Quick story: I was a lecturer and once marked some English Literature assignments. I picked up on blatant plagiarism within one minute of looking at the student’s work, and subsequently failed and reported them. Your lecturers WILL catch you out, always.
Check for Plagiarism: Why You Should Care!
‘Plagiarism has been around far longer than the Internet. In fact, I had a poem published in ‘Seventeen’ magazine when I was 15 years old. About a year later I was informed that there was a girl who used that same poem to win a statewide poetry competition in Alabama. It took months for people to put together that this had happened.’ – Megan McCafferty
Look, I get it. Sometimes you’re pressed for time with an assignment and need some last-minute ideas to help you out. Or maybe you’re writing a term paper on a horrifically difficult topic, and the research you’re reading might as well be written in hieroglyphics. BUT none of this is ever an excuse to plagiarise. EVER.
When you get to college or university, the plagiarism talk ramps up a notch or ten (when I was in high school, we could get by without referencing (?)). And just in case you don’t know the definition of plagiarism, let me hammer it home for you right now (don’t you forget it!):
Plagiarism (noun): the process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own [whether intentional or not] (Cambridge dictionary).
As you can see in the quote above, how would you like it if you put tons of effort into an assignment, research paper, or poem/story, only to have someone pretend it’s theirs and then win a prize for it?!
And apart from this, plagiarising someone’s work or simply badly paraphrasing content from a website (students seem to love paraphrasing SparkNotes) denies you the opportunity of thinking for yourself and developing critical research and synthesis skills. Plus, I find it super motivating if you write a paper where you really put thought, effort, and research into it!
Punishment for Plagiarism 🚓
Once you get to college or university, you’ll soon find out that plagiarism has its consequences, ranging from mild to severe. Take a look at this table from Scribbr on the types of plagiarism that exist and their corresponding consequences. Even if you ‘just’ get a grade penalty, your lecturer will flag you, and you don’t want to be on your lecturer’s red flag list!
Be Your Own Plagiarism Checker: Tips to Avoid Plagiarism
‘The ethical writer takes great care to ensure that any paraphrased text is sufficiently modified so as to be judged as new writing.’ – The Office of Research Integrity
Now, we will have other posts dedicated solely to how to avoid plagiarism as well as how to reference and paraphrase properly. But before we get to the heart of this post (i.e. plagiarism check programs/apps), here are some important tips on how to avoid plagiarism:
- When conducting research, make sure you understand what you’ve read. It’ll be obvious to your marker if you haven’t understood something because your paraphrasing will be clunky and your syntax/word choice off. When paraphrasing (which should ALWAYS be referenced!), think of how you would explain the idea to someone who doesn’t have the subject knowledge – i.e. describe the concept in laymen’s terms as best as possible, and this will help you paraphrase appropriately and with understanding.
- Don’t copy and paste and then just substitute different words. That’s NOT paraphrasing. Take a look at the image below for a better idea of how to paraphrase correctly.
- Use a variety of resources. When doing an assignment, avoid citing from one source. This will broaden your scope, help you form new ideas, and prevent you from rewriting info from a single source. University is all about being able to synthesise new information and demonstrating that you can use numerous sources to back up your own argument. Also, if you’re using a single author for your research, you’re likely to adopt that author’s style in certain places, which will (once again) put you on the red flag list!
- When doing an assignment, have two separate documents – one for the actual assignment and the other for your reference list. As soon as you paraphrase or include a direct quote from a source, make sure you put the in-text reference AND the reference in your referencing doc. This will prevent accidental plagiarism and help you keep track of all those references (and trust me, it is VERY easy to lose track VERY quickly!).
- Direct quotes require (you guessed it!) quotation marks AND a credit to the author. Unless you’re doing literature, try not to over-quote. This will look like you don’t understand your topic and that you’re relying on someone else’s arguments because you’re unsure of your own. Take a look at this info from Scribbr on how to quote correctly.
- Lastly, have faith in yourself! I know assignments can be daunting, especially as your academic career progresses and things get a little more challenging. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, attend writing centres to help you structure your papers (your university should have one), and believe that you can form your own arguments!
Plagiarism Check Online: The Big Plagiarism Checker Players
OK, once you’ve followed the above tips on how to avoid plagiarism, you can use some nifty online tools to check your paper for potential plagiarism problems. Most universities probably require you to submit your assignments through a specific plagiarism checker (my university used Turnitin), but if you want to check things out to see if you’re on the right track with your work, here are some high-quality, reliable online plagiarism checkers:
(Note: i’ve taken excerpts from one of my fellow copywriter’s unpublished blog posts and used these in the plagiarism checkers.)
Scribbr Plagiarism Checker
What it is
Scribbr is a Turnitin authorised partner, and it offers other services, too, like proofreading and editing. Scribbr’s plagiarism checker (the basic version) is free, and it currently covers 91 billion web pages, 69 million publications, and over 20 languages. What I like about Scribber is that it gives you your ‘top 5 matching sources’ (part of the free version), including the number of identical words for each source. You then know that these are the parts of your paper you must rephrase and cite!
There is a premium version of the tool that shows you what percentage of your paper is unoriginal, where similarities to other sources in your assignment are, and what your assignment looks like in comparison to the source. A plagiarism check of a small document will cost you just under £14.
How it works
To check your work, simply head over to Scribbr and upload your assignment (I uploaded it in PDF format). You can then continue with the free check or select the premium check. NOTE that in order to access the checked document, you need to create an account (which is slightly annoying if you ask me!).
The free version is very limited, as you can see above, but it’ll get the job done if you want to check your work quickly for any major issues. If you get the ‘low risk of plagiarism’, then you know you’re pretty much good to go. I also don’t like that you have to sign up to get your free check, and the ‘buy premium’ ads everywhere are a bit much. But as I said, it’s easy to use if you want a quick check!
Turnitin Plagiarism Checker
OK, so, unfortunately, we can’t say much about Turnitin here because, as a student, it isn’t possible to use Turnitin by yourself on your own laptop, etc. Turnitin’s software is only available to universities and other educational institutions. It’s more than likely you’ll have access to Turnitin via your own institution. However, we’ve listed Turnitin here because Scribber is powered by Turnitin 😊. Turnitin is obviously in a league of its own, but as we mentioned above, Scribbr is a highly accurate plagiarism detector that’s accessible to everyone.
Grammarly Plagiarism Checker
What it is
I’m a big fan of Grammarly for numerous reasons. I use it for all my edits, and here at StudySmarter, we use it as a plagiarism checker too! The cool thing is that with Grammarly’s plagiarism checker, you get a two-in-one function: check for plagiarism AND other writing issues! The free plagiarism checker lets you know if your text contains duplicate content based on billions of web pages and ProQuest’s academic database.
The basic plagiarism check is free, but the premium version is much better. The premium checker tells you how much of your work (percentage-wise) is unoriginal, and it also highlights passages in your work that are problematic and need a citation or rephrasing. Grammarly’s free grammar and spelling checker is also limited, but it’s enough to correct major errors.
How it works
Once again, all you need to do is upload your document, or you can simply copy and paste your text (Scribbr doesn’t have this function). The only problem is that you can’t upload PDF docs (you need to use a Word file). The free checker tells you if there’s plagiarism or not and what issues there are concerning your writing. Below is a screenshot of the premium plagiarism checker. As you can see, 3% of the document is plagiarised or problematic (the highlighted sentences show you what’s considered plagiarism, which is sometimes just generic phrases that don’t actually count as plagiarism!), and you can see the original sources. You also get scores on how clear and engaging your writing is.
As I said, I do love my Grammarly! The free plagiarism check is very basic (and you don’t need to create an account to access your reviewed doc!), so I would recommend getting Grammarly Premium, which is much cheaper than Scribbr. And with the premium version, you also get your grammar and spelling checked, so it’s a great tool to improve your writing and check for plagiarism while you’re at it.
(Free) Plagiarism Checkers for Students
There are plenty of other plagiarism checkers online (some of them for free) besides the big guys we mentioned above. Here are some of our picks:
Enago is a Turnitin authorised partner, so once again, you’ll be getting very high-quality checks (your work will be checked against 91 billion current and archived web pages, as well as scholarly articles and open access research). Enago also offers an excellent grammar checker. This is a solid option if you want to submit important work like your theses and research papers. Here’s what you can expect with Enago’s plagiarism checker:
- guided tour on how it works,
- overall similarity score,
- flags if anything deviates from a normal submission,
- highly accurate matching text, and
- the ability to adjust what is checked.
I’ve included this table below so you can see why it’s always better to go for reliable companies with paid plagiarism check options, especially if you’re submitting very important work.
Unicheck seems to be a very solid offering, up in the league with Scribbr and Grammarly. It is used by academic institutions, so you know you’ll get a thorough, reliable, and verified plagiarism check. You will need to create an account, and the personal subscription starts at £12 (for 100 pages), which I think is very reasonable for a high-quality check. Here’s what you get with Unicheck:
- See the amount of borrowed text you’ve used, including quotes and references.
- Get accurate similarity scores.
- The checker only includes meaningful matches, meaning it excludes those generic phrases that free/basic plagiarism checkers count as plagiarism.
- You will only see valid links to matching sources, and you’ll be warned if any sources are malicious.
- Unicheck compares 91 billion current and archived internet pages, including libraries and academic databases.
Overall, this plagiarism checker is worth it, and I highly recommend it!
PlagScan has been listed as one of the best plagiarism checkers for 2022, so even though it’s paid (you get a free trial option), you know you’ll be getting a quality check. With PlagScan’s checks, you’ll be able to see your results in different colours, which mean different things: red indicates exact matches to sources, and blue gives you potentially modified text, which you can then fix up. You’ll also get a similarity percentage score and a side-by-side view of your work and the original source to see your similarities. Educational institutions use PlagScan, too, so you can be assured that you’ll get accurate checks.
Plagramme is also a solid option, and you will need to create an account first before you can do anything. A free checker is available, but this will only give a very quick plagiarism check. However, I would rather go for this than use the other free plagiarism checkers listed here. If you opt for the paid version, you’ll get a similarity score, a risk of plagiarism rating, and improper citations. It’s also available in many other languages, including most European languages, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, and Korean.
I’m not 100% how to pronounce it (plajuh-ly?), and I’m also not 100% convinced about this app either. I tried to check my text, but I had to sign up, which I did. And instead of being able to view my results, I was directed to a page telling me to sign up for the premium version. Super. Annoying. So while there is a free trial, this app isn’t free, and you’ll only find out AFTER you sign up. 👎
However, if you do want to give Plagly a fair chance, the price isn’t too bad, and you’ll get
- unlimited checks for both plagiarism and grammar errors (similar to Grammarly),
- a check against over 20 billion sites, and
- checks in different languages, including English, French, Spanish, and Chinese.
Like with all the more decent plagiarism checkers listed here, you need to create an account and pay to use PlagAware. Educational institutions use it (and the company has been around for over a decade), so your check is in good hands. You can purchase credits (so you don’t need a subscription), and your work is checked against over 70 billion sources. You’ll get the results of your check via email, and you can easily see similar sources because they’ll be colour-coded. You can also exclude any sources from your text for a more accurate check. PlagAware says that many students use it for their Bachelor and Master theses, so if you’re looking for a plagiarism checker for longer papers, PlagAware is a sure bet.
Plagiarism Checker X
Plagiarism Checker X also seems to be a legit checker. It supports multiple file types (PDF included!) and is currently available in numerous languages. You can also access a side-by-side comparison, get an overall similarity score, and easily see which parts of your text are problematic. The checker is available for download, meaning you don’t need to submit your work to Plagiarism Checker X’s database. And because it’s an actual product for download, you don’t need to pay per document or number of pages. You’ll have lifetime access if you pay once, which is a great option. There is also a limited free version available. I’d also definitely recommend using this checker!
QuillBot seems to come with a ton of features, such as a paraphrase tool, grammar checker, summariser, and citation generator. Regarding its plagiarism checker, I, unfortunately, can’t give you much info because you need to upgrade to start (?). I’m not sure how I feel about products that don’t even let you try before you buy. Anyways, Quillbot’s product offering does seem to be way more reliable than some others listed here. If you do a plagiarism check, you’ll be able to see what sections of your assignment need proper citations, and you’ll have access to a grammar checker and citation generator. It’s also available in over 100 languages, so it might be worth checking out if you need to scan text in another language. The monthly subscription starts at just under £16.
Quetext seems to offer free plagiarism checks, and what I like about it is that you get a little guided tour/step-by-step instructions on what the results of the plagiarism scan mean. You can check which areas of your text match sources and get an overall plagiarism score – all for free! And what’s even cooler is that you can click on the source and let Quetext generate the citation for you! You can check one document without creating an account, but you’ll have to sign up afterwards if you want to check more docs. For the free version, you can only check 1000 words at a time, and the check takes a few minutes. Still, I’d say Quetext is a good option in comparison to the others!
Interesting name for a plagiarism checker, but here we are! I noticed a couple of spelling errors on their site, so I’m a bit sceptical, but it does seem to be better than the likes of a few checkers I’ve mentioned here. You can scan your document for free, but you’ll need to create an account first. Viper will check your work against 10 billion sources and give you a plagiarism report. The cool thing is that you don’t need a monthly subscription – you can simply buy credits and use those to scan your document. You can also create projects so that you can organise your uploaded assignments.
PapersOwl seems alright, and I like that you can also upload your documents from Google Drive and Dropbox. If you want a quick scan of your text without the ads or prompts to upgrade to Premium, then PapersOwl is a good choice.
HOWEVER, you do get asked if you want a PapersOwl writer to write your assignment for you. I PROMISE you now, if you ever do this, I will personally jump through my screen, find you, and make sure you get expelled 😉. It is NEVER OK to get someone to write an assignment for you – you are fully capable of doing it yourself, even if you only scrape a pass. Remember that education is a PRIVILEGE, so please make good use of your brain, resources, and help from your teachers to produce your OWN work at all times. Plus, your teachers will know if someone did your work for you, trust me.
Plagiarism Checker (.co)
This site also doesn’t seem too bad, and you can either copy and paste your text or upload a document to check for plagiarism. You can even add a file from Dropbox. And if you have any links in your document, you have the option to exclude them from the check. Once again, the free version is limited – you can only check up to 800 words at a time. However, I do think it’s a lot better than plagiarismdetector.net, and the check will tell you which sentences are unique and which are unoriginal. You can check sentence by sentence or the document as a whole, and you also get free access to an analysis of your text (length, longest sentence, reading time), which I thought was pretty cool. It’s also available in over 20 languages.
Plagiarism Detector (.net)
Hmmm … I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this checker, BUT if you do want a free checker where you can simply copy and paste your text or even check out a URL, then I guess this site will do the trick. However, be VERY careful: there are ads everywhere, the giant green OK button is devious (don’t click it), and it takes a good few minutes for this site to check for plagiarism. Also, you can only check 1000 words at a time (unless you go pro, which I don’t suggest!). I also don’t think it’s the most accurate plagiarism detector in the world, but if you want a little confirmation that you’re on the right track with your assignment, plagiarismdetector.net will get the job done. PS it’s also available in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Indonesian, and Arabic.
Plagiarism Checker (.me)
We’re getting a little less original with the names here 😀. Anyways, this particular plagiarism checker lets you scan your document for free, BUT I can safely say that it’s not the most accurate checker out there, and it seems to be unreliable. The text I scanned (the same one I’ve been scanning) has a 79% plagiarism score with this check, which I know is not true (it’s picking up generic phrases). However, this checker does give you links to the sources you’ve allegedly plagiarised from, so you can check those sources to see if any of your work is similar. The good thing is that you can exclude URLs from your search, and there’s no need to create an account or pay for anything.
DupliChecker is similar to other very basic, not-so-great plagiarism checkers. You have a 1000-word limit (unless you upgrade), and you can copy and paste your text, upload your document, or even enter a URL to check. There are ads everywhere too, and I’d say the check itself is pretty average. It’s OK if you want to do a very quick check of your work, and it is available in other languages.
Other Plagiarism Checkers
There really are a lot of plagiarism checkers out there; holy smokes! Here are a few more you can check out:
- Chegg (Chegg is a study app also offering writing services and a reliable plagiarism detector).
- PlagiarismCheck.org (a very solid option, and you can try it out by checking one free page).
- PaperPass (also a decent option, but once again, you need to pay).
- Writix (free but picks up generic phrases; however, it is better than the other very basic free versions listed here).
- PlagiarismSearch (not a bad option, but you only get 150 free words – you’ll need to create an account and pay for longer documents).
- Rewrite Guru (free but very basic, not the most reliable).
- iThenticate (not for individual use but great for academic institutions).
- SafeAssign (an offering from Blackboard, used by academic institutions).
The Best (Free) Plagiarism Checker
To be honest, the best plagiarism checkers are the ones that you pay for – and the ones that offer an excellent, well-reviewed product/service. While you have to pay for these, the prices aren’t too bad, and they’re worth it, especially if you want to check important assignments. There are some free plagiarism checkers out there, but they look spammy (ads everywhere), and their checks aren’t super reliable. However, if you want to do a quick check (without paying anything or signing up) to see if you’re on the right track with your assignment, then you can definitely try these free sites. My advice is to go with your gut feeling – I’d highly recommend using a trusted brand (like Grammarly) when checking important assignments like your research papers.
For the TL;DR lovers, here’s a table summarising my reviews.
|Plagiarism checker||Highly recommend||Solid option||Free but very basic (and unreliable)||Avoid at all costs|
|Plagiarism Checker X||✓|
|Plagiarism Checker (.co)||✓|
|Plagiarism Detector (.net)||✓|
|Plagiarism Checker (.me)||✓|
And, apart from being expelled, I leave you with a quote on why you should never plagiarise anyone else’s work:
If I did what has already been done, I would be a plagiarist and would consider myself unworthy; so I do something different, and people call me a scoundrel. I’d rather be a scoundrel than a plagiarist!