Online Plagiarism Tools

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While easy access to online sources may make plagiarism a tempting option for students, they should bear in mind that a range of free and subscription-based tools exist online for their teachers to uncover their academic dishonesty. Teachers who suspect a student of plagiarism should check with their schools to see if they subscribe to one of three major online plagiarism detection services. If no such tools are available through their schools, teachers still have several free online options that they can use to uncover student plagiarism.

1 Search Engines

The most widely available online plagiarism detection tools are Internet search engines. You can type suspect phrases from a student paper into Yahoo!, Google or Bing, and if the student has plagiarized, evidence should turn up in the first few search results. If a student has plagiarized an entire paper from a website, typing the title of the paper into the Internet search engine in quotes should produce the text of the paper in your search results.

2 Free Detection Software

If an Internet search does not turn up sufficient evidence of plagiarism, you may still be able to find evidence via free software programs available on the Internet. Copyspace (, Grammarly ( and WCopyfind are three examples of free programs that can uncover plagiarism in student papers. Copyspace and Grammarly allow teachers to upload student papers to their websites, and the sites then scan the Internet and their databases for matching content. WCopyfind, however, asks teachers to submit links to suspect sources along with student papers, and the software then searches the paper and the sources for matching phrases.

3 Institutional Software

Teachers and researchers may find that their schools have purchased Turnitin, iThenticate or SafeAssign, all of which are Internet programs available by subscription. These programs allow you to manually input or upload a student paper (or portions of a student paper) and then the software will search the Internet and its student paper database for matching text. iParadigms owns both Turnitin and iThenticate (as well as WriteCheck, a service that allows students to check for citation errors and accidental plagiarism in their writing). Turnitin can operate as a stand-alone program or may be integrated into learning management systems such as Blackboard, WebCT and Moodle. Blackboard owns SafeAssign and, therefore, only schools who use Blackboard as their learning management system may use SafeAssign.

Amy Martin holds a doctorate in English studies and has been writing professionally for 10 years. Her articles have appeared in several academic journals, including Academic Exchange Quarterly, Issues in Writing, and WPA: Writing Program Administration.