A simple Google search for keywords like “plagiarism checker” or “plagiarism software” returns a dozen of websites that claim to “specialize” in online plagiarism detection. These sites target mainly students in the U.S. by promising an accurate and effective scan of instances of plagiarism in their essays and research papers. Many of these services are free and do not even require a registration to the site. On the surface, these services appear legitimate as most visitors may easily be lured by their elegant site design and of course by the fact that they check their documents free of charge. However, a closer look at the quality and the true purpose of these services suggests a completely different story…an alarming one in deed.
For starters, almost all of these websites are developed by individuals who have absolutely no connection to education or academia. These are mostly software programmers who write code for a living and have found an opportunity to make a few bucks by taking advantage of their site visitors. In fact, the top five “plagiarism” sites on Google and Bing are SEO (search engine optimization) tools meant to help unethical webmasters determine the originality of their writing. This is primarily done to trick search engines into believing that their websites’ content is unique and has not been stolen from other reputable sources. Students and educators should definitely avoid these sites because there is no guarantee that the text you check for plagiarism will not be stolen and used for SEO purposes. Further, we have tested the detection quality of all these services and can confirm with a great deal of confidence that they are unreliable, which in a way explains why they are often advertised as “free”. Last month, the Chinese authorities arrested Mr. Wang Lei, a software programmer who developed a website for detecting plagiarism after they discovered that he had stolen thousands of academic documents.Click here for more on this story.
How can you recognize these dodgy services? Very easy:
1- Check the service’s “about us” or “contact” page. Do you see a business address and a phone number? If you don’t, that’s a red flag.
3- Does the service claim to be 100% free? Nothing is free…red flag.
4- Does the site offer SEO services? If it does, that’s a red flag.
5- Lastly, read through the site’s pages. If you notice unusual or awkward language with multiple grammatical errors, that’s another red flag that the site cannot be trusted because it is most likely owned by an individual with absolutely no connection to education.
Checking documents for accidental plagiarism is a smart practice as it helps students identify ideas that have not been properly cited or paraphrased before they submit their work for assessment and review. However, one must ensure that the plagiarism checker they are using is safe and reliable. Do your homework when deciding which company you can trust with your intellectual property; otherwise the consequences could be costly.