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Antidotes to Plagiarism: Plagiarism Detection Tools

Based on a LibGuide by Ludy Goodson and Shannon Johnson, Purdue University - Fort Wayne. Many thanks!

What are problems with plagiarism detection tools?

  • "Plagiarism detection" is a marketing theme - tools detect "text matching" - not the same as determining "plagiarism."
  • A "plagiarism detection tool" matches text to its DATABASE and different tools have different databases - teachers sometimes are unaware of the databases students use vs. the databases of the tool.
  • "Originality" is reshaped from "original thinking" to figuring out how much to rewrite something - IF this is what you want to achieve, this is an effective approach.

A parent reported “…her daughter is not sure how much she needs to rewrite research material before she can use it” (Carroll cited in Royce, 2006, p. 5)

  • Ethical concerns such as disregard of copyright to which student work is entitled, coerced participation in which "voluntary" is meaningless when student must agree in a required course, and commercial gain without compensation to students for use of their works.
  • Errors in "detection" producing false-positives and false-negatives (Royce, 2006, p. 2; Jaschik, 2009; Weber-Wulff, 2008; Hill & Page, 2009). 
  • Students "trick" the database (search "tricking turnitin" on Google and you'll find lots of paper mills who would be happy to sell students "original" papers), also post YouTube videos on how to trick
  • Students hand in one document in the class and submit a different document, such as "my letters to my mom" to, knowing "they won't find anything wrong with that!" (Spender, 2004, p. 14).
  • Free Internet searches give results comparable to paid services (Howard, 2007).

Plagiarism Detection Research

Barrón-Cedeño, A., Vila, M., Martí, M., Rosso, P. (2013). Plagiarism meets paraphrasing: Insights for the next generation in automatic plagiarism detection. Computational Linguistics, 39(4), 917-947. Retrieved from

Bruton, S., & Childers, D. (2016). The ethics and politics of policing plagiarism: A qualitative study of faculty views on student plagiarism and Turnitin. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 41(2), 316-330. Retrieved from

Heather, J. (2010). Turnitoff: Identifying and fixing a hole in current plagiarism detection software. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 35(6), 647-660. Retrieved from

Hill, J.D. & Page, E.F. (2009). An empirical research study of the efficacy of two plagiarism-detection applications. Journal of Web Librarianship, 3(3), 169-181. doi:10.1080/19322900903051011

Howard, R. M. (2007). Understanding "internet plagiarism." Computers and Composition, 24(1), 3-15. Retrieved from

Jaschik, S. (2009, Mar. 13). False positives on plagiarism. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Royce, J. (2003). Has got it all wrapped up?. Teacher Librarian, 30(4), 26. Retrieved from

Spender, D. (2004, Apr. 21). Plagiarism and plausibility. Retrieved from

Weber-Wulff, D. (2015). Plagiarism detection software: Promises, pitfalls and practices. Handbook of Academic Integrity, 1-10.

Whittle, S. R., & Murdoch-Eaton, D. G. (2008). Learning about plagiarism using Turnitin detection software. Medical Education, 42(5), 528. Retrieved from

Youmans, R. J. (2011). Does the adoption of plagiarism-detection software in higher education reduce plagiarism?. Studies In Higher Education, 36(7), 749-761. Retrieved from

Alternative Plagiarism Detection Tools


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