Detecting Plagiarism

Indicators of possible plagiarism include:

  • A student's paper exceeds his or her research or writing capabilities, sounds professional or journalistic, or is too scholarly.
  • The student's paper contains complex or specialized vocabulary, jargon, technical terms, or other words and expressions beyond what would be expected from a student at that level.
  • The quality of writing is inconsistent. For example, the introduction or conclusion may be poorly written compared to the body of the paper.
  • The title page, font, references, format, or layout of the paper is inconsistent.
  • There are imbedded links, page breaks, or incorrect page numbers in the paper.
  • The topic of the paper isn't consistent with the assignment, class lectures, or class handouts.
  • The bibliography is odd in some way. For example, it may be long, the style guide used for the bibliography is different from the one used in class, the citations are all from older sources, or few or none of the materials referenced can be accessed in the library.
  • There are links or URLs at the top or bottom of the paper or greyed out letters or areas.
  • As a general rule, follow your instincts. Most professors can gauge what level their students are at.

How to track down a suspect paper

  • The same searching techniques that students use for locating papers on the Internet can also be used to retrieve plagiarized papers. Try typing in an unusual phrase or sentence from a suspect paper into a search engine like Google or Lycos. Because no search engine can index the entire Web, it is advisable to use more than one search engine.
  • In addition try using Google's Advanced Search feature. You can specify the formats you would like to search, the language, and you can construct far more specific searches.
  • Another resource to search is the Invisible Web. Web sites like offers links to thousands of databases and Web sites that aren't indexed by a regular search engines (Harris 172).
  • Although it may be tempting to submit student papers to a free detection service, it is strongly recommended that searchers only submit phrases or a few sentences to these search engines. With a stroke of ingenuity, there is evidence to suggest that some of these detection services may be taking submitted student essays and re-selling them from paper mills.
  • In addition, try searching some of the paper mills for a suspect paper.
  • If the quality of writing appears to exceed the level of the student, faculty may initially check both print and electronic reference sources like encyclopedias and dictionaries. Online reference sources like,, and eLibrary offer links to other Web sites, newspaper and magazine articles, pictures, and books on selected topics. The eLibrary service has a subscription fee but offers a 7 day free trial. Faculty may be able to locate plagiarized sources searching some of these sites.
  • In addition to checking print sources faculty may also want to search a few online databases. The suspect paper may have been taken directly from an article found in an online database like Academic Search Premier, accessed via the library, rather than the Internet. The database may also retrieve articles that were omitted in the bibliography but have obviously been used by the student.
  • Another source students can plagiarize from for both ideas and text is usenet groups and list serves. Some search engines will automatically search these Internet sources, but usually they will only search the Web unless the researcher chooses usenet groups and list serves as the format to be searched (Stebelman 49).
  • Ask a librarian for help if there is difficulty searching for a suspect paper. Faculty can e-mail library staff or go directly to a reference desk for assistance.

Detection Services

Online services search the Internet and company databases for plagiarized material. Middle Georgia State University owns licenses for the detection service. Faculty members have access to the Turnitin tool within D2L, and faculty must enable the submission feature before students upload their papers. Students should contact their professors if they have questions about their assignments. The following online search services are available for a subscription fee but many offer a free trial.

Glatt Plagiarism Services


Information on this plagiarism website used and adapted with permission from the University of Alberta Libraries Learning Services.