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Finding Plagiarism in Students’ Work

The issue of plagiarism is widespread in education for a few reasons. The main reason is that students are simply not aware of plagiarism or do not feel as if it is something to avoid. Sometimes, students are just scared of failing, other times they simply believe that they will not getcaughtt. The point is there are different reasons that it is perpetrated.

This can be rectified by teaching students about plagiarism, and explaining why it is bad. Then double down on it and start levying punishments against offending students.

However, this can only be done if teachers are able to detect that students are committing plagiarism. This is not so easy to do. However, in this article, we will teach you exactly how teachers can find plagiarism in their students’ work. So, let’s get right to it.

  • Look For Inconsistencies in Writing Style and Citation Styles

So, the first mistake that many plagiarists make, is that they do not take the time to homogenize the plagiarized work. Most students are smart enough to know that if they copy and paste content from one source, they will get caught. Instead, they try to copy stuff from different sources and paste it into one work.

However, most students do this poorly. This results in a write-up that has many different writing styles. Sometimes the students may even copy citations without checking them. So, if teachers see that a student’s work has citations in multiple styles, then, they have probably plagiarized. And the same can be said for multiple writing styles.

A normal writer will not make such rookie mistakes. So, a teacher needs a keen eye to spot these differences and detect plagiarism in the student’s work.

  • Keep an Eye out for Abrupt Changes in Tone, Tenses, and Views

When students commit plagiarism, one reason is lack of time. So, they try to mix and match some other works and create a new work. The lack of time also makes them unable to actually read the work and edit it to remove any discrepancies. More often than not, this leaves plenty of clues behind which can alert a teacher about plagiarism.

Teachers should keep their eyes peeled for abrupt changes in tone, and tenses. In some extreme cases, a student may actually plagiarize two different works that have opposing views. So, their work will have opposing views as well.

Changes in tone can be caught when a student seemingly just jumps from one tone to another. For example, a student may be discussing a topic in a confident tone, but suddenly, it will shift to an inquisitive tone. The same is true for tenses.

  • Utilize a Search Engine to Check Suspicious Passages

If a teacher feels that some part of a student’s write-up is suspicious, or exhibits telltale signs of plagiarism, then they can use a search engine.

This entails that they copy the suspicious text and paste it into the search bar of a search engine. Search engines will find the exact match if the text is plagiarized and embolden it. You can see this in the image below in which we have used a passage from one of our blog posts to check for plagiarism.

There is just one issue with this approach and that is that search engines have an input limit of 32 words. So, you cannot check long passages for plagiarism. Usually, this is enough to catch plagiarism. It has one drawback which is that it requires a lot of manual effort on the teacher’s part.

  • Utilize a Plagiarism Checker

Arguably, one of the easiest ways of checking for plagiarism is to utilize a plagiarism-checking tool. There are numerous free and paid tools available on the internet. A teacher can search for them and input their student’ work to check them.

In fact, many universities and colleges have academic plagiarism checkers available such as Turnitin. Any assignments submitted through Turnitin are automatically checked for plagiarism and the teacher’s workload is reduced.

If you’re at an institute that doesn’t have an arrangement like this, then you can use any of the online plagiarism checkers such as the one by Check-Plagiarism or Copyscape. Tools like these can help you find out if any of your student’s work has plagiarism in it.

The good thing is that they are free to use, and have cheap upgrades as well. So, as a teacher, you will always have the option to utilize the best package for yourself.


These are just a few tips for teachers to check their students’ work in order to find plagiarism. These four tips do not need to be applied together. In fact, they work well alone.

For smaller assignments, the first three tips are more than enough, but for longer ones, the last tip is the best. In the end, it is the teacher’s preference what to use and what works for them.

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