How Plagiarism Gets Detected

Ever since this whole internet thing came into existence it has become much easier to plagiarize the work of others and pass it off as your own, but it has also become much easier to get caught doing so. No matter how slick a person thinks they are, and how much time and effort they put into crafting the “perfect” plagiarized essay or article, they can’t be safe from the advancing technology designed to stop them.

The Usual Sources

The easiest way for someone to get caught plagiarizing the work of others, and the most low-tech, is the simple fact that they used the same set of sources that everyone else did in their particular class or segment of the industry.

Just put yourself in the shoes of the professor or other teacher who is sitting at their desk to review 20 or more essays on the same general topic. The professor will quickly begin to see a pattern emerging if it looks like a lot of their students have been copying from the same sources. Before the internet, these sources were usually encyclopedias and other books from the library. Today, these common sources include Wikipedia and popular blogs that cover the subject in question.

Software and Online Plagiarism Checkers

If the person responsible for reviewing an essay or other assignment has picked up some of the clues mentioned in the previous segment, or even if they didn’t and just want to be sure, they can run the work in question through an essay checker to ease their mind.

Most of these online detection tools work in a way that is similar to a regular search engine; you submit the document in question and it will be checked against a massive database of previous work. The tools are basically looking for identical text between the submitted work and the database, but it goes a lot further than just checking for a quick copy and paste job. Even if the whole essay or article has been rewritten it is still possible for enough traces of the original to remain and be detected.

These tools are not perfect though. They can and will come back with both false positives and false negatives, which means that you cannot take the verdict of a plagiarism checker as 100% fool-proof. If the checker says there is no plagiarism, it could be wrong, and if it says there is plagiarism then it could be wrong again. The results must always be checked further in-depth before any action is taken.

The Penalty For Plagiarism

There is no standard penalty for plagiarism that is the same across all universities and other learning institutions, but it’s safe to say that none of them will be pleased about it. The specific policy for each particular university can usually be found on their website.

Some of the common penalties include:

  • Formal warning (usually only for the first offense).
  • Grade reduced by 20% for the item in question.
  • Required to resubmit the piece, or undertake an additional assessment.
  • Failed for the assignment.
  • Failed for the course.
  • Excluded from taking the course again for a period of time.

The disciplinary actions mentioned above do not take into account the embarrassment and potential harm to your current and future career. Some plagiarists have been caught years or decades after the act, so it could come back at you any time.

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