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Plagiarism Detection Software: Limitations and Responsibilities

Understand the software’s particular limitations, and how to use it responsibly.

  • Plagiarism detection is a misnomer. All technology can do is locate replicated text. The instructor must determine if that text is properly cited/quoted/paraphrased, etc.
  • It many cases, you can do a better job of finding replicated text yourself. Plagiarism-detection services often produce false positives which you then must follow up on. Thus, plagiarism-detecting software does not necessarily make your job easier or save time.
  • Student Judicial Services will not pursue a plagiarism case solely on the basis of a software-generated originality report. You must do follow-up and produce copies of the plagiarized sources.
  • Most systems won’t catch papers shared between institutions (UT’s legal office requires a node system that isolates our students’ papers).

Understand your own responsibilities in cases of scholastic dishonesty.

Student Judicial Services’ Web site offers instructors valuable information about academic integrity. Contact Student Judicial Services with any questions at any stage in the process.

If you are assessing any penalty for the alleged plagiarism, you must

  • Report the incident to the Dean of Students
  • Inform the student that he or she can appeal to the President through the Office of the Dean of Students

The Dean of Students’ reports are made on different forms, depending on whether the student admits the charges: a Faculty Disposition Form (uncontested charge) or a Discipline Referral Form (contested charge). You must also provide evidence, including the plagiarized work the student has submitted. An admitted incidence of plagiarism will stay in the student’s confidential file in the Dean of Student’s office, but will not necessarily affect the student’s academic career in any other way, unless, for example, if a student plagiarizes again.

Think about potential consequences for plagiarism before you are confronted with it. Would you penalize brief, unintentional plagiarism the same way you would a paper copied almost entirely from another source? Or one purchased from a paper mill? Dealing with plagiarism can be an emotional experience; try to get some perspective before you need it.