Tips & Techniques For Preventing Online Plagiarism

Saikat Basu 19-03-2013

Cut, copy, and paste are three mischief makers. Granted they are good guys on a normal day, but in the hands of a blackguard they turn into shears hacking away your hard work. That’s all it takes for plagiarists to do their dirty work. If you have been working creatively on the web for some time, rest assured that you have been a victim of plagiarism at one time or another. Or you will be.


In academia, detecting and preventing plagiarism is a constant exercise. But whether or not it is taken seriously is another matter because copying from previous works and stealing data is rampant. New York Times has a whole archive on plagiarism and how it is a conscious ‘crime’ around the world. Stunningly in a recent development, Germany’s education minister was forced to resign when her doctorate thesis was found to be plagiarized. The Internet has increased plagiarism. The sincere web worker – a blogger, a graphic artist, a web designer, a musician – is a victim (and also the culprit).

Plagiarism has existed for centuries – it’s not only about words; misappropriating thoughts is also plagiarism. The web has only fanned the flames.

Modern technology is making preventing plagiarism easier, but it’s an irony that technology is also making it easier for plagiarists to evade being caught. The latter phenomenon is for another day as today we focus on the positive and look at the tips and techniques for preventing online plagiarism.

What Is Plagiarism?

A euphemism for plagiarism could be ‘borrowing’. But that hardly scratches the surface. More appropriate words to describe it would be – literary theft, piracy, or cyber-cheating. Plagiarism usually is deliberate but even an inadequate and improper acknowledgement of sources in a re-published work could fall under plagiarism.

Wikipedia says – Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “purloining and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.


The Oxford Dictionary traces the root to early 17th Century: from Latin plagiarius ‘kidnapper’ (from plagium ‘a kidnapping’, from Greek plagion). The same dictionary says it is a simple noun – the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

There is also a difference between it and copyright infringement. Plagiarism is more of an ethical crime, while the latter is a legal one. They are similar in act but different in their legal interpretation. But on the web, the distinction gets a bit blurred.

Why Should We Try To Stop Plagiarism?

Plagiarism isn’t only about cheating. It is one of the more grievous intellectual crimes. It isn’t only about morals and ethics; it could lead to reputations being scarred and life’s work turned into ashes. Pitched legal battles are matter of course. Here are just six reasons to take on plagiarism:

  • It hurts the legitimacy of your own website, work published, and online reputation.
  • It leads to loss of revenue. E.g. “AdSense” sites scrape content and revenue away from bloggers who work on the original web content.
  • It hits SEO because you are basically competing against your own content. The Negative Google Panda Effect was a term bandied about when Google’s SEO update hit the original publishers while copycats benefitted.
  • It stifles creative and intellectual development because cut-copy-paste negates research.
  • It can increase your operational costs as practices like hotlinking leach your bandwidth.
  • It increases time costs as energy is wasted on detecting and preventing plagiarism.

Be On The Lookout With These Plagiarism Detectors

You quite possibly will not be able to eliminate it, but you most definitely can prevent it with proactive steps and the tools which the World Wide Web gives us. We covered a few web tools previously – 4 Easy Ways to Avoid Plagiarism on Your Blog 4 Easy Ways to Avoid Plagiarism on Your Blog Read More and Plagiarism Checkers: 5 Free Websites To Catch The Copycats Plagiarism Checkers: 5 Free Websites to Catch the Copycats Read More gave us a quiver full of arrows to go to battle with. Let’s cover them again briefly; those which have remained free and a few new ones. To start with the simplest and free plagiarism checker turn to Google.


Google Search: Simply typing a few lines on the Google Search box could should you any precedents of the text you are checking. Look for exact matches by keeping the text within double quotes. You can also use Google Image Search How To Find Similar Images Using Google's Image Search Like all Google products, Google Image Search has continuously been tweaked and improved. The latest change comes to the Google Similar Images option. Google has put in a feature that now you can use to... Read More and TinEye Check Out Some More Uses of a Reverse Image Search Using TinEye [Chrome] Image recognition is getting better by the day. Perhaps, that’s why we keep talking about it so much. The reverse search engine that usually gets most of the clicks is TinEye. We didn’t miss out... Read More to do a reverse image search Catch Image Thieves With Who Stole My Pictures And Also Put It To Five More Uses [Firefox] When it comes to textual works, we have seen how easy it is to catch the copycats. But what about pictures and photographs? Is image search that easy? Probably not; but that’s not to say... Read More for duplicates too.

Google Alert: You can use Google Alert like a burglar alarm and catch the copycats who are stealing your content. Google Alert 10 Uses of Google Alerts For A Freelancer Read More remains a freelancer’s dream tool for defeating plagiarism. Google and other traditional search engines limit the number of words you can enter in a search query. That’s why you should turn to some specialized tools which can handle larger blocks of text.

Copyscape: Copyscape is perhaps one of the more well-known names in the plagiarism detection space. You can use the free plagiarism checker for finding copies of your web pages online. You are limited to ten searches per month per site. Copyscape also has a detailed Guide to Online Plagiarism for further information on identifying and responding to website plagiarism.

Watch the introductory video for the site below.


Plagium: Limited up to 25,000 character in the free account, you can still use Plagium to search for large blocks of your content. Plagium also supports English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish languages.

prevent plagiarism

Plagiarism Checker: This free service hasn’t changed much since I last wrote about it. You use a few phrases from your document and search the web using either Yahoo or Google. You can also scan webpages and websites by entering the source URL. You can also set up a Google Alert for a few key terms in your document and use it like an early warning system.


Article Checker: Paste your content in the text area and use Google or Yahoo to search for duplicate content.

Doc Cop: Doc Cop is a collusion and plagiarism detection tool that allows you to conduct your scan through a file-upload and a web check. File Check can scan and compare a maximum of eight Microsoft Word or AdobePDF files of up to 50,000 words each against one another. Web Check charges $2.50 to check 1000 words. is a collusion and plagi ea and use Google or Yahoo to search for duplicate content.

prevent plagiarism

Crossrefme: Crossrefme is a simple copy-paste tool to check your content against duplicates on the web. The report gives you an originality index that is indicative of how much the content compared is to the ones found elsewhere. The service is still strangely in alpha, so I am not sure if further development is on here.

Scirus: Scirus is a specialized search engine for academic and scientific article. Just like Google, you can use it to search for plagiarism leaks of your scientific research paper by giving it a block of text.

prevent plagiarism

There are more comprehensive tools like iThenticate, Plagtracker and Turnitin and even Copyscape (with its premium account) that monitor the web for you, but they come at a price.

Be An Activist – Attack Plagiarism With All You Have Got

Apart from a passive approach of monitoring for stolen content, you can go banzai when you do find something. Here are a few tips and techniques you can apply to nip plagiarism in the bud.

preventing plagiarism

  • Usually content farms stealing content use AdSense for revenue. Hit them where it hurts by reporting the infringement to Google.

Our tech guy James did a very nice piece on Reader, Beware Of Content Thieves: Why Pirates Steal Website Content Reader, Beware Of Content Thieves: Why Pirates Steal Website Content Picture this: you sign into the admin page of your Wordpress blog, and your dashboard shows 15 new incoming links - awesome, you think - until you look through each of the links to find... Read More .  He looked into their motivation as well as six ways to combat them. This one is a must read.

Battles Hard Fought…& Hopefully Won!

Even if you are blogging for free, it hurts to see your content being farmed all over the place by plagiarists. Imitation in the digital world is not the best form of flattery. Laws are taking shape along with search engine improvements which are penalizing content thieves. But the war is definitely on and you have to fight the battles by tracing out the sources. Also, it helps to keep yourself educated. One of the well-put together blogs on the subject is Plagiarism Today.

Have you been a victim of plagiarism? How have you dealt with preventing plagiarism? Tell us about your experiences and the also the time costs it took to go after the marauders.

Image Credit: Copycat via Shutterstock

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  1. Jessica
    March 20, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Maintaining the integrity of research is at the top of my list! My favorite plagiarism checker is WriteCheck:

  2. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    March 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I do a regular routine to Google everytime my work is published. Learnt the 'wonder' of capy-pasting the hard way back when my first writing piece was published.
    For people who use Turnitin, do note that the site saves your work to be used against next searches. Some people doesn't like that.

  3. Scott M
    March 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

    It sounds like a good start to combatting the problem of others freely taking credit for your sweat and toil.

  4. Jason
    March 20, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Any thoughts on RSS though? Ie: someone plugs in my RSS feed (legally) and then duplicates content on their site. Does that come down to ethics?

    • Saikat Basu
      March 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

      Well, the end result is the same. They are publishing content which is rightfully yours.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      March 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Do they give proper attributions? Do they provide link to your original post? If not, then they're violating your right.

  5. null
    March 20, 2013 at 9:46 am

    I guess this is the reason why my blog has been affected by the Panda update. My blogposts are everywhere. Every single one of the articles I wrote in my first two years of blogging were uploaded to other sites and blogs. They even used similar blog title as I had to confuse people. I have done some of the tips mentioned above but unfortunately the damage has been done. :(

    • Saikat Basu
      March 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Yes, the Panda update really hit some blogs affected by plagiarism. But it's better that you are armed and prepped for next time.

  6. techguyknows
    March 20, 2013 at 6:52 am

    This is a really good way to track down plagarism. However, it is difficult to track huge chucks of posted posts.

    • Saikat Basu
      March 20, 2013 at 9:52 am

      The free tools have limitations and batch checking is one of them. But it is free and usually effective if you seriously have a go with them.

  7. Carmen
    March 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    I just started freelance writing a few months ago and to be honest, this was something I never really thought about (foolish, I know). Thanks for the article. I'm truly aware now.

    • Saikat Basu
      March 20, 2013 at 4:52 am

      As a freelance writer pouring all your blood and sweat into it, it is something you have to be constantly on the lookout for. You also have to aware of any unintentional plagiarism on your side :)

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      March 20, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Believe me, there's nothing more annoying than the mood whiplash when the joy of seeing your works published turn into anger when you find them scattered around the web...with different author name.