sometimes begins with a hunch or suspicion, and tracking it down
is most often a very time-consuming effort. Following are
some ideas to help you if you suspect the paper is plagiarized.
- Is the formatting
different from what you require?
- Are there odd
sentences stuck into an otherwise well-written paper? (i.e.
a sentence that is more personal or relevant to the assignment
than the rest of the paper, a sentence using a different verb
tense or personal pronoun, or one reference that is much
more up to date than the rest of the paper)
- Is the paper much
better than previous writing samples? Is it written in a
- Poorly-written or
incomplete bibliographic citations can be a sign of made-up sources.
- How many items in
the bibliography are not owned by our library? If it's a lot,
that's a bad sign.
- Age of references:
are they all older than three years?
- Inconsistent styles
of references can indicate a cut and paste job from more than
If you suspect plagiarism:
- Ask the student to
summarize the research (or even the process, e.g. what index did
you use?), make an oral presentation, and answer questions.
- Check the library
holdings: the library staff cannot tell you if a student checked
out a particular item, but we can tell you if we own it and if
it has ever been checked out. If we don't own it, we can get it
for you. (Some students are cagey enough to use sources not in
your own library, thinking to avoid detection that way. Others
just rip out the article or chapter.)
Using Internet browsers
to find plagiarized papers is perhaps the easiest and most popular
way, and according to Satterwhite and Gerein, is nearly as productive
as a detection service. Try the following:
- Use an uncommon or
jargon-filled phrase, or a misspelled word, with your favorite
browser, and be sure to try several browsers, since they each
"index" a different group of sites. Google has
the best retrieval rate, but limits a phrase search to ten words.
- Search full-text
databases, another source of plagiarism material. Try searching the full-text databases in the Library, again using unusual phrases
or jargon. Some databases to try: Academic Search Elite, JSTOR, Lexis/Nexis,
H.W. Wilson Select Full-Text, General BusinessFile ASAP. Any database that provides abstracts (which is most of them) is also a source of material.
- Ask a librarian for
assistance. Librarians treat these requests with full confidentiality.
Unfortunately, if you
require original research, you may want some proof that the research
was actually done by the student. I recently learned from a state
librarian that she was supposed to have been interviewed by a graduate
student, and the results were written in a paper later posted on
a Web site. In fact, she was not interviewed by the student, the
student had not even read the article about her published earlier.
(Billie Aul, NY State Library, via personal communication) So if
an individual is cited as having been interviewed, you would want
at the very least to ask for contact information.
Surveys and statistics
are also subject to fictionalization. Criminal justice students
at California State University admitted to faking the results of
a survey on the Scott Peterson trial. (AP Online, 10 January 2004)
To cite this page (MLA style):
Pearson, Gretchen. "Part title." Electronic Plagiarism Seminar.
Syracuse, NY: Noreen Reale Falcone Library, Le Moyne College, 2002.
Available: http://web.lemoyne.edu/~pearson/plagiarism/. Created
19991202. Access date.
Web page is protected by the US Copyright Act of 1976 as amended,
Title 17 of the US Code, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
of 1998. The author freely grants permission to anyone wishing to
link to this site. However, permission must be obtained before extracting
any of the content of the site, to be republished elsewhere.
This page was created
on 2 December 1999 and last updated on 2 August 2004.