What exactly is plagiarism software?

Everything you need to know about plagiarism checkers:

Your professor and university may check your essay for plagiarism, even if unintentional. Here’s how.

UK & European universities use software (such as Turnitin and Plagscan) to automatically determine whether theses that have been submitted by students are original or “copied.” 

Plagiarism means when a dissertation contains a section of text that is similar to a text written by someone else that is not used as a direct quotation.

Universities, of course, do not permit plagiarism: your thesis and references must be original. 

So-called “anti-plagiarism” software detects and prevents plagiarism, rejects the essay and even reports the writer to the authorities in the most severe cases. 

Read on to learn more about the practical and legal ramifications if your university discovers plagiarism in your thesis. 

To summarise: 

  • Plagiarism checkers are software that help you avoid writing plagiarised pieces of text. 
  • When it is not a direct quotation, the “similarity percentage” shows the amount of text that resembles already existing texts, which can lead to plagiarism. 
  • Even if you didn’t do it on purpose, part of your essay could still be “plagiarised.” 
  • Universities use this software to determine whether your thesis has similarities with other texts. 
  • UK and European universities, including yours, use such software.

How does the plagiarism check work?

Your university will upload your essay file to the plagiarism checker, which scans it automatically. 

In just a few minutes, very complex algorithms compare millions of texts to find similarities with yours (even in the case of paraphrases). 

After the check, the software generates a detailed report that shows which sentences are similar to others that already exist elsewhere, indicating the amount of similarity in your thesis. 

Your university will immediately see if your work is original or if any issues need to be addressed.

To summarise: 

  • Your university submits your essay to plagiarism detection software. 
  • Plagiarism detection software then compares your dissertation to millions of other documents you may have copied from. 
  • If the text you wrote is similar to another, it is checked (even if it is unintentionally similar) 
  • Plagiarism (similar unquoted text) is discovered even if you change a few words (paraphrase).
  • Your university receives a report that shows, in detail, any plagiarism in your thesis and sources.

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Sometimes, plagiarism checkers detect a “similes” / “similarity” between your text and another, even if you did not copy it on purpose.

For example, if you wrote a sentence similar to an existing text or if you quoted it without adequately formatting it. 

The plagiarism checker can only detect similarities in the texts and cannot tell whether you plagiarised it on purpose or by chance. 

To summarise, the anti-plagiarism software discovered the following similarity: 

  • One or more sentences have been copied from another original text.
  • One or more sentences from another original text have been copied, the words have been changed (paraphrased). 
  • One or more sentences have been translated into another language from an original text.
  • One or more sentences are by chance too similar to information already existing on other documents.
  • A quote, bibliography or interview has not been appropriately formatted in the text.

Which sources is your essay compared to?

The texts with which your dissertation will be compared may differ depending on the software. Professional plagiarism checkers used by United Kingdom and European universities typically rely on databases that contain millions of documents, such as: 

  • Websites
  • Digital books 
  • Newspapers and magazines in digital format  
  • Specialist research and scientific articles 

In some cases, previous academic theses written by other students and manually entered by universities are also checked.

Sometimes a text is unavailable in digital form and cannot be used by the plagiarism software. In that case, the reference can’t be compared to your essay. Any similarities or plagiarism will not be detected. 

Plagiarism detection software is unable to detect the following: 

  • Texts that have never been published in any form, digital or physical 
  • Books, newspaper articles, and magazines that have never been digitised 
  • Any other text that is not in their database

How can you avoid problems with plagiarism detection software?

Even if there are many tips for avoiding plagiarism, it is common for your thesis to contain similarities to other texts, even if you are unaware of them.

The simplest way to avoid problems with your university is to run your thesis through reliable anti-plagiarism software (avoid free ones, they are incompatible with university checks). 

This way, you can see if a section of your thesis has been identified as possible plagiarism, allowing you to make changes before sending the document in.


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To summarise: 

  • Even if you are unaware of it, your essay may contain similarities and thus possible plagiarism. 
  • Even if you did not do it on purpose, your university may reject your thesis or sue you for plagiarism. 
  • To avoid problems, you should run your dissertation through a plagiarism checker compatible with the one your university uses.
  • Avoid free plagiarism checker providers because they do not use the same databases your university does. 
  • You will know which sentences you need to change after receiving our plagiarism report.

Is it better to use free or paid plagiarism checker?

When checking your academic essay for plagiarism, relying on free software can be risky. Free websites have limited resources, no accurate algorithms and no dependable databases: the percentage of plagiarism they detect is incompatible with your university's checks! 

Aggregating data from free plagiarism sites and professional checkers. For more information, visit our page listing the best plagiarism software providers to learn about the differences between the various services, essential features and  available prices.

Will a copy of your thesis be saved in a plagiarism checker’s databases?

It depends. For example, Turnitin and Plagscan save a copy of the thesis in their database which can then be used to compare it to other documents in the future. 

However, Doctor Plagiarism, Scribbr, Zero Plagiarism, Plagramme, and Tesiverified will not save a copy of your thesis.

  • Some providers will save a copy of your thesis in their database for future reference. 
  • Others are more secure and will not save any copies of your thesis. 

In our comparison article, you can find out which software providers save a copy of your thesis.

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From the operating of our plagiarism checker to providing the solutions that will remove any detected plagiarism in your academic essay, we are here for you!

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