16 How is Plagiarism Detected?

How do instructors know if a student plagiarized?

Instructors know because:

  • they are subject specialists and familiar with literature in their field
    • instructors will recognize ideas that have been discussed before and vocabulary, terms or jargon specific to their area of expertise, so if you don’t cite these, they will know
    • if your assignment greatly exceeds the subject knowledge of other students in your class, your instructors will notice
  • they can spot differences in writing styles
    • you have your own distinct way of writing, and it will be easy for an instructor to identify what was written by someone else
  • they will notice if your writing differs significantly from one assignment to another
    • it takes time to develop your skills, so if you suddenly write like a pro, your instructor will notice
  • they can judge if your writing exceeds your level of study
    • writing well takes a lot of practice, so if you submit writing as eloquent as your instructors, this will raise a red flag
  • they spot-check your sources
    • for proper quoting, proper paraphrasing or for accuracy of the citation
  • they can google too!
    • if you copied something from the Internet, it will be easy for them to find it
  • they may check online “tutoring” services for uploaded materials
  • they may use a plagiarism detection service such as SafeAssign through Blackboard


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