What is Plagiarism and Why is it Such an Important Concern
Plagiarism is a serious offense regardless of the field you are operating in. It means different things in diverse sectors. The common thread is that it is a crime. In the world of content writing, it means reproducing words and ideas of others without proper citations. Reproducing ideas, designs, images, and names without providing the proper credits becomes plagiarism is in the realm of intellectual property viz. patents, copyrights, trademarks, and related fields.
The problem of plagiarism took off to great heights with the advent of the internet. According to one estimate, there were about 47 billion webpages on the internet back in the year 2016 itself!
Now, the law places great emphasis on intent. The courts or whoever the judicial authority is, award you heavy punishment if the other party proves criminal intent i.e. you deliberately executed an illegal activity. However, if you can prove that you committed the crime unintentionally, you get off with a light sentence.
Regardless of what your intentions were, you are punished. Plagiarism can cost you dearly in any field. And it should be that way. After all, a properly implemented idea can be worth hundreds of thousands, if not more. Besides, it is unethical to copy without citing the actual source, for the rights holder has worked hard and smart over a considerable duration to take his or her idea to fruition.
How Does Plagiarism Checker Software Work
Plagiarism checker software is a great way to verify that you have not reproduced the exact words of some other author, unintentionally of course. The software has its own database of known websites and webpages. In order to identify instances of plagiarism, it checks if the content in the document under question matches with that on any of the webpages in the database.
Now, the software does not look for the same words. It hunts for the same strings of words i.e. 3-4 words or more. Therefore, if you are a writer, make it a point not to reproduce 3 or more words in the same sequence as in the source webpage. The “3 words in a sequence” is one of the thumb rules in content writing that fresh writers are asked to adhere to.
You can, of course, use such matching strings in quotes. But, including multiple quotes is not considered a good practice unless the same is necessary for the article. Even if you paraphrase correctly, attribution is a must. For non-academic content, hyperlinks are generally an acceptable form of attribution. Academic content, however, requires attribution via citation in some format – MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, or some other.
Features of an Excellent Plagiarism Checker
Before you purchase and install software for checking plagiarism, ensure that it has the following attributes:
- Wide Sourced: As mentioned earlier, software for identifying plagiarism scans billions of webpages in its database and looks into the results of numerous search engines to check if a string of words is repeated. Therefore, the number of relevant webpages it has in its database, the more accurate will be its results.
Examine how many search engines the software considers as well as the number of related webpages and websites it has in its database. You do not want to end up in a situation where content certified as original by the software you purchase gets branded by plagiarized by another software with a larger database.
- Does Not Plagiarize: Some free plagiarism checking software impose a hidden cost. What is worse, these atrocious provisions are mentioned in the Terms and Conditions section. For example, the software might say that you grant them all the rights over the content that you paste in their box for checking plagiarism. Another might say they can use the content in any way they wish to while you retain the rights.
Be as it may, such kind of software is a plagiarism trap – doing exactly the opposite of what they should. The devil is always in the detail. Read the fine print before you use any such software – even for an innocuous-looking plagiarism scan.
- Clearly Worded Plagiarism Report: The software must provide all the relevant information such as:
- Percentage of similarity (with other webpages / websites) along with the URL for such pages.
- Exact words in your document similar to those in the original webpages, along with a URL of the latter. Preferably, the marking must be highlighted for easy identification.
- Directions on what to do next. That is to say, the report must not make you seek additional information from elsewhere on the course of action necessary to avoid plagiarism after you publish your document.
- Check Similarity in Different Articles You Have Written: Not only should the software check for the similarity between your content and the webpages in its database, but also between different articles you have composed. Sometimes, you have to write on different facets of the same mother topic. In such cases, there will be some overlap in the content between two or more such articles despite your best efforts.
Your concern should be that although the information that the words deliver is somewhat similar, the words themselves are different. And the software should help you determine whether the same is indeed the case.
- Numerous File Formats: The plagiarism software must be equally efficient in checking duplicate content inside documents in various formats. After all, you will not be composing your reports in MS Word format alone. Files can be in pdf, txt, html, and other such formats. And copy-pasting large volumes of content from the document to the software is not practical.
- Customizable: Some articles require intensive plagiarism checking, others are ok with nominal checks. Check if the settings of the software enable you to modify the number of search engines that is referenced when checking for plagiarism. There is no point in using a microscope to scan what a simply magnification lens can.
- Facility to Download or/and Share Plagiarism Reports: If you are a student or a writer, you will want to share the plagiarism report respectively with your tutor or employer. As an employer, you will like your writer to share the report with you or the editor. Either way, the feature to download or/and share reports is important to ensure transparency.
By helping you check if your content is similar to that on other webpages on the internet, software for plagiarism checking does a great service. You can focus on writing and let the software do the checking.