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How Can a Teacher Recognize a Plagiarized Essay?

Plagiarism is an ongoing problem for most of the teachers. The first hint that a student plagiarizes in my class is that he/she writes, which does not sound like him/her, use phrases he or she would never speak or write.

Teachers always try to detect plagiarism in assignments of students. A plagiarized text typically has specific characteristics that can help detect copied material. It could include introducing different types of writing in a single paper, including repetitions, eloquent phrases, and insightful feelings, as is typical of an individual student, etc.


The presence of these characteristics may indicate that student is plagiarizing to accomplish his/her assignments. Subsequently, some special ways can help to detect plagiarism. In this phase, it may be helpful to meet the student to test his/her knowledge of the topic that is being discussed.

Technology can also support to detect plagiarism. For example, if you encounter a text from your student’s essay and you are familiar with that text, you can google that term or sentence to find matching results with that text. PrePostSeo and Turnitin are one of the most powerful plagiarism checkers to detect plagiarism. These web applications help you to upload papers which detect similarities among the paper that is submitted and already published papers.

Teachers should try to find plagiarism before sending the paper to the plagiarism checker. Below are some indications of plagiarized content.

1.  Presence of hidden hyperlinks

When a student copies data from the internet, he/she automatically copy hyperlinks that were already in the text of the original author. If you have a soft copy, look for these hyperlinks, they could be underlined and blue. It is a chance that you will find an HTML link, if not, move your cursor on the suspicious text to find any link. A pop-up will pop out with the information of the hyperlink.

2.  Variation in dictation

First of all, check if there are dictation deviances in your students’ work. If the writing pattern is not consistent in the whole paragraph, there are maximum chances that they did not write it. It can be subtler than a few of the following factors, but you should read their essay cautiously before deciding.

3.  Invalid content

There are chances of invalid or outdated content in an essay if it is plagiarized. Check the content carefully if it has any irrelevant information. It could be a totally conflicting reference or any information that has nothing to do with his/her essay. It may be a case of poor skills, but it may also indicate that the student ruthlessly copied information from another source.

4.  Missing or extra references

If there are extra or irrelevant references in the essay, then it may be an act of plagiarism. There may be endnotes that should not be there or ambiguous notes without references. Like inconsistent citation, it is also indicating that bits of text explicitly taken from the internet. Make sure you check for any extra or missing references in the text while reading the essays of your students.

5.  Citation Inaccuracies

There are chances of plagiarism if you find any inaccuracies in the citation. Students should be made quite clear that misquotes are plagiarism by themselves, and although they are usually unintentional, that does not reduce the impact of the offence. If there content is suspicious to you, give it a nice read.

6.  Citation style should be consistent

Citation styles vary in institutes and disciplines. You should make sure your students are informed of whether they use APA, Chicago, MLA style, or any other style that may fits. You should give them clear instructions on how to use that specific style. Look for the inconsistencies in the citation styles. It indicates that information is taken from various resources, because, one student cannot cite in two or three different styles, intentionally.

7.  Use of multiple fonts in one essay

Watch for adjustments in font design, scale, color, layout, as well as unusual formatting, in particular using several format settings in one essay. It may indicate that data is copied from multiple sources. There may be other, completely legitimate explanations for these errors, so that is not objective proof of plagiarism, but you must check for these variations in their work.

8.  Use the technology

With the emergence of technology, we have a lot of resources available now to detect plagiarism. Google is the simplest and easiest resource. You can paste a suspected statement or paragraph and see if any results come up. There are online plagiarism checker tools available like Turnitin, PrePostSeo, and Copyscape, etc. You can check a whole essay or a paragraph for plagiarism by pasting it in the input box of a plagiarism checker, or by uploading the document on their server by using the option for uploading a document. Some services provide this option for free. There are also free and premium services available, offering specific features with each version.

These plagiarism checkers match your material with billions of resources that are available on the internet and throw the matching results. Use these online services for your own good and your students’. Let your students know that you will check their essay for plagiarism. You can also check their work for plagiarism in front of them to show them the results to prevent them from committing it.

Wrapping Up

Plagiarism is not just a word-by-word duplication of the material. A student is plagiarizing if he/she is copying the meaning of the expression of the original author without giving him credit. Many students think that they don’t need to give credit to the author if they modify terms. If the material is not original but is obtained from another site, that source should be listed.

Some students commit plagiarism without the intention of doing it, but most of them do it with full awareness. Consequences of plagiarism may vary from expulsion from school to a heavy fine or sentence.

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