(Give a high five if you’re a student reading this!)
When assigned to write an essay or any other kind of academic paper, they know how to do research, use data, and create a plan. They think of hooks, introduction, and conclusion. They know that an essay should be argumentative and original.
And that’s where problems appear.
Whatever a block, its consequences are evident: Plagiarism. To hoodwink professors and cheat plagiarism check software, students believe it’s okay and enough to change word order or sentence structure of a source and, therefore, make it look and sound original. They know the working algorithm of most plagiarism checkers: to discover exact matches in a particular word number, which is 5-9 words at average.
In other words, if a student changes every fifth lexical item in a text, online plagiarism checkers won’t see it as duplications.
Are all plagiarism checkers so predictable?
Is it so easy to cheat them?
The most common tricks used to cheat software and hide plagiarism in academic writings are three.
To avoid word-for-word plagiarism in writings, students do their best to bypass a so-called “five (consecutive) word” rule saying you are a plagiarist if use five consecutive words identical to others’ writings. For that, it seems obvious to change a word order in original sentences so a plagiarism detector couldn’t find any duplications.
Its improved algorithms function in a different way, looking for duplications in semantics rather than word orders. (Although the service recognizes exact matches, too.) So, if a student decides to rearrange words in a source to hide duplications, PlagiarismCheck.org will detect them.
Let’s take a passage from a favorite source of many – Wikipedia.
Even if changing several words in order, the tool considers it plagiarism.
The same happens if we change the order of several word expressions in the passage.
Some students practice such small edits to hide plagiarism unintentionally: they forget quotations to give references or don’t know how to cite in the right way. As a result, accidental plagiarism appears, leading to unpleasant consequences for those accused of it.
Intentional manipulations with original texts are much trickier. To claim them as own, dishonest students change sentence structures and grammar constructions, without respect to the fact such tricks might break word order rules and influence readability as well as overall meaning of their message.
This scheme is easy to pull. Yes, it takes time; but some students still prefer spending theirs to cheat plagiarism checkers rather than working on own original texts.
Let’s take the already known passage from Wikipedia, do the above manipulations, and see if PlagiarismCheck.org recognizes this type of plagiarism.
Here’s the result:
All three manipulations with sentence structure changes are present here, but PlagiarismCheck.org still determines it as duplication.
Despite the fact that passive voice, -ly adverbs, and some grammar constructions such as there is/there are make writings weak, students use them actively (oops, a -ly adverb detected!) now and then.
Students don’t worry about the readability of their writings. Changing active to passive voice in sentences, they hope to hide the original nature of used arguments. Wordiness helps to rarefy lexical items of a source so that plagiarism check tools couldn’t discover copy-paste and rewrite.
Even if we do all the given manipulations – word rearrangement, changes in sentence structure, and active to passive voice change – with the Wikipedia passage, it’s not a big challenge for the tool to discover duplications.
Most students still believe (or want to) plagiarism myths, so they don’t take it as the offense to copy-paste or rewrite texts found online. They hope to cheat the system and get A’s for duplicating others’ works but, even if it happens accidentally, such attempts lead to expulsion.
With improved algorithms of modern software, it’s not a problem for educators to check student papers and discover plagiarism issues there. It seems we are one step closer to defeating plagiarism in academia once and for all.