How students try to cheat plagiarism checkers. For as long as there have been rules, restrictions and requirements, there have been people trying to find a way around these, to “cheat” in some way. Depending on what was used for controlling and enforcing certain rules during different time periods, those willing to cheat have been attempting to trick people, at first, then the machines, and, finally, computer systems and programs – with varying combinations of failures, unexpected consequences and things that actually worked.
In order to trick people, they needed to know at least the basics of human psychology. To trick the machines, they needed to know much more than the basics of how machinery works. However, to bypass the computer systems or to “fool” some software, people don’t need to do or know much of anything (or so they think) – as in our highly sociable and connected online world of today, there’s always someone to share “great tips and tricks”. So how do students trick plagiarism checkers?
As plagiarism detecting software has to extract text from a submitted document and check if it matches some other text from online sources or databases, the idea of a letter swap or inserting characters between words is based on trying to prevent text from being properly extracted. Many students assume that in this case, a plagiarism checker will not identify plagiarized material, so they use similar-looking letters from foreign alphabets (like a Cyrillic Е or a Greek Ε instead of an English E), or replace the letter a with a~ (a tilde) using Macros so that it doesn’t change how the document looks and prints.
However, this may work only with dated plagiarism detection tools. The latest ones have special algorithms that deal with this hack easily, replacing such characters with the corresponding English characters. The results may even be as ridiculous as reported by one student: “With a file full of tildes, the plagiarism checker didn’t find the book I copied a chunk of text from, but it did find similarities to many other papers submitted to different institutions, with the idiotic tildes showing up in the text. It matched the tildes…”
This trick involves using the Macros tool to hide copied (plagiarized) text, or filling all the spaces in a paper with invisible (white) text, dots or other characters to make the link between the text and its printed representation invalid. These schemes are supposed to ensure that a teacher prints out and reads one (plagiarized or copy-pasted) version of text while the plagiarism checker scans a different one, or even complete nonsense (though documents with no spaces will not be accepted by the up-to-date anti-plagiarism software because of abnormal word lengths).
The above could only work if plagiarism detection tools had very simple algorithms of comparing texts, or perhaps if the teachers ignored everything else in the Originality Report besides the overall similarity score. Most plagiarism checkers are programmed to display all text in the Originality Report, regardless of its color and Macros cheat schemes used by the students. But even if they weren’t, teachers would notice the differences between the text they are reading and the Originality Report, plus the badly paraphrased or not cited material from the sources they are familiar with, as well as sections of copied text that significantly differ from each other in style or vocabulary usage.
So you just chop up the text, then change and add a word here or there, and you’re all good! Does that sound familiar? While it may decrease the similarity percentage, replacing some words in a sentence with synonyms or changing their order won’t prevent plagiarism checkers from finding the original source. Besides, even if this worked with automated plagiarism checkers, it would alert your teacher, i.e. not pass a human plagiarism checker. The reason synonyms exist, to begin with, is to convey slight but sometimes more substantial differences in meaning, so synonyms are often not equally acceptable. Working on properly paraphrasing sentences or paragraphs would have been a far better idea, but who wants to put so much time and effort into doing that? This is why students do the next strange thing:
Anyone who has a fairly good command of a foreign language knows that the results Google Translate produces often range from hilarious to absurd. Anyone who hasn’t occasionally is puzzled as well, looking at a total mumbo-jumbo of words in his native language that the foreign language material has been rendered into. However, some students claim they use online translators to “paraphrase” text and cheat plagiarism checkers.
They translate copied text into a foreign language (or perform a series of such translations from one foreign language into another) and then translate the result back into the language of the original. This strategy reminiscent of the ‘broken telephone’ game will certainly produce a different text with a distorted structure, but then the same thing is highly likely to happen to the meaning. Perhaps this can give you a few ideas of paraphrasing, but it’s rather accidental than guaranteed.
Anyway, you’d better have sufficient knowledge of the topic to correct the flawed text and make sure it doesn’t contain anything completely irrelevant thrown in by online translators. If you don’t have such knowledge, you are wandering in the dark, and sounding like Google Translate will not get you a good reputation or good grades. If you do have a fairly good grasp of the topic, it will probably be easier to paraphrase the text yourself than converting it to garbage and then rummaging in it.
As compared to what seems to be weird games students play trying to get around plagiarism detection software, patchwork writing is a time-consuming technique and not an easy one. It may seem that just plagiarizing from multiple sources and mixing it up will make plagiarism detection more complicated, but it isn’t so.
As quality plagiarism checkers can detect and match even small fragments of text or sentences, simply snipping these from different sources to stitch together with a few words of your own and generic linking phrases won’t help you avoid plagiarism detection – by the up-to-date online tools and teachers alike.
Incorporating small fragments of sentences from different sources into your paper with a good deal of your own writing in between will work better, and it will reduce both individual and overall similarity percentages that a plagiarism checker reports. But there’s hardly any trick here, as in this scenario the plagiarism detection software will just accurately show that the share of non-original material in your work is small.
Noplag is constantly updating a series of complex algorithms developed to deal with the cheat methods that are discussed online, as well as some others identified by our team. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can cheat plagiarism checkers and get away with plagiarism. Some of these tricks used to work long ago but they won’t anymore, some may work only with dated anti-plagiarism software, but one thing is obvious and guaranteed: if you are caught using them, you will look even more guilty.