'The Good Wife' on Plagiarism

March 22, 2016

The Good Wife, the CBS drama series whose writers Inside Higher Ed has previously suspected keep up with higher education news, on Sunday tackled educational technology -- specifically, antiplagiarism software turning up "false positives."

During Sunday night's episode, Grace Florrick (Makenzie Vega), daughter of Julianna Margulies's titular protagonist, saw her college-going future put in jeopardy after her admissions essay was flagged as plagiarism. The offending passage was a quote from the Sermon on the Mount. After it was revealed that the antiplagiarism software, known as Genuine Thought, had had issues with false positives -- erroneously labeling original writing as plagiarized -- Margulies's character, Alicia Florrick, threatened "the class-action suit to end all class-action suits." The experience inspired Grace to follow in her mother's footsteps and pursue a career in law.

The subplot quickly reminded some viewers of the issues instructors have run into with antiplagiarism software.

Chris Harrick, Turnitin's vice president of marketing, in an email sounded confident about the company's ability to separate plagiarism from original writing.

"We wish the school in the episode of The Good Wife had used Turnitin rather than Genuine Thought, then these problems would have been avoided," Harrick wrote.

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