Plagarism Detection and Prevention


A growing challenge in distance learning is maintaining a rich educational experience for learners, in which academic excellence and integrity are the norm.  There exists a great body of research devoted to plagiarism and cheating and their impact on distance learning. While some researchers feel that the distant learning environment does not promote more student dishonesty and cheating; others feel that as more courses are offered in this manner, more students will cheat. According to Jocoy & DiBiase, (2006), one approach to prevent plagiarism and cheating is by creating a protocol that will ensure detection and remediation of specific violations.


Detection Software

Experts in this area suggest that administrators and instructors use detection software to combat this problem. There are several plagiarism detection software programs available on the market. The one I am most familiar with is Turnitin because it is used at my current university. The Turniitin software is a database that stores millions of academic writing. By conducting a search via the database, it will compare percentage of content already written with the submitted piece. A second technology tool for detecting plagiarism is simply conducting a Google search on parts of the submitted assignment. This will help instructors see where the information presented came from (if not original) and how often it was cited. 




Carefully Designed Assessments and Facilitation

A performance assessment is probably the most effective assessment to prevent plagiarism and cheating. When students are required to apply learned knowledge to create and/or complete a specific task, it is almost impossible to cheat. Additionally, “some courses have content that supports a uniquely individualized project within the class such as changing the behavior of a subject in a psychology class” (Brown, Jordan, Rubin, & Arome, 2010).


Be sure to clearly explain policies and academic expectations. Some studies suggest that plagiarism occurs frequently due to ignorance rather than some malicious act. Sometimes, students are just unclear as to what plagiarism is. For example, Chao, Wilhelm, & Neureuther (2009) posit that when students were asked to complete papers that required different documentation styles, some students may become so confused

by the idiosyncrasies in each style that they cited information incorrectly in their

reports. Another example is provided by Palloff and Pratt (n.d.). They mention that students plagiarize off of themselves by turning in all or large portions of writing they used for a different course. This too, is an example of cheating.


Additional Considerations

Some do not use such detection software simply because they feel as if they can detect plagiarism on their own. Another issue is that just like with any technology tool, the user may have navigation challenges that prevent consistent usage. Brown, Jordan, Rubin, & Arome (2010) have identified reasons such as: inaccurate reporting of originality, program catching plagiarism from secondary sources, difficultly in using the program, papers could only be submitted electronically, technology savvy students have found ways to circumvent the service, to explain why administrators and instructors are not totally supportive with Turnitin and similar digital plagiarism detection software.


I believe that one of the best methods to prevent plagiarism and cheating is to have a clear academic integrity policy. It should be written in student friendly language and provide specific examples. Instructors should integrate mini-lessons throughout the course that will require students to check this policy and have tasks serve as teachable moments and coaching tools.


Brown, V., Jordan, R., Rubin, N., & Arome, G. (2010). Strengths and weaknesses of plagiarism detection software. Journal of Literacy and Technology11(1/2), 110-131.

Chao, C., Wilhelm, W., & Neureuther, B. (2009). A study of electronic detection and pedagogical approaches for reducing plagiarism. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 51(1), 31-42.


Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.


Palloff, R. & Platt, S. (n.d.). Plagarism and cheating. {Video Presentation}.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s