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How do Unis check essays far plagiarism?

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    Hey! in just very curious. I mean do they have some massive database with all texts of all books and magazines and they run each essay throughout it....or what? I sounds impossible.

    Couse i understand if a person stole somebody's idea....quoted some famous people without referencing or copied parts famous texts. than yeah its probably not hard to catch them.

    But what if a person copied 2-3 sentences from some random magazine or a book which nobody really knows about? Maybe even took them out of context. its like millions of books in the world. Even now im sitting in the library and i think NO WAY THEY CAN check the essay for all of them.

    can somebody tell me lol couse this question was bugging me all year.
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    Not sure about your uni - at leeds, they actualy do have a massive database - Its got not only books but every essay the uni and other uni's has been given, so they can check it globaly

    For example, when I gave in a essay last term, I gave it online and was actually shown the database - it highlights in red anything thats word for word something in the database - one of my sentences perfectly matched one from an essay apparently from the university of California, if that helps give a sense of it.

    So yeah, even if your uni hasn't copied every book into it, other unis have put alot of theirs, so the number of books is presumably utterly massive
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    Yes, they have a massive Database. It's called Turnitin.
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    You can actually pay one of the plagiarism checkers to check your paper. I often do it if i'm especially paranoid. Never flagged up anything except my quotes and references though so i'm all good :P
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    (Original post by DontKillMeJay)
    You can actually pay one of the plagiarism checkers to check your paper. I often do it if i'm especially paranoid. Never flagged up anything except my quotes and references though so i'm all good :P
    Which one/how?
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    They dont check.
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    Are you not often given a percentage (similarity percentage) which your work has to be under.

    I've always wondered about coincidences though What if my work just happened to be a lot like someone elses? How do you even start to fight your corner?
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    (Original post by lonelykatana)
    Actually yes, most of them do.
    You are often given a percentage (similarity percentage) which your work has to be under.

    I've always wondered about coincidences though What if my work just happened to be a lot like someone elses? How do you even start to fight your corner?
    Academics aren't idiots and the software is really a flag to enable them to look at the work more closely. They will be able to see whether something looks like coincidence or that you have an unimaginative literary style or if it is plagiarism.

    For example, if you have what looks like a lengthy quotation from a published work but that work has nothing to do with the subject matter of your essay, the tutor is likely to say co-incidence.

    Include something from your reading list or something relevant to your subject matter that is very visible on the internet and they are likely to say plagiarism.
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    (Original post by lonelykatana)
    Actually yes, most of them do.
    You are often given a percentage (similarity percentage) which your work has to be under.

    I've always wondered about coincidences though What if my work just happened to be a lot like someone elses? How do you even start to fight your corner?
    That's not strictly true. For instance, my dissertation came back at 19% similar, which at face value would make you think that I was cheating. On inspection, the aspects that made up this percentage were actually from citations and various other sources which were referenced.
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    Turnitin is just a system to flag up plagiarism that would have otherwise been missed - it's normally very easy to tell when a source hasn't been quoted because the student tries too hard to paraphrase and reword things.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    For example, if you have what looks like a lengthy quotation from a published work but that work has nothing to do with the subject matter of your essay, the tutor is likely to say co-incidence.
    I wouldn't be so sure about that.:erm: Obviously it would be a slightly stupid idea to plagiarise from a work which has nothing to do with your essay, but it would still be plagiarism, so I doubt whether it would be dismissed as 'coincidence' purely because no student in his right mind would hope to gain anything from nicking a passage from, say, The Da Vinci Code....
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    Yup, they use "Turnitin". In our first year we were given a practice essay to do, so that we could see our "turnitin" results and see how easy it is to be caught plagiarising, and what can come up as plagiarism when it isn't. It was brilliant to be able to see it, and be able to see what comes up, as I had stuff from all over the place which I didn't use (i.e. essays from Nottingham from years and years ago?!), but is similar. We were told how these were all looked at and determined whether they are or aren't plagiarism.
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    (Original post by hobnob)
    I wouldn't be so sure about that.:erm: Obviously it would be a slightly stupid idea to plagiarise from a work which has nothing to do with your essay, but it would still be plagiarism, so I doubt whether it would be dismissed as 'coincidence' purely because no student in his right mind would hope to gain anything from nicking a passage from, say, The Da Vinci Code....

    You are adopting a God's eye approach to this. You are assuming that copying has taken place in which case you are correct that it is plagiarism regardless of the source.

    The committee making the decision about this isn't able to beg the question i.e to assume that which they have to be satisfied about. Nor do they have God's eye. They don't know the truth. All they know is that there is a congruence between the candidate's text and some other text. They have to decide, (according to whatever standard of certainty the procedures of that institution require) whether or not copying has taken place.

    You give the example of The Da Vinci Code. That is a very good example for a number of reasons and highlights the difficulty. It is a modern best seller. Therefore, a student is likely to have read it. However, it is also a text that may have entered the student's sub-conscious and so may be reproduced without an intention to copy. Furthermore, it has become a cultural phenomenon and so the student may have picked up the link indirectly.

    Now lets assume the reference isn't from The Da Vinci Code but from The Deemster by Hall Caine an obscure late Victorian novel. Is it more likely that the student has copied a line or two from that novel or that two monkeys on two typewriters more than a century apart have come up with the same text?
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    You are adopting a God's eye approach to this. You are assuming that copying has taken place in which case you are correct that it is plagiarism regardless of the source.

    The committee making the decision about this isn't able to beg the question i.e to assume that which they have to be satisfied about. Nor do they have God's eye. They don't know the truth. All they know is that there is a congruence between the candidate's text and some other text. They have to decide, (according to whatever standard of certainty the procedures of that institution require) whether or not copying has taken place.

    You give the example of The Da Vinci Code. That is a very good example for a number of reasons and highlights the difficulty. It is a modern best seller. Therefore, a student is likely to have read it. However, it is also a text that may have entered the student's sub-conscious and so may be reproduced without an intention to copy. Furthermore, it has become a cultural phenomenon and so the student may have picked up the link indirectly.

    Now lets assume the reference isn't from The Da Vinci Code but from The Deemster by Hall Caine an obscure late Victorian novel. Is it more likely that the student has copied a line or two from that novel or that two monkeys on two typewriters more than a century apart have come up with the same text?
    Well, what I meant was that if a passage which looks suspiciously like plagiarism from an irrelevant text is flagged up by Turnitin (you were speaking of a 'lengthy quotation', not just a couple of phrases), a department wouldn't be able to discard it as coincidence just because you'd have to be mad to plagiarise Dan Brown in an essay about the great vowel shift. They'd have to follow it up just like any other suspicious-looking passage.
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    In addition to the computer-based checkers the lecturers themselves are pretty good at doing it - as one of mine pointed out (after having caught loads of people plagiarising!) they read the relevant books and articles again and again and again. Even if we assume they only do that through essays, that's still a heck of a lot.
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    What about if we were to 'borrow' one or two sentences from, say, a blog post? Would that go undetected?
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    (Original post by electric-wars)
    What about if we were to 'borrow' one or two sentences from, say, a blog post? Would that go undetected?
    If it doesn't fit in with your usual style of writing, looks glaringly obvious or has the same words/syntac then it could easily still be spotted by a lecturer or by Turnitin.

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Updated: October 26, 2011
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