Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. Educators have a world of new possibilities through technology to teach and connect with students. But with high-tech learning is bound to come high-tech cheating. As the technology has become more sophisticated, so have the cheaters. Luckily, there are a number of tools available to help educators combat the problem.
Numerous sites help educators detect plagiarism by comparing the content to databases of documents. The sites also help students who aren’t sure about whether they’ve properly noted the sources in their research, alerting them to any sections that could be flagged for plagiarism.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best sites:
This site is marketed primarily to students who want to check their own work, but it could easily be used by educators, as well. Content is checked against databases that are updated daily. The service allows for some flexibility of use, with plans that range from one-day use to one month. Prices range from $1.99 to $14.99.
This multi-dimensional site includes tools for teachers to not only detect plagiarism, but also to talk to their students about how to cite sources and about understanding what forms plagiarism can take. There are even materials for helping teachers understand what causes plagiarism, including the pressure to maintain grades and meet deadlines, or simply confusion about how to cite sources and use material. As the site notes, plagiarism has become a rampant problem, with one study finding that almost 80 percent of college students admit to cheating at least once.
Services on the site include a custom color-coded report, complete with source links, showing any suspicious sections. Papers are cross-checked against its own database including “hundreds of thousands of papers.”
Turnitin, powered by Plagiarism.org, is one of the most popular sites used by educators to detect plagiarism. Like many other sites, it cross-references student papers against databases that includes Web sites, student papers, newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, and literary books, then provides an “originality report.” Rather that promoting its services as a way to bust cheaters, the site says it gives educators the chance to “check students’ work for improper citation” and “the opportunity to teach their students proper citation methods as well as to safeguard their students’ academic integrity.”
The service is available through the purchase of a license, which can be acquired for a single campus, multiple campuses, a department, or an individual. Students can log in to check their papers, as well, if their professors have a license. Prices are not available on the site, and educators must request a quote.
This spinoff of Turnitin is for students only, and it analyzes papers to show what parts could appear to be unoriginal so that the writer can ensure proper citation. It would be a valuable tool to incorporate into a lesson on how to properly use and cite research material, as well. Costs for the service range from $4.95 for a single paper to $49.95 for up to 40 papers.
Research papers and writing assignments are not the only places that students can plagiarize. Admissions essays and personal statements are also fertile ground for plagiarism, especially with the high stakes of getting into competitive, prestigious programs. This site checks for plagiarism, recycled submissions, duplicate responses, purchased documents and more in admissions essays, personal statements, residency statements, application question responses, scholarship essays, reference letters and more.
This free search engine allows you to cut and paste any block of text to match it against a database of research papers and other scholarly material. It’s as easy as Google!
SafeAssign is set up to be integrated into Blackboard courses so that students can submit papers to be automatically checked against a database of source material, which includes the Internet, a database of publications, institutional archives, and a student-paper database . Papers are then submitted to the instructor with an originality report. Instructors also have the option to submit papers that they consider suspicious.
Plagiarism Checker is another free site with a search engine in which instructors can cut and paste suspicious sentences or sections to be cross-matched with a database.
Other tools for detecting plagiarism
Of course, the best tool for detecting any academic dishonesty is the instructor. Besides the student, the instructor is the person with the best knowledge of that student’s abilities and work history. If a struggling student suddenly turned in a brilliant paper, it should raise suspicions. If a turn of phrase seems to good to be true, it just might be. Simply pasting these sentences or passages into a search engine is usually enough to root out foul play, if there is any.
Try these search engines:
Check their sources. Students will be required to submit a bibliography or to cite their sources. Check the sources. If the information provided in the paper doesn’t match up with any actual book or publication, chances are that the student didn’t do the research and made up the sources to cover for plagiarized material.
Check free term paper sites. There are hundreds of Web sites that offer term papers for free or for sale. Check the topics or the titles against a few of the most popular sites and see if you get a match.
There are a number of things that educators can do to prevent plagiarism — either by properly teaching students about the use of resource material or by making it downright impossible for them to steal the material.
Paper assignments should be as specific as possible. A topic like “American Literature” is too broadly defined, but the topic “Good and evil in Hawthorne’s short stories” is specific enough to limit the amount of material that students can be tempted to “borrow.”
Set specific requirements for the paper. If you ask for eight pages, but the Web site with free papers only has topics that fit the requirement but are five pages, it might deter students. Also, require a specific number of sources. Again, this will make it harder on students to purchase or download papers that meet all of the requirements. If students still attempt to plagiarize, chances are they’ll have to do some work to make the paper fit the requirements.
Check progress. Require students to turn in drafts, outlines, notes, source materials, etc. This will ensure that students are developing their papers on their own. It is also a good idea to require photocopies of the source materials cited in the paper. Knowing that their papers will be checked for valid sources may curb any temptation students may have to cheat.
Educate your students. Ignorance is not a good defense, and many students claim that they simply didn’t know that they weren’t allowed to use the material the way they did when they are confronted with charges of plagiarism. Eliminate any “confusion” by providing students with a good foundation in understanding research methodology and citation methods.