Tired of stolen content? Want to prevent your students from copying data from the web and misusing sources? Try a decent paid plagiarism checker and make sure it has the right functionality. A bunch of must-have features – in this article!
Gone are the days when cunning students would cheat a professor by stealing papers on the Internet and get away with it. An abundance of anti-plagiarism tools allows teachers to detect fraud and lack of citation, and smoke out bogus copy. Given the broad commercial offering, it gets tricky to pick the right tool that will suffice your academic requirements. Like in every vertical, there are fundamentals as well as bells and whistles for specific authoring and grading scenarios. Some employ ‘rocket science’ methods like stylometry, others stick with plain fingerprinting – tastes and needs differ. In this article, I’m listing a few critical features that shape up a viable checker.
What are the pillars of plagiarism detection software?
Apparently, your tool should reveal the extent of ‘borrowed’ content so you can gauge the student’s personal input or the lack thereof. Good software performs similarity checks based on live up-to-date web indexes. Plagiarism detectors may vary by accuracy and sophistication, employing large blocks or splitting hairs up to three-four word phrases if needed. Some tools know how to omit irrelevant search results if an associated source was removed, closed down or outdated.
The software should provide universal compatibility with text files, be it .doc, .docx, .odt, rtf, .txt, as well as .pdf. In case your class includes a host of Mac users and proprietary Apple formats are widespread in the learning environment, check your software provider’s specs for all supported technologies.
Multiple Document Check-Up
Under serious time constraints, you may want to speed up the checking and grading process and simultaneously assess several files for plagiarism. This also works for teachers’ papers and theses – you can check a bunch of your previous and up-to-date articles to avoid self-copying and unwanted repetition. Some advanced tools allow the user to check up to 5-6 papers in a bundle, regardless of size. Others will end up with lower productivity or just reject multiple choice. If this criterion is of importance, peruse the software manual for elaborate info. Feel free to read my review of top paid plagiarism detection tools and get a few extra pointers.
For deeper analysis or offline paper evaluation, teachers need downloadable similarity reports to tackle different forms of plagiarism or ambiguous writing techniques. Text/PDF reports may include links to replicated ideas and sources. As with many features, this one works both ways. You can rub one’s nose in their unscrupulousness – or perform self-assessment to see whether your own work is free from unintentional borrowings.
Disguised Character Detection
“Oh, don’t bother. Just replace Latin a’s and e’s for the Russian letters, and you’ll be fine”, that’s what you could hear eavesdropping on your students lobby conversations just a few years ago. For better or for worse, this trick is no longer functional. The plagiarism software now pinpoints letter substitutes from other alphabets. A good tool will mark replaced characters and reveal original text sources.
Easy Source Navigation
There are two aspects to it: performance and completeness. Dealing with big text volumes you will need a faster checking solution so your work doesn’t get stuck. Although software performance is hard to measure and, more often than not, product documentation omits the relevant metrics, make sure your tool of choice has a battle-hardened engine behind it. Whatever the operation speeds, your ultimate goal is a full list of duplicated sources with highlighted fragments. Check with various suppliers regarding their detailing capabilities and make your informed choice.
Detection of Left-Out Quotations and References
‘Forgot’ citation and URLs to original sources so it could look like your genuine thoughts? Old as the hills. An able checker will automatically spot uncited content. Also, you may choose to exclude appropriate quotes from a similarity check for better results.
A plagiarism checker is definitely a step forward in refining academic content and a silver bullet for teachers and instructors. That said, it’s not a plaster for all sores. Techniques like ‘rogeting’ (as in Roget’s Thesaurus) – consistent or superfluous use of synonyms while plagiarizing others’ ideas – still elude anti-fraud radars. Prominent copycats might even go the extra mile to modify binary code in the core of their text files. As with antivirus software, plagiarism checker developers have to constantly catch up with modern evasive techniques to remain effective. In any case, teachers now have an ace up the sleeve, so potential academic fraudsters should better think twice before hitting the copy-paste road.
About the Author
Scott Winstead is a seasoned e-Learning technology expert, blog author, LMS and authoring software geek, and environmental activist. Scott is a vehement advocate for globally accessible education, flipped classroom and blended learning techniques, as well innovations in e-Learning. Feel free to check out Scott’s LinkedIn profile for more details.