Plagiarism is a problem that plagues teachers from different disciplines and at different levels. It is disheartening and time-consuming to handle (Lambert). This form of cheating can happen in several different ways. Students may lift passages from online journals, articles, or sample papers. They may "paraphrase" by swapping out an occasional word. Sometimes former students pass down old essays, and sometimes current students find ways to steal from their peers. Finally, in high-stakes situations, students may pay someone to write an original paper for them.
Teachers have many options for identifying texts that steal sentences from online sources, and there are even tools that check for reused assignments among students. Many of these tools are free, and they play an important part in identifying and addressing plagiarism.
Best Plagiarism Checking Sites for Batch Submissions
Do your students turn their assignments in using a learning management system? Some schools subscribe to services that check for plagiarism as a student uploads an assignment to the LMS. You can check batches of assignments for plagiarism and be alerted to any issues before you even begin grading.
If your students are new to writing research papers, they may have trouble distinguishing when a close paraphrase bleeds into plagiarism or when reported speech needs to be between quotation marks. Advanced plagiarism checkers can help students notice usage that they thought would either fly under the radar or which they genuinely believed was appropriately integrated.
The gold standard of comprehensive plagiarism checkers is Turnitin. If your school has a subscription, you’re in luck! Turnitin checks assignments against a range of databases. Submissions will also be compared against each other, so a current student will not be able to reuse an essay that a former student wrote. Pricing for Turnitin's comprehensive package is not publicized; be prepared to specify your educational institution's needs when requesting a quote.
Learn more: Trunitin
Like Turinitin, Copyleaks compares texts against online resources and other student assignments. It also offers a free version that allows you to get a sense of its dashboard and features.
To try it out, go to this link and move the slider all the way to the left. Unlike the monthly subscription, which is about $10 for a small school, the free version does not allow batch uploads. It does provide originality reports with the percent original, highlighting word-for-word matches and "paraphrases" that only swap out an occasional word.
Both Turnitin and Copyleaks are comprehensive plagiarism detection services that will tip you off to advanced plagiarism techniques in addition to outright cut-and-paste copying.
3. Google Classroom’s Premium Features
If your school uses the “Plus” version of Google for Education, you will already have a plagiarism checker; you’ll just need to select the “Check plagiarism” box below the rubric when you create an assignment. If you have GSuite, you’ll be able to try out this feature, but there is a limit on the number of assignments that you can check.
After your students submit their work, the tool will flag passages for you as you open different submissions. The checker will also include a link to the original website. The video above walks you through enabling the plagiarism checking feature and using it when viewing student submissions.
Learn more: Google Classroom
Best Plagiarism Checking Sites for Individual Submissions
If your school does not have a subscription to a plagiarism checker, you still do have a variety of tools if you are willing to take the time to check essays individually. Some students may try to deny committing plagiarism, so it will be useful to have a report and the original text to show that you do, in fact, have proof when you meet with your student.
You may be familiar with Grammarly’s free advanced writing feedback tool. For $12 a month, you can add plagiarism checking and a number of other features to the extension by upgrading to its premium version.
When you bring up a student’s assignment in your browser, you will be able to notice instances of plagiarism. Ideally, you can use this feature (perhaps through screen sharing) when conferencing with students on their drafts and help them avoid unintentional plagiarism.
Grammarly also has a free plagiarism-checking website. It checks a text against ProQuest articles, but the free version only says whether the text has been used without attribution; it does not show which sentences have been copied.
Learn more: Grammarly
Plagramme offers the choice between standard, premium, or pay-per-document scanning once you register. It is easy to upload a file and scan it, but the free report only states whether plagiarism is present without pinpointing the problematic passages.
Learn more: Plagramme
3. Plagiarism Detector
If you like the idea of creating a report with an originality score but your school does not have a subscription to a plagiarism checker, you can paste student work into the Plagiarism Detector. This online tool will perform a plagiarism scan and provide a percentage of the sentences that come from outside sources without being cited.
This is not a great solution for analyzing assignments in bulk, but it can help you prepare for a conference with a student who has plagiarized should you need to pinpoint and clarify sentences that he or she has used in unacceptable ways.
Learn more: Plagiarism Detector
4. Small SEO Tools
Another free checker is Small SEO Tools. This plagiarism scanner was designed with small businesses in mind, but teachers will also find its reports useful. It lists all of the sentences that were not properly cited along with a link to the original text.
Learn more: Small SEO Tools
If you're looking for a free tool that students can use, quetext provides both plagiarism analysis and a citation tool. It does a good job of picking out passages that have had slight alterations. It doesn't load quickly, but be patient: The reports are quite helpful.
Learn more: quetext
6. Google Searches
Some students find model essays using Google's search engine, and so can you. Paste a suspicious-looking sentence into your Chrome address bar or into the search bar at Google.com and put quotation marks around it. If you get an exact hit, be sure to bookmark the website address or take a screenshot. This approach also yields essays that were originally written in a foreign language and translated via Google Translate.
7. Checking the Version History
If your students submit Google Docs, you will be able to discover when a file was created and who has worked on it by going to the document’s version history. This can be helpful if you strongly suspect that a student paid someone to write an important assignment.
You can do this from the “File” tab. Some students may truly have borrowed a friend or family member’s device when writing, so this is not watertight evidence of cheating.
Consider whether the text is consistent with a student’s previous work and discuss your suspicions with your boss before making an accusation to make sure you are following your school’s policy.
Avoiding, Catching, and Addressing Plagiarism
Plagiarism is a common academic writing issue and instructors need to be prepared to identify it and address it. In addition, teachers must do their best to help students use outside sources without plagiarizing (2016, Cambridge University Press ELT). Ideally, your school provides a ready-to-use tool to aid in checking for plagiarism, but even if they do not, there are a variety of methods for detecting some types of plagiarism.
Keep in mind that different schools handle plagiarism in a variety of ways, so make sure that you are familiar with your school’s policy and be sure to communicate it to your students early in the term. Will a student be reported to academic affairs? Will a paper receive zero credit or are re-dos allowed? Is there a school-wide list of infractions? What is your school’s protocol for reporting plagiarism and for confronting a student with your proof or suspicions?
You now have the tools to identify plagiarism; be certain you have administrative support before taking a particular course of action. Plagiarism checks will not completely stop students from stealing from outside sources, but you can use them to set the expectation that sources need to be acknowledged.
Cambridge University Press ELT. (2016, February 16th). Plagiarism - Why students do it and how you can help [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCT7iamerdo
Copyleaks. (2022). Copyleaks Education Pricing. Copyleaks Plagiarism Software, Discover Anti-Plagiarism Software Online. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://copyleaks.com/pricing/product/education/step/1
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Google. (2022). Turn on originality reports - classroom help. Google. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/9335816?hl=en
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Jonson, Jen. (2021, Feb. 19th). Google Classroom Originality Reports Plagiarism Checker - How to Use & How It Compares to Turnitin [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrrei9jeib4
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