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Plagiarism & Writing: Plagiarism Checkers

Faculty support for identifying and dealing with plagiarism and other writing concerns

Plagiarism Checkers

Plagiarism Checkers are tools and only tools to help find phrasing and words that are used elsewhere. Ultimately, the instructor still has to determine if it is plagiarism. Plagiarism Checkers are not something we recommend. According to the article by Weber-Wulff, Möller, Touras, and Zincke, there are "constant problems with false positives and false negatives, as well as massive usability problems" (2). We also need to remember that "Plagiarism detection software is only a tool, not an infallible test" (Weber-Wulff et al. 2). Remember, a Plagiarism checker can really only point out that there is a possibility. Ultimately, the instructor will have to make the final evaluation.

Are you aware that many (if not most) of these programs keep the paper(s) that you submit on their servers? This means that you are sharing private intellectual property of a student with a program that will keep the student paper for their own purposes. Our research and conversations with others at universities and colleges across the nation and around the world tells us that Plagiarism Checkers only point out the potential.

You will find a list of links to articles pertaining to Plagiarism Checkers in the box below. These links will all open in a new window.

Plagiarism Checkers - What They Do

This is what we have found after reading several articles and talking with professors from other universities. Plagiarism Checkers:
  1. Prioritize policing over teaching.
  2. Do not save any time. The detection software only detects language that matches regardless of whether or not it’s cited appropriately, therefore an instructor still has to determine what matched because it was plagiarized and what matched because it was a direct quote.
  3. Cannot evaluate. They cannot judge that "crossing the Great Lakes" is simply a phrase that cannot be written any other way. In other words, it will come up as plagiarism even when it is not.

Please note: Turnitin wouldn’t exist without the student labor producing essays for their archives. They are essentially collecting student writing that we already have and selling it back to us.