Plagiarism detection tools plentiful and free

Plagiarism is an intellectual scourge. Actually, it's no different than stealing a pack of cigarettes from a 7-11 and just about as dumb because there's plenty of tools to detect it.

Plagiarism amounts to a capital crime in journalism, books, education and research. It's the worst thing you can do short of a felony crime.

Stealing someone's work has wrecked more than a few careers. Check out the Index of Plagiarists at Famousplagiarists.com.There's some pretty big names up there listed in the "severe risk" category: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Steven Ambrose, Joe Biden and former New York Times plagiarist Jayson Blair (I can't bear to call him even a former journalist).

Photos of Ann Coulter, Samual Taylor Coleridge and Johnny Cash top the site's home page. The crime is comparable in age to the world's oldest profession, but more grave. Plagiarism is grounds for dismissal at the private high school my son attended (I doubt if anyone there has ever been accused of the world's oldest profession).

Georges Span credit: his bio page

Avoiding plagiarism requires mostly common sense, but what if you are a teacher, author or editor who suspects someone is stealing another's work? Maybe you should look into some Freeware that claims to detect it easily, completely and comprehensively.

Pl@giarism was developed at the University of Maastricht law school to prevent students went copying each other's papers. It works by comparing files to each other. I steer well clear of plagiarizing, but I wonder if I should be insulted that I am not aware of anyone plagiarizing my work. Nah, that's a pretty dubious form of flattery.

The developer, Georges Span of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, is confident about his program.

"Success is guaranteed. First because the students knowing that we used this tool became careful in copying each others work. And secondly because the program detects even the smallest form of plagiarism," according to Pl@giarism.com. Just knowing such tools are out there has to be  something of a deterrent although I suspect many plagiarists wouldn't be that careful if they are dumb enough to do it in the first place.

Give Pl@giarism a try if you think someone is ripping off your work or if your students are cutting corners on papers. If you don't like the Pl@giarism detection tool, its site recommends another tool called WCopyfind developed by University of Virginia physics professor Lou Bloomfield.

And if that doesn't work, Bloomfield's site links to another dozen plagiarism detection tools.

The 1:45 minute and humorous Youtube video below is about a student victimized by plagiarism. And there's 3,179 more plagiarism videos on Youtube.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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