How Scholarcy summaries encourage students to read and avoid plagiarism
Our goal at Scholarcy is to help people understand complex information faster, and provide a route into dense literature that can be intimidating for a newcomer or non-expert. A recent study has shown that scientific papers are getting harder to read, as a result of an increase in technical jargon and assumed background knowledge. The barrier to entry to primary research literature is getting higher at a time when our need to verify sources and tackle misinformation is greatest.
To help solve this problem, Scholarcy generates a background reading list from any research paper, report or book chapter and makes the cited sources just a click away. It creates a flashcard with the key claims and contributions highlighted, along with the top 5 learning points and an overall summary. These cards can be exported to your word processor so that you can use them in your own research notes. Cited sources can be downloaded and their references exported to your chosen reference management software.
This instant conversion of long-form text into bullet point summaries for revision and review could be interpreted as a short-cut or cheating. We understand these concerns. Students could simply copy the summaries into their essays, right? But before addressing this, let’s look at what’s been written about why students don’t read their course materials. A quick search online reveals this is a huge concern: there are a number of research papers about it, and educators regularly write articles about the problem. Let’s have a look at some of the findings:
Students don’t know how to extract key information from the materials 
Students feel they are given too much to read with not enough time to absorb it 
The volume of reading makes it difficult for students to find and focus on the important information 
Even when students do read the material, they often only scan it once, which is not enough to digest and understand it. They also say that provision of supplementary materials with the important information highlighted would help them to focus .
Strategies that educators can use to encourage students to read include:
Cross-referencing technical terms to supporting materials 
Explaining new terminology 
The good news is that students and educators can use tools such as Scholarcy to implement these strategies:
Scholarcy generates an overview including key highlights, figures and tables, helping students quickly identify materials that best support their work and understand them more easily.
The summary flashcards can be read on the student’s phone or tablet, so they can can access them wherever they are.
The text is structured into interactive sections that can be explored in a non-linear way.
Scholarcy explains new terminology and key concepts by generating relevant links to Wikipedia, helping students understand the context and providing background knowledge.
In future, Scholarcy will also create visual summaries and will automatically generate questions from the text, helping educators to create quizzes from the material. Educators can also use Scholarcy summary cards to encourage discussion with students and reinforce their understanding of the materials. For example, did Scholarcy highlight what the students would have highlighted? Were there additional key points that they would identify? Did the links to background reading encourage wider exploration of new concepts?
As well as increasing understanding and helping students get to grips with their reading, these features also help tackle plagiarism in the following ways:
In contrast to other summarization tools, Scholarcy creates referenced summaries. This means that citations in the original material are not only preserved, they are directly linked to the cited source, providing further reading and exploration, but also making it easier for students to cite correctly while avoiding ‘citation plagiarism’ [7, 8]
For the interactive flashcards, Scholarcy provides extractive, not abstractive, summaries: they can always be traced back to the original text. If students were to simply copy information created by Scholarcy, educators would know about it just as they would if students copied directly from the original reading materials.
The summary flashcards show students how to read a paper, and are accessible on any device. This helps students fit reading around their schedule, and increases their confidence in understanding and contextualising research - potentially reducing the motivation to plagiarise.
We’d love to hear your views on this subject. Which tools do you use for studying, researching and learning new subjects, and which other strategies you have found useful to help absorb and retain knowledge from large volumes of reading material? Which features would you like to see in tools such as Scholarcy to make them more useful to you, either as a student or as an educator?
About the author: Phil Gooch is the founder of Scholarcy, a new, bootstrapped startup that uses AI and machine learning to turn documents in any format into rich, interactive summary flashcards. Prior to founding Scholarcy, Phil built text mining and natural language processing solutions for publishing companies and tech startups such as Babylon Health and Mendeley.
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 Plavén-Sigray P et al. 2017. The readability of scientific texts is decreasing over time. eLife 2017;6:e27725 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.27725
 Schwartz M. 2014. Getting students to do their assigned readings.
 Weimer M. 2010. 11 Strategies for Getting Students to Read What’s Assigned.
 Kerim. 2007. Citation Plagiarism.
 Simkin MV, Roychowdhury VP. 2002. Read before you cite! arXiv:cond-mat/0212043.