Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Plagiarism in online courses, while not more prevalent than in grounded classes, receives an inordinate amount of attention because of the perceived ease of cheating (Laureate Education, 2010).   To aid instructors and administration in the detection of plagiarism and cheating, there are many different software and hardware tools available.  Turnitin, a popular plagiarism detection software, is common on college campuses and was found to be approximately 10% more sensitive in detecting plagiarism than traditional methods (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006).   There are a number of tools available and a simple Internet search nets a large number of free or low-cost alternatives to Turnitin such as Anti-Plagiarism, DupliChecker, and PaperRater (links below).

While these tools can automate the process and bring a certain level of assurance to the instructor and administration that academic dishonesty is being actively guarded against, it may be more effective to design assessments such that intentional plagiarism and cheating are not viable solutions.  Dr. Pratt (Laureate Education, 2010) suggests designing assessments and activities to be more application based.  Having students demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge can help eliminate the need for such detection strategies.  In my own experience as a learner, I have been given assessments where it was encouraged that outside sources be sought and that students collaborate.  As mentioned by Drs. Pratt and Palloff (Laureate Education, 2010), real world projects assigned by employers will require the same approach.  The end product or proposal that is presented at the end is what will demonstrate the learner’s (or employee’s) mastery of the subject.

The topic I teach is dependent on the student’s mastery of a variety of knowledge, skills, and abilities.  Theory-based (facts, rules) assessments are susceptible to cheating, however, the application-based assessments are not.  The policy in my program is to make those types of assessments very low stakes.  The high stakes assessments are those where the student must take the facts and rules and apply them.  It is satisfying to learn that this approach is recommend by Drs. Pratt and Palloff.   The emphasis on higher-order thinking through the synthesis and application of knowledge may go far in decreasing the need for plagiarism and cheating detection.  


Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Resarch in Open and Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Plagiarism and cheating [Video file]. Retrieved from

Tools Mentioned in this Article


  1. You and I agree about the importance of creating learning experiences that encourage applying knowledge and collaboration. I also cited Dr.Pratt, and I agreed with his notion of creating assessments that are challenging and also allowing students to consult with one another during testing as they would in the real world. I passionately believe in arming learners with knowledge and experiences that can be applied in the real world. In my opinion, learning something in theory is not always as simple or cut and dry when applying it in a real world setting.

  2. Keisha,
    I think that sometimes in the more academic courses people lose sight of the fact that in the end it is all about training a person to be able to do a job in the real world. I took so many computer programming classes as an undergrad, but never once was I assessed on how I would be able to perform in a real world situation!

  3. You said in your post, "To aid instructors and administration in the detection of plagiarism and cheating, there are many different software and hardware tools available." I agree that they can help, but these tools are not a fool-proof way to stop plagiarism and cheating. For example, you can have your citations and references correct, but the software will still detect some of the originality issues on a paper. I have had this happen in Turnitin. This is where the instructor has to judge on his or her own what % of originality is exceptable.

    1. Normally, when I set up Turnitin, I have it ignore quotations. But you are right, there still has to be instructor review.