Detection Strategies

Search the World Wide Web

Although the World Wide Web can be used as a ready source for "cut and paste" plagiarism, it can also be used as a tool for detection. By entering a distinctive phrase or string of words into an Internet search engine, it's possible to retrieve web sites that have matching text within their content, and pinpoint the original source from which the text was copied. The following are three basic search techniques:

Use an Internet Search Engine to Find Matching Texts

Run your search in several different engines such as Google.com or AltaVista.com. No one search engine indexes the entire web.

Type a string of words, enclosed in quotation marks, into the search box. This works especially well with distinctive phrases, a phrase that contains a misspelling or the title of the paper.

If the text on the web page is very dense or long, use the edit/find command in your browser menu. When the dialog box opens, type in the phrase you used for your web search. The page will scroll until it finds a match.

Try Searching a Web Directory

Guides such as www.yahoo.com, www.dmoz.com or University of California's Infomine offer an edited selection of URLs, usually hand-picked by editors and categorized into a hierarchy of subject fields. You can search using a distinctive phrase, as outlined above, or you can search for the topic or subject of the text in question.

Search for Matching Text Using the Research Databases Offered Through the Empire State College Online Library

Select a subject-specific research database that is related to the text, using the listing of databases by topic. Another approach is to search multidisciplinary database services that feature full text, such as EBSCO Academic Search Complete, ProQuest, ScienceDirect, or Gale.

Use Text-Comparison Software

Commercial firms such as Turnitin [Empire State College login required] can help faculty members determine the originality of a student’s work, provide a basis for meaningful discussion with individual students about how to improve their scholarship and writing, and document instances of academic dishonesty when necessary. A faculty member who submits student work to Turnitin receives an originality report, which shows where text in the student submission is identical to other sources. This may indicate that the student has simply forgotten to put quotation marks around a portion of text that s/he has cited verbatim, or that the student has plagiarized to some extent—either intentionally or without understanding the college’s Academic Integrity Policy and procedures. It is up to the faculty member to interpret the report and work with deans or directors of academic support to determine how best to discuss concerns with students.