Plagiarism is an age-old problem that has become even more troublesome in the "information age". While students have always traded or sold papers to one another, their resources were previously limited by time and space. Now, students can access thousands of papers on the internet.
Another form of plagiarism, unintentional plagiarism, is also a problem for many students. Because they don't understand when and how to cite sources, students often present other author's ideas as their own.
When papers are collected electronically vs. "hard copy", it is much easier for an instructor to check for plagiarized papers. Here are some resources available to instructors to check for plagiarism:
1. The Good Old-Fashioned Internet Search
This involves just opening up your favorite search engine(s) and typing or copying in a few lines of text from the student's paper. In most search engines, you will need to enclose the text in quotation marks in order to search for the exact phrase. For example, if you open www.google.com and type "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?", Google will search for pages where that exact phrase resides, rather than finding every page with any of those words in it (which is what will happen if you type in the phrase without the quotation marks).
The advantages of this method are that it is free, fast, and easy; the disadvantages are that it will not always find new papers or papers that are not listed in its directory. It won't find papers that have been shared at surrounding campuses and not published to the internet.
2. Turnitin.com (http://www.turnitin.com/free_trial.html)
To view a "movie" of a sample turnitin.com report, click here.
This service searches the internet AND databases of participating schools. To use the service, an instructor copies and pastes the text of a paper in a box on turnitin's webpage. A report on the level of plagiarism in the paper is generated within 24 hours of the submission of the paper. The advantages of this tool are that it can be used to point out inadvertent plagiarism to students. By showing them the report, which indicates where sources have been plagiarized, teachers can use the tool as a way to build understanding of source citation. Additionally, because it searches the internet and its databases, sold papers and other "underground" paper mills will be exposed more often than if a search engine alone is used. The disadvantages of this service include its cost (though it is free if certain textbooks are adopted), and the waiting time for a report.
3. Eve2 Plagiarism Detection Software (http://www.canexus.com/eve/download.shtml
"Eve performs a large number of complex searches to find material from any Internet site. While
it would be technically impossible with today's technology to build a program that could check
every web site on the entire Internet, EVE2 comes as close as possible by employing the most
advanced searching tools available to locate suspect sites. Not only does it find these suspect
sites, but it then does a direct comparison of the submitted essay to the text appearing on the
suspect site. If it finds evidence of plagiarism, the URL is recorded. Once the search has
completed, the teacher is given a full report on each paper that contained plagiarism, including
the percent of the essay plagiarized, and an annotated copy of the paper showing all plagiarism
highlighted in red." (http://www.canexus.com/eve/abouteve.shtml)
This is the software equivalent to Turnitin.com. The advantages of Eve2 include its immediacy, its readable reports, and its relatively low cost. The main disadvantage is that unlike turnitin.com, it does not maintain a database of all submitted papers, making it less likely that students who copy from one another at the same institution will be detected.
4. Glatt Plagiarism Services (http://www.plagiarism.com/INDEX.HTM
This company offers three products: one that teaches students about plagiarism avoidance and provides exercises; one that takes out every fifth word of a suspect paper and requires the student to fill in the blanks; and one that students can use to detect plagiarism in their own work.
The advantages of the plagiarism avoidance and student plagiarism detection programs are that they are not punitive, and can help students learn not to plagiarize; the advantage of the detection program is that it places the onus on the student to reproduce his/her writing style, and therefore "prove" that he/she wrote the paper. This is also a disadvantage, as it would probably be more difficult to prove plagiarism in a case where a student couldn't reproduce his/her own work exactly.
5. WordCheck Systems Keyword Software (http://www.wordchecksystems.com/)
This software maintains a database of keyword use and frequency, and compares newly submitted papers to the database for "profile matches". Essentially, this program is designed for use in detecting plagiarism or cheating between students in the same class, program, or institution. Its usefulness depends on participation by many, if not all, instructors.