Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Plagiarism detection software available to online instructors

Online instructors have numerous options on plagiarism detection software.  Noted in (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006) are Turnitin, Google’s functionality of tracking of copied phrases, and EVE (Essay Verification Engine).  Additional options include: GrammarlyiThenticate, ViperPlagiarism Detector, and Write Check.

Design of assessments can help prevent academic dishonesty

Dr. Pratt and Dr. Palloff in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) recommend that assessments mirror real-life experience as much as possible; that they be as authentic as possible to minimize academic dishonesty.  The rationale being that the nature of such assessment does not warrant cheating—even if students were given permission to do so.  In such assessments, the result of students’ work has to come from themselves. They have to produce something from what they have learned.  They can collaborate with others as much as they need to but the final result will be their own effort.  As much as possible, I believe it is best to avoid assessments that rely on multiple-choice questions.

Strategies to facilitate academic honesty

(Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006) and Dr. Pratt & Dr. Palloff in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) propose well-founded, sound strategies—which include:

  • Communicating the principles of academic integrity as a component of the “expectation management” strategy discussed in (Jocoy & Diabiase, 2006); for example, requiring students “to pass an academic integrity quiz to unlock instructions for project assignments.” (P. 9).
  • Developing course specific guidelines for proper citation and proper paraphrasing. (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006).
  • Utilizing plagiarism detection software and warning students of its presence
  • Administering tougher penalties
  • Providing students with a clear explanation of plagiarism, fair use and copyright, and directing them to resources that can provide detailed information, such as the institution’s library as Dr. Palloff noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) and/or the Library of Congress Copyright Office

I would add to the list, what I believe to be a fundamental strategy is, getting to know my students well and establishing a trusting relationship within our learning community.  My opinion is that if there is a strong sense of trust within, and a sense of belonging to, the learning community students are less likely to be dishonest.  If they feel they lack the required skills or knowledge, they are more likely to approach the instructor and their learning community for help than they are to cheat.  If I know my students well and know what type of work they produce, I am better able to detect academic dishonesty—intentional or unintentional.  Furthermore, having a trusting relationship with my students (and they with me) puts us in a better position to not only detect dishonesty, but also to identify the underlying cause for the dishonesty—and perhaps work towards eliminating the cause.

Additional considerations to help detect or prevent cheating and plagiarism

For online courses that require proctored exams, perhaps institutions can arrange for students to take their tests at a testing center, with a live (vs. virtual) proctor present.

What I learned this week

This week’s learning resources have provided excellent strategies to minimize academic dishonesty.  I agree with (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006) conclusion that “expectation management strategy” along with “rigorous enforcement of academic integrity standards” can help minimize academic dishonesty.  I also believe however, just as there is dishonesty in other aspects of our society, [and becoming more sophisticated at that], so will be in academia.  As instructors (online or face-to-face), we need to manage it as best we could with the tools we have available.  Additionally (and more importantly) we need to model honest and professional behavior to our students and educate them on the true value of education; that it is much more than grades or diplomas—it is a profound personal development, and enlightening experience that will help them contribute to the betterment of society.

And on enlightenment, watch Dan Ariely on TED – on “Why We Think it’s OK to Cheat and Steal (sometimes) – Our Buggy Moral Code.”

Thank you,



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.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Plagiarism and Cheating.


5 thoughts on “Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

  1. Marta,
    I think that you have covered this extensively. The suggestion that you pointed out about making assessments as true to life as possible is a great one in terms of discussion. Our discussions at Walden have almost always included the prompting of personal experience to back up or illustrate whatever the topic happens to be. If students do this, it is almost impossible to plagiarize someone else. Relating the topic to personal experience shows that not only has a student read and understood what has been said or written, but that they can apply it in some way to he already knows. It would actually take someone more time to try to find and plagiarize an experience that fits than it would to think of one’s own history with a topic. You also mention the multiple choice test to be a weak choice. I agree, and have always tended toward the essay question or at least short answer. But my subject area is English. It seems that it would be trickier for other subjects. Also, the essay question takes much longer to grade; therefore, some instructors will always choose the matching or multiple choice questions. Also, while in grade school, cheating is rampant and often undetected, at the college level, if students are cheating to get by, chances are good that they won’t even graduate. And in the end, they really are only cheating themselves.

  2. Marta,
    I love your analysis of plagiarism. Designing tests that are not multiple choice, but incorporate real world information and applications are more important than choosing the right answer. In fact, very few situations in the real world require you to choose the correct answer. They are more about problem solving. I think giving students a problem to solve and encouraging them to work together has more validity than choosing the right answer on a test. I also like your analysis of getting to know the learner. If you as the instructor are aware of each student voice, it is easy to tell when they are being dishonest. A change in voice or overall philosophy is a red flag that should be noted by the professors. This is often overlooked.

  3. Marta,
    Good job with this post. I agree with Dr. Palloff and Dr. Pratt in that assessments should “mirror” real life. Listening to them discuss this in the video provided some clarity for me on this topic. In everyday life (especially these days) there is hardly anything that we have to answer by ourselves or own or own.

  4. Hi Marta,

    I enjoyed reading your blog with your insights on plagiarism and cheating. The standard of behavior are meant to ensure “that work done is one’s own and then work of other is properly recognized” (College of Agricultural Sciences, 2005). As instructors we do have a responsibility inform our learners of the expectations and consequences of plagiarism and cheating (Kohlbert and Hersh, 1977). I also enjoyed the video you embedded in your blog. Is it considered plagiarism since you did not list it in your bibliography but gave credit in the body of your work? Where is the line really drawn? Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) gave two contingencies that identify plagiarism: intentionality and degree of culpability. I do believe that in some instances we can forget to cite a reference in a haste to complete assignments. I have been guilty of doing that myself a couple of times. I’m asking because I was surprised to learn that I could not use material that I created previously without giving myself credit (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). Do you feel that is a rule that needs to be changed? If I am the author of material and I use my own material why do I have to give myself credit? I am a little fuzzy in that aspect.

    Great post this week Marta.


    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. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

    Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). Plagiarism and cheating.

  5. Marta,

    Thanks for a great post. As always you have done an outstanding job outlining best practices in fighting cheating plagiarism. Thanks for bringing the TED talk. Dan Ariely makes some great points in the video. I don’t know anyone who feels bad about taking a pen with advertisement on it. We all assume it is okay to do so. We also rationalize when we find a dollar bill on the ground. The effort to return it to the rightful owner is too high and the likelihood that someone will lie about it being their dollar is too great. We simply keep it. If we are that flexible with material objects, it is no wonder we are willing to borrow some words here or there. That is why Palloff and Pratt’s (n.d.) system makes sense to me. There are not much a prohibition against borrowing ideas as there is a directive to use those ideas to solve a problem and then give credit where credit is do.

    Thanks again,



    Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (n.d.). Plagiarism and Cheating. Presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved October 8, 2013 from

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