Writing AdviceWriting, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2016

Great Tools to Check for Plagiarism and Why You Should Be Using Them


The simple definition of plagiarism that you likely learned in grade school is "the act of using another person's words or ideas without giving credit to that person." However, the evolving nature of plagiarism in a digital age isn't quite so simple, and involves a blurry assortment of laws that have even blurrier impact.

The rise of popularity of social media and blogging is staggering. While these publication tools make the words and ideas of others easily accessible—it likewise makes them easily copied. With content marketers, researchers, and a lot of amateur aficionados of various topics (whether informed or not) adding to that content daily, the result is a sea of ideas and quotes that may or may not be original. Naturally, with the exponential growth of words and ideas floating around the Internet, the risk of plagiarism and copied content also rises. However, the surprising fact is that while much of it is intentional and black hat search engine optimization (SEO) practices, some examples of plagiarism are unintentional.

Here's how it happens

Consider this scenario. You're a small business owner, you've consulted with online marketing experts, and you've learned that the most aggressive way to market is to make your website more visible through informative, useful content. So your next step is to hire someone to write online content for you in the hopes that the content will draw traffic to your business website and help build your online reputation or brand identity.

After requesting several bids from an online, global community of freelance writers, you pick the one that is easiest on your budget and offers more bang for the buck. And that's when your troubles begin.

It turns out that the content you believed to be original (and so you published it!) was partially plagiarized, and therefore protected under intellectual property and copyright laws. Not only do "cease and desist" notices demand that you take down the content immediately—they also inform you of legal fees or lawsuits that will occur because the freelancer you paid copied words and ideas from an original source without properly giving credit.

Search engine results

As if legal troubles and wasted money weren't enough to convince you to use a different strategy to help avoid the issue in the first place, then comes the blow to your original goal of giving your website a professional and visible place on the Web.

According to Moz, one of the most trusted online SEO resources used by professional marketers and SEO experts, duplicate content will immediately have a negative effect on your site's search engine rankings and web traffic. Why? Popular search engines like Google consistently change their algorithms to determine a website's "worthiness" to be near the top of the search engine results. To do this, the search engine bots check various qualities of the site, including (among other factors) the originality of the website's content.

If there is duplicate content, your site becomes less relevant in a search engine query, or even blacklisted by the search engine because of copyright infringement policies or suspected black hat practices. Basically, all the work you've put into making it more visible and easy to find on the Web will have been for nothing.

Intentional plagiarism vs. unintentional plagiarism

Consider the above scenarios and then consider this: even though plagiarism frequently is unintentional, the results and consequences are the same. With all the words on the Web, and vast amounts of additional text content being published daily, the chances of unintentional plagiarism increase exponentially.

You may wonder how it is possible to unintentionally plagiarize someone else's work, but it's easier than you might think. Take, for instance, the writer who fails to include quotation marks to denote a direct quote; or the writer who has read several articles on a topic and accidentally uses phrasing that he or she has read before, but doesn't consciously realize it is someone else's direct quote.

Of course, there are common instances of intentional plagiarism, as well, especially if a writer is looking to save time and effort in the process of delivering a project. Some examples of intentional plagiarism include:

  • Using a pre-written paper downloaded from the Internet and claiming it to be one's own.
  • Using exact words from another's essay or work, without giving credit to the author by using quotes or an in-text citation. This also includes cutting and pasting partial or whole phrases from another source.
  • Submitting work that has been written by someone else and claiming it as your own.
  • Borrowing phrasing or ideas from another's work without giving credit to them.
  • Fabricating a source

Online resources to check for plagiarism

So, with all the ways content can be easily plagiarized—both intentionally and unintentionally—how can you guard against low search engine rankings, wasted effort, a loss of credibility, and potential lawsuits over intellectual property?

The answer is easy—and in many cases, free.

Copyscape

This free plagiarism checker allows you to check the originality of content that has already been published online, and is one of the most trusted duplicate content checkers used by individuals, academic institutions and businesses worldwide. The website is easy to navigate and has simple instructions, but offers limited free scans in the hopes that you'll sign up for their premium service.

Copyscape's premium service offers much broader options. For example, you can copy and paste text that hasn't been published online yet to check for originality before you publish it. You can also perform unlimited scans to check for plagiarism. As another add-on, the website's Copysentry service will perform daily or weekly scans to determine if anyone on the web is using your original content as their own.

If you're more audio-visually inclined, they also provide this handy instructional video on how to use their services.

Small SEO Tools

Advertising itself as "one of the biggest free SEO tools providers," this site offers a free plagiarism checker, along with several other useful SEO tools. A user can copy and paste any group of words (1,000 words or less), or upload a file, and the website will crawl the Internet to detect any unoriginal content that can be found elsewhere on the Web.

After performing the search, you'll see results below it. Any phrases that are already found on the web will be highlighted, and the website will provide links to other websites where the copied content is published.

One great plus to this site is that it allows you to scan documents, copied text, or websites without registering with an email address.

Copyleaks

This cloud-based plagiarism software will scan online content for plagiarism, but like Copyscape, is limited in its free services. Also, registration with an email address is required before any of its services (including the free ones) are used.

As an add-on plagiarism checker tool, Copyleaks also allows site visitors to compare content side by side to know what has been changed, paraphrased or copied between them. A similarity rate is provided, and the best part is that you can copy and paste text, upload text files, or input a website's URL to start the comparison. Of course, Copyleaks' intent is to convince you to buy service plans, which range from academic to business-based focus.

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