Detecting Plagiarism

Traditional methods

Plagiarism in any of its forms may lead to inconsistencies in the submitted work.  In Baites, P & Fain, M. (2003),  Detecting Plagiarized Papers, the authors provide a checklist of strategies which include:

  • Strange or inconsistent formatting may indicate that material has been cut and pasted from other sources 
  • Irregularities in the use of citation protocols, inconsistencies between in-text citation and reference lists (or bibliographies) may indicate that the student has cut and pasted sections of the submitted work from different sources.  Although students often forget to list all citations in the references, or bibliography it is also common in plagiarised work 
  • Variations in writing style within an assignment can be a clue to plagiarised work.  However, style questions might also point to poor or exceptional writing skills (Kern & Jackson 2000)
  • The content of a plagiarised paper may not be on the topic, but be very well written. There may be material in an assignment which would be correct in another context but wrong with respect to the topic of the assignment or the aspect to which it refers.  This may mean that a student has copied an original work and substituted some details 
  • Technical clues may also indicate plagiarism.

Electronic methods

Plagiarism can be detected electronically using a range of software packages specifically designed for this purpose. Plagiarism detection software: How effective is it? (AUTC, Australia) provides and evaluation of currently available software.