As the academic plagiarism market has become more saturated, many of the academic plagiarism checking services have been seeking new markets to grow their business. They’ve found a receptive audience among businesses, especially news services, design firms and other content-generation companies where plagiarism from within is a great threat to their bottom line.
Also, these companies have increasingly been finding an audience on the Web, helping bloggers and editors detect plagiarism not only in the articles that others post on their behalf, but also, in some cases, the other sites that may be ripping off their work.
However, most of these services have been priced well out of reach for your average blogger. The best known, iParadigm’s iThenticate service, doesn’t even display pricing information on its site and quotes generally run into the thousands of dollars per year.
Fortunately, other companies are stepping up to offer this essential service at a more reasonable price. One of the newer solutions is iPlagiarismCheck, a service from Plagiarism Checkers Inc. Starting at the beginning of this year, iPlagiarismCheck has begun to make a name for itself as a low-cost but effecting plagiarism detection service.
Overall, it seems that iPlagiarismCheck lives up to its reputation and, with a few simple tweaks, could go even farther, making itself virtually indispensable for for blog editors wanting to check the writing of their staff for any suspicion of plagiarism.
What it Does
iPlagiarismCheck works very similarly to any other academic plagiarism checking service. Users register for an account and submit their file, in PDF, Word, HTML, RTF or plain text format, to the service over the Web and iPlagiarismCheck then compares the file with its various databases, seeking out any suspicious matches.
Their service checks the file against not just the Internet, via Google, but also against ProQuest, FindArticles, various paper mills, including over 150,000 papers, and also previous submissions by the same user, thus accessing many potential sources not found readily on the Web.
Once it is done with the comparisons, iPlagiarismCheck produces an HTML report that highlights suspect passages and links them to the sources they may have been lifted from. The report also determines the overall percentage of the submitted work that may have been copied and further breaks down the list, showing how much might have been copied from each of the sources.
The entire process, depending on if the request was submitted as “urgent”, the length of the work and how many other reports are ahead of you in line, can take several hours from when the work is submitted and the report is returned. Users can register one of several packages, ranging from a one-off check that costs $5 to a $65 package that allows unlimited “urgent” checks for a whole year.
All in all, the process closely mirrors what professors and newspaper editors have been doing for years with other services, only iPlagiarismCheck does it in a way that both maximizes its effectiveness and makes it accessible to a much broader audience.
Lots to Love
After using iPlagiarismCheck, there is little doubting the power and effectiveness of their algorithm.
The report I submitted, a 48-page PDF on behalf of a client, was found to contain about 40% reused content. The sources were meticulously annotated and the report display made it very easy to pick out the sections most likely containing plagiarized material.
The process itself was very simple as well, a mere matter of registering for the site, paying for the service, uploading the document and then waiting. Fortunately, the wait time was not outrageous either. Though it took somewhat longer than expected, was still very fast, taking about three hours between when the work was submitted and the report was generated. Very fast given the size of the job, but still not the 2-3 minutes mentioned on the site.
Price-wise, iPlagiarismCheck is very reasonable. The $5 I spent on the one-off check was the most expensive deal they offered but still matched the minimum amount I would have had to spend to set up a premium account with Copyscape (though, with Copyscape, I would have been buying more searches). However, the $65 unlimited account for one year of unlimited checks is a great deal for editors and college professors that may be sending checks regularly. MyDropBox, a similar service, charges $69 for just six months of usage.
All in all, iPlagiarismCheck’s service is fast, powerful and inexpensive. It is the first service of its kind to be well within the reach of your average blog editor and/or Webmaster. It also targets a lot of its functions at students, enabling them to “check themselves” before turning a paper in.
This combination makes it a very compelling choice for the average Webmaster or user and a great alternative to higher-cost services. However, with a few simple tweaks and adjustments, iPlagiarismCheck might not just be a low-cost leader, but an overall leader in the field itself.
Hiccups and Concerns
Despite all of the reasons to be excited about iPlagiarismCheck, there are still a few concerns worth pointing out.
First, the front end itself is not put together perfectly, parts of it seem incomplete. For example, once your credit card information is taken, you are directed to a plain Web form to upload the document. The form looks nothing like the iPlagiarismCheck Web site and makes it feel as if you were misdirected or something went wrong. Additionally, the form also asks you to submit a backup copy of the file via email, indicating that they might still be working out bugs in their Web upload.
However, the double submission resulted in me getting not only two copies of the “Welcome aboard” letter, but also two copies of the report itself. Since one of each came from a yahoo.co.uk account and the others came from an iplagiarismcheck.com account, it is likely that the former ones were backups. Still, the process could be very confusing and makes ensuring safe passage through spam filters more difficult.
Second, though the three hour delay was not unreasonable given the amount of work required and the quality of the results, it may seem like an eternity to those used to Copyscape results, which are almost instantaneous, and those who read iPlagiarismCheck’s own claim of a 2-3 minute average. Though three hours is actually an impressive turnaround time for such a lengthy analysis (Note: There was an additional delay in me receiving the results in my inbox, likely due to the large attachment and the double send, figures are based on the email’s timestamp), many users will not be braced for the delay. Academics, however, used to 12-hour turnaround time for services such as MyDropBox, will likely be very impressed.
Third, even though the reports are very thorough, detecting passages as short as a few words in length, it still requires some human evaluation to determine if plagiarism has actually taken place. iPlagiarismCheck does not recognize passages that are quoted and/or properly cited. However, this is a limitation of every other automated plagiarism checking service and, in some settings, may actually be a feature, such as a professor checking that the sourcing is accurate.
Finally, those seeking to check their sites for plagiarism by other Web sites may not find a lot useful in their iPlagiarismCheck report. Though it may list several links as “sources”, the system is set up to detect academic, journalism and creative plagiarism before a work is submitted, not trace back all of the plagiarists of a work after it has been posted. Though it may be useful in some cases, there are other services which may be able to provide better functionality in this area right now.
With that being said, none of these drawbacks couldn’t easily be fixed with some retooling and redesigning the service. Overall, iPlagiarismCheck gets the fundamentals completely correct and produces one of the best plagiarism reports available at a price that makes it a consideration for a much broader audience than before.
All in all, I would recomment iPlagiarismCheck to anyone who might have a use for it. I can easily see a market for this service among blog editors and others who regularly post works from others. The $65 per years is easily the best rate out there for unlimited checking and the service does its job very well.
Though it is rough around some of its edges, iPlagiarismCheck gets the job done, gets it done fast and at a great price. There is little to hate about the service.
Though it would be nice to see a revised version of the product that would be targeted at Webmasters seeking to detect if others have plagiarized their work, the current tool is almost ideal for those worried about internal plagiarism and the $65 fee is well worth the peace of mind. Even if you only do spot checks of the work, checking what your employees or guest bloggers put up not only shows good faith, but serves to prevent plagiarism in the first place.
After all, only a fool would plagiarize if they knew there was a good chance their employer would discover it. Most people would rather work hard than be out of work.
Given the dangers that accompany having a plagiarist on staff, it makes sense to take precautions, especially when they are inexpensive and easy to use.
Best of all, the company is very open in nature, revealing details about its service others in the field keep secret. That puts my mind at ease when recommending them, as I don’t have to guess how the magic is made.
Personally, I will continue to use iPlagiarismCheck as needed for clients and friends. I will encourage others to do the same.
It is by far the best option out there for those of us who aren’t a part of a major corporation and don’t have fee access to an existing system already.
(Note: During the research of this piece, I noticed that an image in the iPlagiarismCheck Web site was almost identical to on on the MyDropBox Web site. I spoke with iPlagiarismCheck regarding this, they told me that the problem was caused by a contractor who plagiarized the image, they are aware of the issue, have informed BlackBoard, the owners of MyDropBox, and are working to update their site as well as dealing with the contractor. I have a call in with MyDropBox to confirm this but they have not returned my call as of this time. However, given that the page in question looks very different from the rest of the site, that iPlagiarismCheck reports are obviously very different from MyDropBox reports and no other misappropriation was apparent, I could find no reason to hold off on this review or change my opinion. I will be following this closely and may update this review if needed. I just wanted to alert my readers, many of whom have a great memory for this kind of thing, of the problem before they visited the sites or posted comments.)