There is an ongoing debate on the accuracy of plagiarism checkers. Many claim that it falls short in recognizing sophisticated forms of plagiarism. When people get more creative with how they copy other people’s work, they could find loopholes in your plagiarism detection software. Before you know it, there would be some plagiarized works slipping through the cracks.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean plagiarism checkers are useless. In fact, it can benefit you in the long run. You must simply be always on your guard even with an automated checker in place. Be aware of the limitations of plagiarism detection software. This way, you will be able to recognize when someone is taking advantage of a loophole, and you will be able to act on it immediately.
With that, here are some ways on how people can fool plagiarism detection software and how you can avoid them accordingly.
1. Paraphrasing gets a pass
The most common way that people can get away with plagiarism is by paraphrasing other people’s work. This is where they change the sentence structure but retain the same idea of a certain text. And while paraphrasing in itself is all right, it needs proper citation and attribution to be acceptable.
Unfortunately, most free plagiarism detection software fails to recognize paraphrased sentences as plagiarism. Most of them are only programmed to do the most basic checks on your submitted or uploaded texts. Meaning, it can only detect plagiarism if the article in question has copied another article word-for-word.
To make sure it identifies paraphrased works, you must invest in the best plagiarism checker. Often, premium or paid checkers have more sophisticated algorithms and programming to recognize unattributed paraphrased works. Compared to free plagiarism checkers, you’ll be sure to filter out stolen works no matter how much the writer has butchered the original work beyond recognition.
2. Substituting with synonyms
Another way to confuse plagiarism checkers is by replacing certain words with their synonyms. Since people nowadays no longer write papers by hand, they can easily use this tactic to get away with plagiarized works. Document editor apps such as Microsoft Office and Google Suites can suggest synonyms for any words in the file. You have to highlight a particular word, right-click, and choose the “synonyms” function.
Like with paraphrased sentences, most basic plagiarism checkers can easily be fooled by substituting certain words with their synonyms. Once a word or two have been changed, it tends to dismiss plagiarized works as original ones.
Again, you can avoid this by investing in premium plagiarism checkers. This would have the capacity to catch plagiarized works regardless of how many words are replaced with their synonyms. You can also check out AI-powered plagiarism detection software for better accuracy.
3. Copying something not online
Most plagiarism checkers scour the internet for possible sources of plagiarized works. And while this can be beneficial, you can also consider it one of the disadvantages of plagiarism detection software. For example, if a student decides to copy their classmate’s unpublished work, your software could fail to recognize it as plagiarism. It can also be an issue with people who buy essays from “professionals.”
With almost 15% of students admitting to paying someone else to write their papers, you must do extra precautions on top of your anti-plagiarism software. You can do so by familiarizing yourself with how your students write and checking for any discrepancies in terms of style in their works, which is also the case if you are an editor or publisher.
Another way to avoid this is by using a writing enhancement software for your articles and papers. This type of software can help you produce well-written articles from scratch. By encouraging your students or writers to use such software, they can feel more confident submitting original works instead of copying off from others or paying for professional services.
4. Beware of letter substitution
Another clever trick to get around your plagiarism checker is through letter substitution. This where students or writers would change every English ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘o’, and ‘c’ with Cyrillic letters. Others would use Unicode to bypass your plagiarism detection software.
By substituting certain letters, most plagiarism checkers would fail to match it with similar content. Since it registers words and sentence structures instead of individual characters and symbols, anyone using this tactic could get away with plagiarism.
This can easily be avoided by manually checking the content for plagiarism. If someone submits to you a document full of red underlines, this could raise some red flags already—especially if the words underlined are correctly spelled. Go to your plagiarism checker and re-type the suspicious text instead of copy-pasting them. This way, you can get rid of the substituted letters and your software can detect any signs of cheating.
5. When sources hit a paywall
According to the Shorenstein Center, nearly 6 out of 10 publishers put their articles behind paywalls with a limited number of free articles per month. This can be an issue with some plagiarism checkers especially those who offer their services for free.
As mentioned earlier, many plagiarism software rely on online databases for reference. However, their reach could be limited especially when it comes to paywalled articles. Thus, if your student or writer plagiarized from premium publishing sites, your software could fail to recognize it.
Once again, this boils down to what anti-plagiarism software you use. You must check out what publishing sites, libraries, and journals does your software have access to—even paywalled ones. The more partners it has, the more extensive its database is. And the more extensive its database, the better it can detect plagiarized works.
6. Spaces can be deceiving
A popular tactic to reach word count is to disguise random characters as white spaces. At first glance, you would think that there’s a space between words. But once you highlight the whole text, you would see random letters, numbers, or symbols in between.
This can also be a great way to trick your plagiarism checker. Just like with letter substitution, a primitive plagiarism software could only recognize those works with the exact same wording, sentence structure, word count, and characters.
Once again, be wary of the red underlines within any documents sent to you. Better yet, highlight the entire text just to be sure that nothing hides behind the white spaces.
7. Changing the document’s format
There is also a loophole in some plagiarism checker when it comes to the document’s formatting—specifically with PDFs. There is an option with PDFs to present papers in the form of an image. Doing so would make it unreadable when you run it with an anti-plagiarism software.
Therefore, you must be specific with the required document formatting when accepting submissions. This way, you’re sure that everything that you receive can be run through with your software.
Closing up the loopholes
Is plagiarism detector accurate? This question is one of the major concerns among educators, publishers, editors, and writers. However, the answer to this would depend on which software you choose to use.
Some free online plagiarism checkers could only offer basic scans on your articles. Their database might not be as extensive and their algorithms for checking might not be as sophisticated compared to premium plagiarism detection software.Therefore, you must be mindful of what your software is capable of. Investing on premium software tools like Plagiarism Checker X could avoid the loopholes mentioned above. But most importantly, you must also recognize the limitations of your software in order to avoid letting stolen works slip through the cracks.