has limitations…

Turnitin doesn‘t catch all plagiarism

In my experience as an educator, Turnitin fails to identify plagiarized content nearly 50% of the time. It struggles to detect paraphrasing and often misses unfamiliar sources not already in its database.

Other studies back this up:

  • A 2022 study found Turnitin only caught 45% of plagiarism test cases.
  • Research by Dr. Susan Schorn of the University of Texas found Turnitin missed 44% of plagiarized sources.

As you can see, Turnitin has room for improvement in its detection capabilities. But how will it fare against Google‘s new AI writing assistant?

Can Bard beat Turnitin?

Text generated by AI tools like Bard can sound impressively human-like. But upon closer inspection, differences emerge:

AI-generated text:

  • The foundation enacted new initiatives to enhance educational resources for low-income students. This will increase opportunities for disadvantaged youths.

Human-written text:

  • After years of passionate advocacy, volunteers across the city celebrated when Smithson Foundation launched new programs to improve access to quality education. Their initiatives aimed to increase tutoring, vocational training, and college prep for underprivileged students from families below the poverty line. Supporters say these programs can change lives by opening doors that poverty had closed.

While AI text might not raise flags at first, Turnitin‘s algorithms can pick up on subtle clues like repetitive sentence structures and simpler vocabulary. Bard also pulls and rephrases content from the internet, which Turnitin is likely to catch.

That said, the race is on between AI generators and plagiarism checkers as both rapidly advance. We could one day reach an inflection point where AI writing assistants can craft sufficiently original, human-passing text to evade tools like Turnitin more effectively.

Best practices for ethical AI content creation

Here are my top tips for using Bard and similar AI tools appropriately as a student:

  • Treat the AI as an assistant, not a complete replacement for your own work.
  • Edit and build upon any generated text substantially before submitting.
  • Never present AI output as your own without proper attribution.
  • Learn how to properly cite AI tools as sources.
  • Double check assignments with a plagiarism checker before turning them in.

I hope these insights have provided a helpful overview of Turnitin‘s capabilities and limitations when it comes to detecting AI-generated text. While Turnitin can likely spot content created by tools like Google‘s new Bard bot, this technology battle is far from over. We must continue fostering ethics and integrity both in AI development and its usage.

What do you think? Are you concerned about AI‘s implications for plagiarism? I‘d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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