The 3 Uses for Plagiarism Detection Tools

Detective Badge ImageIn my last post about WCopyFind, I talked briefly about the different usage scenarios that plagiarism checking tools have to deal with. Each, however, require a different skill set and, unfortunately, it seems no one tool is deal for any two situations, much less all of them.

So what are the usage scenarios a plagiarism checker will have to face? There are three overriding themes and any specific case will likely either be classified as one of the three or may have a combination of two or even all three scenarios in them.

These situations highlight why it is important to be aware of the different plagiarism and copy detection tools out there and not just relying on one or two. Just as using a screwdriver is wrong when trying to hammer in a nail, it is important to use the right tool when checking for plagiarism and, to do that, you need to understand the different jobs there are.

1. Verifying Originality

In this scenario, you are given a piece of content from an unknown origin, whether an essay, a new article, poem, etc. and you need to check and see if the work is original.

This is the situation faced by countless professors, teachers and other educators every day. It’s also the one faced by editors in newsrooms and for sites across the Web The goal is to either verify that the work is original or determine if it might be plagiarized.

What it Needs

Generally, for plagiarism checkers in this area, accuracy and breadth of database content is the most crucial thing. Such plagiarism checkers don’t have to find every result, just the one correct result. However, it must be able to return that to serve any purpose at all.

Speed, however, is slightly less important though simplicity is crucial as many of the people reading the reports as those reading them often know little about the original material or the suspected source content.


Currently, iParadigms is the undisputed leader in this field with its two main products, Turnitin, for schools, and iThenticate for businesses.

SafeAssign, which is owned by Blackboard, is a common alternative.

2. Tracking Content Misuse

This is the more common situation we talk about on Plagiarism Today. A content creator has written a piece of material they know to be authentic and want to track how it is being used on the Web. This involves not merely returning one accurate result, but rather, all the results available.

What it Needs

Breadth and accuracy are still important, but are less so. The reason is because there’s a higher tolerance for false positives as it is easier to make human judgements when starting with a known authentic source and, generally, there is only an interest in looking on the Web, not databases of academic content.

What is more important is the ability of the checker to return a large number of accurate results and to do so quickly. It’s not enough for the plagiarism checker to spot misuse and stop, instead, it has to find and report every incident it can.


For casual users, Copyscape and Plagium are likely the best tools. For businesses, services such as Attributor and iCopyright Discovery are more robust solutions.

3. In-Depth Plagiarism Analysis

The final situation is one where one already suspects the work of being a plagiarism and has reduced the field of candidates down to a a one or a few documents. The checker needs to either confirm those suspicions or get a more accurate picture on just how extensive the plagiarism is.

What it Needs

If you already know where the work was likely plagiarized from, you don’t need any kind of Internet searching capability. Instead, you can focus on comparing the two documents in depth and that requires a flexible plagiarism checker that can easily sift through the works involved for similarities and produce detailed results.


WCopyFind is one of the best-known and most loved apps in this area though there are also a slew of document comparison tools that can also work.

Bottom Line

Most people reading this are going to wonder what this means for them. The answer is simple: If you ever find yourself in need of a plagiarism or copy detection tool, it’s important to stop before making a decision and ask the important question of ‘What do I need to do with it?”

What you need the tool for is going to determine how you’re doing to use it and, that in turn, will determine which tool is likely the best.

There are still other differences between the tools, some seem to work better for certain types of content or plagiarism than others, but when deciding which tool to use, the first thing to consider is the job it will be doing.

Once you know that, the rest of the decision gets much easier.

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