Did they plagiarize or didn’t they, that is the question.

I have had teachers and parents approach me many times to inquire if their child plagiarized a part, or even all, of a paper or project.  While most students (and sadly many adults) do not see plagiarism as a real issue, it is a serious topic. 
The generally accepted definition of plagiarism is – “The use of someone’s words, thoughts or ideas without giving them credit.”  This means even if your child’s friend gives them permission to use their book report, it is still plagiarized if your child does not list their friend’s name as the creator of the book report.
Below are some free Web sites you can use to learn what plagiarism is, check students work for errors and to see if indeed there are any sections that have been plagiarized.
Google Alerts – http://www.google.com/alerts
This is a good way to make sure students aren’t using work another teacher or student has written and placed on the web.  Go to the link and type in the words or phrase that concern you.  You will be notified by e-mail when the content you specified appears online.  It might not find all versions of the work, but it will find new instances if students are sharing them online.  This is also a nice site for you to monitor news events and other items you wish to stay updated about to share with your students.  You can type in phrases like “free technology for teachers” and be updated as items appear on the web.
Paper  Rater – http://www.paperrater.com/
This site helps high school and college students to improve their writing.  The site performs basic spelling and grammar checks and also checks the students’ work for plagiarism.  After scanning the text, it estimates the likelihood the work was plagiarized.  Another site that can be used by students and teachers.
Plagiarism Checker – http://plagiarismchecker.com/
Type or paste the text into the search box.  The site will then tell you if the work has been copied.  It also has handouts you can use to help students not to accidentally plagiarize and explanations of fair use.
Plagiarismdotorg – http://plagiarism.org/
This is the educational arm of iParadigm, the creator of commercial plagiarism detection software Turnitin.  This site can be used by students and teachers.  It has information on how to avoid plagiarism and when and how someone should cite a reference.  The site also has Webinars to help teachers instruct their students about plagiarism. 
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) – http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/
A place to learn about preventing plagiarism as well as having guides and exercises for lessons on: general writing, research and citation, subject specific writing, job search writing and English as a Second Language writing.   There is information for both students and teachers.

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