As an educator, you are sure to need a reliable tool to daily scan a big amount of student works without bugs or slowdowns. Is it the only thing you need? Obviously not. In practice, payable checkers proved to be more efficient than their free alternatives. And this is really so not because marketers do their best to make us think so.
There are lots of free online tools which may even be accessible without prior registration, but the accuracy of checks they perform leaves much to be desired. Besides, most of them don’t support more than one file format (usually it is .doc or .txt). If students have their works in .pdf or .odt, you will have to use a file converter first and only then run a scan. Copy-pasting the text from each student work is not a good option as well: You hardly have so much time to do this monotonous work.
Apart from this, free detectors lack functionality helping reduce educators’ workload: checking against databases, detecting citations and references, highlighting similarities, or a clickable list of sources with duplications, etc.
Checkers with a well-thought out set of options are few, but the good news is that they do exist. They all require a subscription. The tools differ by speed and quality of checks, available checking types, plagiarism reports, which can be shared or downloaded by users, and many other handy features. To find your perfect fit, you need to compose a short list of essential options the tool should have. To simplify this selection process, you are welcome to make use of the list below.
The tool was created by the Swedish company in 1999 and can be used only by educational institutions, not by individuals, e.g.: teachers, professors, or students. The checker is accessible through the Internet, email or integration with LMS's of choice by universities or colleges. It checks across online sources and digital databases.
How it works:
If the email version is chosen, the Urkund support manager assigns special email addresses to educators, which then can be used to invite students and receive checked student works.
All the assignments students send to their teachers’ emails are automatically scanned against the Internet sources and digital databases. As a result, the educator gets already scanned writings (in other words, plagiarism reports) with text duplications highlighted on the left and original text from external sources on the right. It’s up to the educator to choose whether to share the report with his or her students or not.
- Students have free access to the checker
- The tool recognizes characters replaced by cheaters
- It’s possible to compare checked and original texts side by side
- Check results are accurate
- It supports a great number of file formats
- Users aren’t allowed to choose types of checks other than the Internet & databases scan
- Simultaneous document checks aren’t supported
- Text matches on original sources aren’t highlighted
- Students can’t see check results unless their educators decide to email them
- Prices for accounts are rather high ranging from €2 to €175 per file
The plagiarism checker Unicheck is available for both student or educator and university use. Since the year of its official launch in 2014, the tool has been changed a lot. In addition to three types of checks (across online sources, comparison of the selected documents against each other, and scans through integrated databases), detailed reports and simple interface, it now allows adjusting check sensitivity, running up to five pre-checks by students and spotting replaced characters.
How it works:
To get access to the Unicheck account as an individual or corporate user, it’s necessary to sign up first and then activate one out of three suggested subscription plans with prices varying from $9.97 per month to $59.88 per year. Unicheck is available through integration with LMSes, API and as a standalone online solution. Once accounts are activated, users can make use of the Unicheck functionality and its upgraded options by default.
To start checking the user should upload, drag & drop or create a file and then choose any type of checks on his/her own. It usually takes up to four seconds to complete one-page scan. Once it is done, the user receives a report, which can be downloaded in .pdf or shared with others via emails. The report shows checked text with highlighted similarities on the left and a list of hyperlinked sources on the right. If to click on the chain icon next to any original source, the user will be redirected to the source page with spotted duplications.
- It spots and omits references and citations
- The user can select several files to be scanned at a time
- It allows users to disable the “Sharing Files” option so that the checker can’t store uploaded documents in its database
- New features can be developed upon request (only for universities and colleges)
- It supports English, German, French, Spanish, and a few more languages
- Scan results are accurate
- The tool allows uploading only up to four files at once
- For corporate accounts, students have rather limited access to the options
- Checking big size files may take several minutes
- For now, the user can’t edit text right in the report
Turnitin is used by a lot of universities and colleges across the globe. It was created only for corporate use and has a rather extended functionality similar to that of LMS (having a calendar for assignments, separate discussion tabs, the “Join” tab for inviting students to join a particular class, and more).
The tool requires both instructors and students to register before getting access to their accounts. The detector scans writings through the Internet, university or teacher’s databases and publisher’s databases. Before assigning tasks to students, instructors can choose what type of check to use. The checker is available online or via integration with LMSes.
How it works:
As it was mentioned, each user needs to register first. When access is received, the process of assigning tasks usually goes like this: the instructor creates a class and adds an assignment, then invites the student to join the class. After the student is enrolled, he/she completes the assignment and submits it to the instructor. At this stage, the educator evaluates the checked writing and shares a report with his/her student.
Regardless of this simple description of educator-student interaction, the checker’s functionality is rather complex, that’s why instructors go through a series of training before they are ready to start using the system.
- The tool can check several files at once
- Scanning documents in the background mode is possible
- Multiple file formats are supported
- It’s possible to share reports via email
- It can be used as a kind of LMS
- Free trial isn’t available
- The tool can’t be customized
- No pricing mentioned
- The system considers repeated submissions as plagiarized
- Citations detection is not always accurate
- Customer support works slowly
Created in 2014, PlagScan is suitable for private and university use. It can be accessed as a Software as a Service (SAAS) version or via API. The checker is claimed to support all browser versions. Similar to Unpag, the tool lets users make their own storage of documents in their accounts. Generated reports are available in four formats (.pdf, .doc, and an online version) with highlighted similarities. The tool allows creating an unlimited number of accounts for teachers and sharing documents among other PlagScan users or other educators within your institution.
How it works:
To test the quality of checks, you can take advantage of a 2,000-word free trial as a private user. To start running scans with the checker, you need to pass a quick registration. Though individual users can fund their accounts with credit cards or via PayPal without subscribing. The process of checking is simple: the user should upload a file or a few files, then click the “Start Check” button, and view the report results with the percentage of similarities found.
- The report highlights “Exact match”, “Possibly altered” text, “Marked as quotation” text with different colors
- Matches on the original source of information are also spotted
- The report can be easily navigated
- If a quote wasn’t recognized, the checker allows to mark it as a quote or as a plagiarized sentence or passage
- The tool supports many file formats
- The tool doesn’t save initial document formatting
- The report is difficult to interpret
- Check results aren’t always accurate
- Scans across the user’s library or comparison of files within one account aren’t available
- It’s not possible to share reports via email
As you see, the tools do have a lot in common, but at the same time, there are numerous add-ons that differ them and make more or less convenient for their users. It’s difficult to find an all-in-one solution, but hopefully, plagiarism checker creators won’t cease to improve their tools to better meet the needs of countless users, especially those who are involved with teaching and studying.
So, whenever in doubt what to choose, contact customer support and see whether they can make a kind of presentation of their tools. If you are satisfied with the feedback and explanation received, you are welcome to join them.
Other links for teachers to try FREE plagiarism tools: