How teachers check for plagiarism – can they really tell?

(Last Updated On: February 22, 2023)

Teachers are actually pretty good at knowing when their students are plagiarising. If you think you can get away with it, just remember that reading and judging student work is a key part of their jobs, and most are very good at it. 

Experience

Even if a teacher had only been teaching for a few years, if you hand up, say, six pieces of summative work per semester, then they will have twelve examples of your work across the year. That is in addition to other formative work that you do during class. As on to this that they are seeing twelve pieces of work from each of their 25 or so students in the class, and they have six or so classes, that’s an awful lot of student work to look at. That’s only in the first year.

Most plagiarised work also isn’t plagiarised entirely. You might not realise it, but every single person has a unique voice and style to their writing. I’ve had students who want to sound formal and highly intelligent by using long, complicated words, and others who use semicolons way too often. Anything that deviates from this raises suspicion. 

See more: Why Students Plagiarise – It Isn’t Always About Cheating.

Technology

Teachers should not call a student out on plagiarism based on their judgement alone. If a teacher is claiming you’re plagiarising, always ask for their evidence because sometimes, they are wrong. 

That being said though, it is now easier than ever to check student work for plagiarism. 

Turn it In

This program is becoming a bit out dated now due to its clunky interface, but the fantastic thing about turn it in is that it wouldn’t just check student work against everything published on the internet, but also every piece of student work that has been uploaded to the system before as well.  This made it ridiculously easy to see if someone has copied off another student in another class, or even another student from previous years. 

Google Classroom

If your teacher uses Google classroom, they can set it to automatically check a task that has been uploaded against everything available in Google. That includes Google books and Google scholar, by the way. Being able to do this automatically and get a plagiarism report before they even look at the task had made it harder for things to slip through the cracks. 

Grammarly

An increasingly popular method for checking plagiarism is Grammarly. Many teachers are using it anyway, and some schools are even making it available to students. The plagiarism checker is quite good, and if you’re using the puritan constantly anyway, makes it quick and easy to check a paragraph that you’re concerned about. 

Teachers have always been pretty good at spotting when their students have plagiarised, but recent technology is making it quicker and easier than ever to get proof. 

Teachers are only just starting to encounter AI-generated pieces of work, and the technology to detect this isn’t widely accessible yet. In addition to this, many teachers need to be made aware of how prevalent AI-generated text is becoming and may not be able to detect it themselves. 

Regardless, if you’re thinking of plagiarising, you are only cheating yourself. On top of the serious ethical (and in many cases, legal) implications, if you can’t do something that your degree says you can do, you might be in for some trouble.

Elise is an enthusiastic and passionate Australian teacher who is on a mission to inspire and support fellow educators. With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Elise leverages her expertise and creativity to provide valuable insights and resources through her blog. Whether you're looking for innovative lesson ideas, effective teaching strategies, or just a dose of inspiration, Elise has got you covered.

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