When students are pressed to meet a deadline for a term paper, they may become lax in following the proper procedures for writing and citing their papers. The Internet, a treasure trove of useful information, is also full of material that can be used by students to avoid their academic responsibility. Fortunately there are several online tools to check for plagiarism. Here is a look at a few of them.

Dealing with plagiarism

Sometimes the plagiarism is intentional. A student deliberately copies and pastes information from online sources and then passes it off as original work. But sometimes plagiarism occurs because a student doesn’t fully grasp the point at which plagiarism occurs.

When instructors are able to identify and prove acts of plagiarism, they are in a better position to take action to remedy the situation.

Many schools have instituted disciplinary procedures that include:

  • Asking the student to resubmit the assignment
  • Assigning a failing grade for assignment
  • Assigning a failing grade for the course
  • Withdrawal from the course

Detecting plagiarism begins with requiring all work to be submitted in digital form and then running the paper through an online plagiarism detecting tool such as Turnitin. The resulting report can then be used to document the incidence of plagiarism and create a basis for remediation or disciplinary processes.

Plagiarism detectors

There are several useful tools for detecting plagiarism. Some require a subscription fee. Of course, the quick-and-dirty check involves copying and pasting a section of text into Google for a search.

Tools that allow for a more nuanced search include:

  • Grammarly: this subscription tool offers spell/grammar check, vocabulary enhancement, help with choosing proper wording/punctuation, and plagiarism check.
  • Small SEO Tools: free but limited to 1,000 words per search
  • DupliChecker: this free tool lets you copy and paste up to 2,000 words into the search box
  • Unplag: flexibility in both use and reporting results makes this tool worth the price
  • WriteExperience 2.0: helps improve student writing skills by evaluating student-written assignments based upon voice, style, format, content, and originality.

If you’ve used a plagiarism checker before, it may be the one that is built in to your learning management system (LMS). For that reason, you may not be aware of the differing features to be found in the current technology. When reviewing the different plagiarism checkers available, be sure to take advantage of their free trial. Most services offer them.

Some features that you’ll want to look for include:

  • Security: some “free” services will keep your scanned work and post it into an essay mill
  • Check of multiple sources: provides a detailed report that compares your work to sources on public and private repositories
  • File formats: can handle a variety of file formats including doc, txt, and pdf

The bottom line

Plagiarism checkers are not perfect and results need to be reviewed with discretion. A plagiarism checker looks for duplicate sections of text. It does this by comparing submitted text to files in its index. This can result in a positive result for common phrases. The checker will not be able to spot plagiarism where the writer rewrote the text or lifted an idea without lifting the exact wording.

When all is said and done, the instructor is the first line of defense against plagiarism. Along with providing the requirements for an assignment, we need to ensure that students know how to avoid falling into actions that constitute plagiarism.

How do you ensure that your students know when they are committing plagiarism? Tell us about your strategies in the comments.