Combatting Plagiarism

I was talking with our high school media specialist this morning about anti-plagiarism tools. We’ve been subscribing to Turnitin.Com for the last few years, but we really haven’t used it enough to justify the expense. Based on last year’s use statistics, it looks like we paid about $7.50 per paper to have it checked for plagiarism.

PlagiarizeI remembered an EdTechWeekly episode from last winter where Dave introduced a service called Plagium. Basically, you paste text into the box, and it checks the text against information available on the web. If there’s a match, it gives you the link.

Sure. You can do that with Google. But they don’t tag everything, and they can only find exact hits. Consider this. I searched for:

She’s generally pretty easy-going, and it took a little while to figure out what she was talking about. It turns out there’s a web site with a video that she wanted to show on the first day of school.

It quickly identified my blog post from last week where I used those two sentences. So far, so good. Then, I tried this paraphrased text:

She’s pretty easy-going. It took some time to figure out what she was talking about. There’s a web site with a video that she wanted to show on the first day of school.

It found this one, too. I’ll admit that the changes are very minor, and it wouldn’t be hard to change it enough to keep it from being found, but the point is that it doesn’t have to be an exact match.

ArticleChecker does the same thing. It seems to be a little less sophisticated, just using the Google, Yahoo, and MSN search engines. This tool also found both of the items quoted above.

Copyscape also does a similar thing, but it just looks for copies of text from a web page on other web pages. It wouldn’t be a good tool to check student essays, but it will let you know if someone is stealing your web site or blog content.

All of these tools are free. I think we’re going to suggest them to our teaching staff this year, and then re-evaluate whether we really need something like Turnitin.

2 thoughts on “Combatting Plagiarism

  1. I read about another technique this past summer. It’s to require the students to hand in rough drafts throughout the writing process, and assigning only bits of the paper at a time. That way you can see how the student’s writing evolves, and should make it a lot harder to just rip off a paper off of the Internet.

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