The following is an update to a K-State article written in 2007 on plagiarism. Plagiarism tends to occur because of a lack of understanding about what plagiarism is, university policies and procedures, and how to cite references (Guertin, 2005). There are free and purchased applications available for plagiarism detection.

McQueeny (2006) provides an overview of plagiarism detection software. With these types of applications, faculty and/or students submit their paper electronically, which is put through a search of Internet sites, previously submitted student papers, and commercial databases. The extent of the search depends on the level of sophistication of the software. The results usually provide a percent of matched content, however faculty must still build a case for plagiarism. Problems with these types of applications are false positives, false negatives, questions surrounding copyright and privacy of students’ papers, and the need for institutional policies regarding the widespread use of this type of software.

In lieu of the availability of this type of software, faculty might try a simple tool available online. This tool allows you to search multiple engines without having to retype the phrase.


  • In the Search Tools box, click More Search Tools.
  • In the “search for” space, type in the words that appear to be plagiarized.
  • Choose your search engine (i.e., Google, Lycos, etc.).
  • Click Go.
  • If the content matches a reference, a new window with links will appear. (If nothing shows as plagiarized, choose a different search engine.)

Other free tools include:

Search engines that are primarily Google, as this is the default search option for many students.  The corollary is that if students found it on Google, you will, too.

K-State Libraries subscribes to many full-text databases.  Start with the three databases that cover most subjects (and students typically search these first):

You may also search in the databases that focus on specific subjects. Read the description of the database to ascertain if it is a full-text database or only covers citations and abstracts.

Below is a handy search box that will allow you to enter up to 60 characters and search across all of the full-text databases K-State Libraries subscribes to from ProQuest (see a list of those databases.)

Enter your search terms:

To educate students about plagiarism, visit K-State’s Honor and Integrity site.


Using virtual lectures to educate students on plagiarism. First Monday 10(9). Retrieved March 29, 2006

Literate machines: plagiarism detection software. Retrieved January 4, 2007.