It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,1 it was the New York Times. Specifically, it was a Times article that discussed computer programs and other techniques designed to root out plagiarism2 The article revealed that there is now software that can look for a lengthy passage, like a string of pearls,3 in a new document that is identical to a passage in a previously published work. In another method, every fifth word from sample passages is removed, and the author has to fill in the blanks4 to reveal his or her familiarity with the work. These high-tech ways to spot literary theft will surely rob copycats of the sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care.5
1. Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities, opening lines.
2. See Eakin, Emily. "Stop, Historians! Don't Copy That Passage! Computers Are Watching!" in the New York Times, January 26, 2002.
3. Miller, Glenn. Song title.
4. Rayburn, Gene. The Match Game, television program (1962-1969, 1973-1984).
5. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2.
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