This essay is excepted from Gary K. Clabaugh & Edward G. Rozycki, Preventing Cheating and Plagiarism, 2nd Edition . (2009) Oreland, PA: NewFoundations Press.

Plagiarism and the Web


edited 3/19/19

Nothing makes research easier than the Internet. And nothing makes plagiarism easier either. Students can pilfer articles from a bewildering variety of sources. There are thousands of legitimate articles to purloin and more than one hundred online sites brazenly offering pre-written papers for free. Worse still, Web-based entrepreneurs, some of whom claim to be professors with Ph.D.'s, write papers for hire.

Some write for hire sites provide plagiarists with what they deserve. Consider this confidence-inspiring Internet ad:

 ESSAYSI will create and write term papers for very cheap! 
 My e-mail address is:

How can an instructor mount an adequate defense against this onslaught? Primarily by using the Web itself. Here's how to do that effectively.

Searching the Web for Plagiarized Material

Let's say you have a student paper that looks suspicious. You think it was plagiarized, probably from the Web. To prove that you have to have to find the original that was plagiarized. This requires skillful use of search sites.

Search sites are colossal, constantly updated databases of Web sites that have been indexed. The search site sifts through tens of millions of pages, creating a database of what it finds.

There are a variety of ways to search these search site databases, all of require using logical operators to structure the search. Unfortunately, all search site logical operators don't work the same way. For example, Alta Vista, a popular and powerful search site, requires you to use a plus sign in front of everything you want linked together. Other sites require you to type in the word "and." Still others require users to link words by using a pull down menu. In short, there are many differences in search engine logical operators. The search sites themselves tell you what to do. Take the time to find out.

A Simple But Powerful Strategy

Fortunately, you don't have to be a logical operator virtuoso to trace plagiarized papers. Just use a search engine to search for distinctive phrases or unique words. Enter either of these in the search engine's find box. Many times the engine will find the exact source of the plagiarism. Remember though, to avoid getting thousands of bogus hits reported back, the word or short phrase has to be highly distinctive. ...

Other topics covered are ...

Meta-search Engines


Plagiarism Defined and Discussed

Here are some Web sites that define and discuss various aspects of plagiarism. They provide helpful general reading, insights and workable suggestions....

Collaborative Hypertexts and Plagiarism

The Internet promotes a new form of collaborative writing that's nicely summarized by ...


The Web facilitates plagiarism. Dishonest students pilfer articles from a disconcerting variety of electronic sources, and over one hundred online sites offer pre-written papers for free or for sale. It's practically impossible to combat this plague of cyber plagiarism without using computerized countermeasures. But an instructor with only modest Web skills can effectively counter electronic plagiarism by using the techniques just described.