The Internet grants access to a world of information on a subject within a few clicks. Someone could be confused on a complex topic like how inflation has impacted America, and find articles within seconds that provide deep and rich context.
With this access, students no longer have to read books in the library to research a subject. They can also write papers much quicker and more efficiently than ever before.
The drawback, however, is that it has also created a problem that every teacher in the world faces: plagiarism.
What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is defined as someone taking another’s work and/or ideas and passing them off as their own. Open access to the Internet has made it easy for students to simply copy and paste content, while making it difficult for teachers to determine the difference between students who are creating their own work, and those who are attempting to use work created by others as their own.
For teachers in the online environment, plagiarism is even more prevalent than in the face-to-face classroom as students are on their computers for every single assignment. With the world’s knowledge at arm’s length, it’s easy for the students to just look up a question, quickly copy the answer, and submit.
How to Check for Plagiarism
Due to the prevalence of the plagiarism problem both online and in-person, teachers have developed tools and tactics to help detect “fraudulent” work. These methods allow educators to quickly identify if a student has plagiarized, how much of the paper is plagiarized, and where they got the information from even.
1. Start with a Baseline
One of the best tactics for detecting plagiarism is to start the school year with a baseline paper. Students could write about any topic area they want, but something they know well (writing about themselves is a recommended topic area for this exercise).
This baseline activity gives teachers a chance to see what a student’s true writing abilities are like given students do not have to research anything on the Internet to complete the assignment, and can just write to the best of their abilities.
Once completed, it is recommended that the teacher keeps the baseline writing sample in order to be able to compare it to future writing assignments if they ever have a suspicion of plagiarism.
2. Use Plagiarism-Checking Tools
Another tactic that teachers can use to detect plagiarism is turning to software, tools, or plugins built specifically to compare texts. Yes, that’s right—the Internet is the reason plagiarism is so easy for students, but it also provides an easy way for teachers to detect that potential plagiarism.
There are a number of plagiarism checkers found online, some that operate on a paid subscription model, and others that offer free versions. Grammarly, Quetext, Copyscape, Paper Rater, and Pro Writing Aid are five popular plagiarism checkers. (Contrary to popular belief, Grammarly is not free for students; that is, Grammarly Premium.)
There are many advantages of using an online plagiarism checker for educators. First of all, the speed at which the check occurs is a big draw. Thanks to the fact that the software was designed for this exact purpose, the applications are able to check content against the entire web within minutes or even seconds. These checks also include a similarity percentage so that a teacher is able to determine exactly how much of a paper is plagiarized.
Of course, there are also a few disadvantages. First of all, detection tools might only pick up similarities when the text is made up of a handful of words and thus isn’t as efficient when the copied text is shorter.
Another disadvantage is the cost of the tool itself. As mentioned above, many websites offer free versions or free trials, but they often offer limited features and/or are available for only a short amount of time. If you are a teacher or student, you need the material for 9 months, not for a week-long trial, so many times the paid version is a must, which could get expensive.
Furthermore, the plagiarism checker has an issue with compliance with privacy for its users. This typically occurs at higher-level universities running into privacy and property laws.
If you are a teacher or a student looking for a plagiarism checker, there are a few things you should remember to choose the right one:
First of all, the tool should be one that offers ethics training that teachers are then able to propose for their students.
Furthermore, the tool should be self-sufficient, meaning it utilizes a specialized search algorithm and is a legally-owned database with unique content that is not openly available throughout the web.
Finally, of course, you should pick a tool based on your needs that fits your budget.
In the end, access to information has never been greater. While it provides students with unlimited resources for different content areas, it also creates the issue of plagiarism. If an educator does not have a great idea of the students writing ability to start the school year, they won’t have much of an idea if a crisp paper is a product of their own writing skill or taken from someone else.