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How Can a Student Check for Plagiarism?

by Avery Martin, studioD

Submitted plagiarized works become subject to the university policies to prevent, provide consequences and deter students from submitting unoriginal works. Consequences may include completing the assignment again, receiving a failing grade, marks on the university record or, in extreme cases, expulsion from the university. Students should practice effective note-taking and research skills to avoid plagiarism and not rely on plagiarism checkers to prevent creating documents without proper citations. As a last check for accidental plagiarism, consider using an online or desktop plagiarism checker to verify the originality of the work.

Note-Taking Skills

Using your computer or a set of notecards while researching your subject helps prevent accidental plagiarism. Take detailed notes on the card, including the exact phrase you plan to cite, page number, book title and author. When writing your paper, if you use any information from the notecards, mark the card with the page number or paragraph in your paper as you write. Include a reference to credit your source in the paper as well. By following proper note-taking methods, you can prevent plagiarism in the first place.

Check Citations

Check your document for any quotation marks using the find or search feature of your word processor. Type a quotation mark into the search field and then search the document for any quotes. If you find quotations that haven't yet been credited, use your notes and research materials to locate the original author. Cite the author correctly according to the protocol your university uses to cite authors. While incorrect citations don't qualify as plagiarism, your professor may penalize you for failing to follow the correct citation method. You don't need to use citations for common knowledge items such as the end date of World War II or general facts.

Online Spell Checkers

Online spell checkers exist that scour your document and compare the contents to text available online. Few online spell checkers are able to check physical books and are limited to online sources. If you do run your document through an online spell checker, remember that the check may not include all text ever written. Your professor has intimate knowledge of her field and may recognize familiar opinions, ideas and content that require citations. CopySentry, Viper and PaperRater scans your document for plagiarism using online sources. Viper markets itself as a free alternative to TurnItIn, but it doesn't scan physical books, papers and journals.

Print and Online Spell Checkers

Print and online spell checkers often require an Internet connection and come with a database of books and research materials that are referenced and checked against your document. While these spell checkers typically cost more than online versions, most provide more comprehensive searches and additional features. The most advanced spell checkers use a technique called heuristic scanning to determine text that may have been plagiarized based on certain concepts and ideas. TurnItIn checks your paper against online sources, student papers and publications. Another similar program, iThenticate, checks your paper against articles, books and journals and is used by Oxford University Press.

Warnings About Free Checkers

When using an online plagiarism checker, be wary of companies that don't have privacy policies. Some online plagiarism checkers don't operate within the United States and aren't subject to U.S. copyright laws. Other free scanners only check what's currently available on the Internet. Universities tend to use scanners that have the ability to detect online and offline content and almost always charge a fee for use.

About the Author

Avery Martin holds a Bachelor of Music in opera performance and a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian studies. As a professional writer, she has written for Education.com, Samsung and IBM. Martin contributed English translations for a collection of Japanese poems by Misuzu Kaneko. She has worked as an educator in Japan, and she runs a private voice studio out of her home. She writes about education, music and travel.

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