According to a study first published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and reported in the Boston Globe, five percent of applications for residency at Harvard's teaching hospital had evidence of plagiarism.
The Globe reports on how Bringham and Woman's Hospital doctors Brian Gelfand and Scott Segal performed the study:
To reach their conclusion, the authors examined almost 5,000 personal statements submitted as part of applications to the five largest residency programs -- internal medicine, anesthesiology, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and emergency medicine -- at the hospital between September 2005 and March 2007. Depending on the specialty, between 28 and 45 percent of applicants nationwide sent their applications to the Brigham, so the authors believe their results mirror what may be happening across the country.
Gelfand and Segal ran essays through plagiarism-detecting website Turnitin.com to analyze incidences of unoriginal work. They found that often, applicants would tell similar medical anecdotes -- at times with only a few different words from another.
The study also concluded that plagiarism wasn't unique to weaker students and that applicants of all kinds -- even ones with significant honors -- were suspect.
Harvard isn't the only institution using Turnitin.com, a site that checks student work to ensure its originality. Onward State, the Pennsylvania State University blog, reported in April 2010 that Penn State's business school runs student applications through the program as well.