Skip to Main Content

Avoiding Plagiarism

A series of videos and reading materials related to plagiarism and ethical use of sources in research.

Plagiarism Detection at WMU.

There are many plagiarism detection software platforms on the market. Well known examples include Turnitin Originality and Grammerly. While Turnitin Originality is a fee-based service that WMU does NOT subscribe to, Grammerly offers a free check of text content. The free version will just tell you if there is duplicate content in your paper. If you want a more nuanced service that highlights the passages that are verbatim, you need to subscribe to Grammerly Premium. Again, WMU does not subscribe to any plagiarism detection programs. If you have questions about this, please contact the Office of the Provost.

Checking Plagiarism Using Google

You can use the Google search engine to search for verbatim text samples from a student paper. The method I recommend that faculty use is one I used for research projects in 2011 and 2014. The description is in my paper "Textual Appropriation in Engineering Master’s Theses: A Preliminary Study" (Eckel 2011) and is as follows (text quoted and edited from pages 472-473 from that paper):

Text strings for searching can be chosen by visually scanning each page of the paper (or the literature review or background section of the thesis/dissertation) and selecting short strings that superficially appear uncommon or distinctive enough to result in likely hits. Selected text strings can range from 4 to 7 words in length. Strings are then entered into the Google search box as exact phrases surrounded by quotation marks. If too many hits are retrieved, more words from the surrounding text in the paper or thesis should be added until either a manageable retrieval or a ‘‘No results found’’ message was obtained, the goal being to find one exact match.

Spending about a half hour searching Google for a research paper and one hour for a thesis or dissertation should be sufficient to tell if a student has major problems with verbatim text copying in their writing. You can then take your search results to your student and have a conversation about ethical writing practices.