Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Do You Check For Plagiarism Online?

A reader asks:

How do you check for plagiarism with Google?

Please cut-and-paste and then Google the first line and the last line of the first paragraph of the following essay. It's from an piece on The Great Gatsby that I received a few years back from a student with little understanding of how Boolean searches work.

Is his novel the Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald creates Gatsby -- a character who becomes great. He begins life as a regular, lower-class, person. But Gatsby has a dream of becoming rich. He has a reason to strive to become prominent after meeting Daisy. Throughout his life, Gatsby gains the title of truly being great.

Even before Gatsby is introduced, he is hinted at being different. The evidence of this is when Nick says, "Gatsby turned out all right at the end." (2) Nothing was known about Gatsby at the time and Nick is already saying Gatsby was all right. Gatsby is mysterious. Everyone knows of him, but no one knows who he really is or where he comes from. Even at our first glance of Gatsby, no one knows Gatsby.

You can go on... but why bother? This is a classic case of Internet plagiarism. Cut-and-Paste from an essay service.

In my classes, I often begin introducing an essay topic on a given book by pulling up a few essay services and looking at what they have to offer. In general, the essays at 123HelpMe, eCheat, BookRags, and GradeSaver are just awful. The kids actually get a laugh out of looking at all the ways people cheat on essays, but they also realize just how easy it is to get caught and just how stupid it is to take that chance.

One thing I would not do is just go and nail a kid for plagiarism without going over it in class first. So make a lesson out of it; I find it actually makes for a great class period and you get to share quite a few laughs with the kids.

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