Ultimate Plagiarism & Textbook Piracy Guide

Plagiarism ResourcesPlagiarism has plagued the academic world. The internet facilitates plagiarism. Plagiarism increases proportionally to internet usage. However, if students can be properly educated about plagiarism from the start, most problems can be prevented and/or dissuaded.

Best Online College has compiled a comprehensive guide which will teach you just about everything you need to know about plagiarism, including statistics, common definitions, plagiarism tutorials and other facts.

Also, we’ve recently added a great and comprehensive section on textbook piracy. We’ve got facts, figures, definitions and more to increase awareness in students and teachers of this rising piracy trend.

Quick Facts - Defining Plagiarism- Plagiarism Tutorials -
Useful ResourcesFree Detection ToolsExample Plagiarism Policies
- Textbook Piracy

Quick Plagiarism Facts

  • 80% of college students admit to cheating at least once. (Center for Academic Integrity)
  • 52% of 1,800 students at nine state universities had copied several sentences from a website without citation. (McCabe, D.L.)
  • More than two-thirds of 2,100 students from 21 campuses copied or plagiarized work done by another student (Center for Academic Integrity)
  • 15% of high school students admit to obtaining a paper from a term paper mill or website (Plagiarism.org)
  • 50% of high-school students surveyed by Rutgers University see nothing wrong with cheating (McCabe, D.L. )
  • 90% of students believe that cheaters are either never caught or have never been appropriately disciplined (US News and World Report)


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Defining Plagiarism

  • Definition: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source [Merriam-Webster]
  • Links to University Definitions:


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Great Plagiarism Tutorials

Plagiarism tutorials test and solidify your knowledge of the basics of plagiarism. They also can be a great resource of sound principles for formatting guidelines for citations and citing things like e-mail. We have compiled the top 5 plagiarism tutorials on the web. They’re all simple and comprehensive. We’ve listed some of the unique points to each below the title.

  1. The University of Southern Mississippi
  • provides quizzes before, during and after you review the materials
  • results of your pre-test and post-test will be mailed to yourself and your professor
  1. The University Of Maryland University College
  • extremely comprehensive, includes lots of examples and style guidelines
  • includes a post-quiz that analyzes your results and tells you which section of the tutorial to go over
  1. Indiana University Bloomington
  • included links to real plagiarism cases
  • you can print out a confirmation certificate for you professor after taking the test
  1. California State University San Marcos
  • provides “checkpoints” after each section to test your knowledge before moving on
  • spells out the benefits for the student for using proper citation (beyond avoiding plagiarism)
  1. The University of Texas at Arlington
  • includes examples of plagiarism in real life, outside of the classroom (like the New York Times and government documents)
  • good use of charts and diagrams


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Useful Resources

These resources will help you understand plagiarism and how to avoid it. It includes writing style guides, examples of plagiarism, extra tutorials and more.


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Free Tools for Detecting Plagiarism

  • Google and Google Scholar: If a sentence strikes you as odd, put it in quotation marks and run a Google search on it. If the phrase has been cut and pasted, it will show up in the search results. As more books are uploaded onto Google Books, Google Scholar and Google Books will become increasingly powerful weapons against plagiarism.
  • The Plagiarism Checker: The Plagiarism Checker allows you to run a Google search on large blocks of text. This is easier than cutting and pasting single sentences.
  • Articlechecker: Works the same as Plagiarism Checker, but gives you the option of checking against Yahoo as well as Google.
  • Plagium: Like The Plagiarism Checker, this site Googles text you submit. Unlike most other checkers, Plagium works in several languages.
  • PlagiarismDetect: A plagiarism detector that allows you to upload whole documents rather than cutting and pasting blocks of text. It’s free, but you have to register.
  • Duplichecker: Another checker that plugs submitted text into search engines. Duplichecker’s interface makes it easy to submit entire documents as well as excerpts.
  • SeeSources: Searches the Web for sources similar to the text you entered. You can scan both excerpts and whole documents.
  • DOC Cop: Doc Cop offers a few features more than the minimal Web-based detection services. For instance, you can check for collusion—that is, you can check the similarity between two papers. However, you do have to register.
  • WCopyFind: WCopyFind is a downloadable scanner that checks for similarities between two papers, but it can’t search the Web.
  • Viper: The Anti-Plagiarism Scanner. Although it’s free, Viper is software, so it’s a bit more of a commitment than Web-based tools. However, it has some neat features, such as side-by-side comparisons of the submitted text with the potentially plagiarized one. Viper touts itself as the free alternative to TurnItIn.
  • SafeAssign/MyDropBox: This is free if you’re already using a Blackboard Learning System. As students submit papers to Blackboard, SafeAssign checks their papers against its database of source material.
  • PAIRwise: PAIRwise (Paper Authorship Integrity Research) can compare documents to one another while searching the internet for similar documents. However, PAIRwise is intended for use on an institutional level—for departmental or college-wide servers.


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Examples of Plagiarism Policies

Most universities encourage their professors to include a plagiarism policy in their syllabi. Including a policy is a great first step, but to be effective, professors must also pay attention to where they place that policy and exactly what kind of information they include.

Here are five examples of plagiarism policies in syllabi in universities across the country. We’ve listed them starting with the best and have highlighted the pros and the cons. We hope these examples will encourage you to include your own policy and will be helpful in helping you craft it.

1. Bates College: Cultural Anthropology (Anth 101)

Academic Integrity:

All students are responsible for reading and understanding the Bates College Statement on Academic Honesty. (See http://abacus.bates.edu/pubs/Plagiarism/plagiarism.html). When you turn in an assignment to satisfy the requirements for this course, you are indicating it is your own work. The failure to properly acknowledge your use of another work is plagiarism. All references must be cited according to the AAA guidelines (see described in handouts and on Lyceum). I do not tolerate academic dishonesty. Plagiarism of any kind will result in a failing grade for the assignment and/or the class.

  • Pros: Clearly labeled, given own section, defined plagiarism, provides link to the college’s policy, includes penalties, includes important details, well written and easy-to-understand, placed before course schedule
  • Cons: None

2. Boston University: Modern Irish Literature (CAS EN 392)


It is every student’s responsibility to read the Boston University statement on plagiarism, which is available in the Academic Conduct Code. Students are advised that the penalty against students on a Boston University program for cheating on examinations or for plagiarism may be “…expulsion from the program or the University or such other penalty as may be recommended by the Committee on Student Academic Conduct, subject to approval by the dean.”

  • Pros: Plagiarism is given its own section, penalities are discussed
  • Cons: No definition of plagiarism, no link to BU’s policy on plagiarism or more information, placed at the end of the syllabus

3. Stanford University: Literature and Metamorphoses (CompLit 227)

A Note on Written Papers:

All papers must be typed, 11 or 12 pt font, in Times New Roman, double-spaced, with 1 inch margins. Please include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner as well as your name on each page. All papers must be handed in hard-copy and be stapled. Electronic submissions will not be accepted. Furthermore, you are responsible for adhering to Stanford University’s honor code. I do not tolerate any form of plagiarism. Please familiarize yourself with the Stanford honor code at http://www.stanford.edu/dept/vpsa/judicialaffairs/guiding/honorcode.htm .

  • Pros: link to an extensive plagiarism resource written by the Univerity, placed early in syllabus before course schedule
  • Cons: no definition of plagiarism in the syllabus, note on plagiarism tacked at the end of a paragraph about formatting, no penalties discussed

4. Georgetown University: Intermediate Econometrics (Econ-422)

Honor System:

I would like to remind you that as signatories to the Georgetown University Honor Pledge, you are required to uphold academic honesty in all aspects of this course. As faculty, I too am obliged to uphold the Honor System, and will report all suspected cases for academic dishonesty.

  • Pros: Included in first page, includes professor’s responsibility
  • Cons: Doesn’t reference plagiarism specifically (or define it), doesn’t include penalties, doesn’t include link to the university’s honor code or more information

5. UC Berkeley: Cultural Heritage (Anthroplogy 136e)


Plagiarism will not be tolerated, and will result in a failing grade for the course. See the University Student Code of Conduct for information about plagiarism.

  • Pros: Includes penalties
  • Cons: Does not include a description of plagiarism, does not include a link to the university’s policy or more information, and is completely buried: it comes at the end of the syllabus at the end of a 700-word Course Policies section


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Textbook Piracy

Every semester, college students spend a sizable chunk of change on textbooks. For some, the per-semester costs for books can run upwards of $800-$1200. Students are always looking for creative ways to cut costs on textbooks whether that means sharing with a roommate, borrowing from a friend, reserving the book at a public library, or purchasing from online retailers instead of the college bookstore. When students are faced with paying an average of $100 per textbook, some decide it’s just not worth it, especially when some professors have a reputation for not using the textbooks in class.

Unfortunately, other students feel the pressure to infringe on copyrights by making illegal copies or using or sharing unauthorized downloads. Ignorance isn’t bliss on this one. Get the facts about textbook piracy and learn about how publishers are cracking down on this troubling trend.

What is textbook piracy?
What are the consequences for those who illegally download textbooks?
Are there legal alternatives to textbook piracy?

What is textbook piracy?

Textbook piracy is illegally downloading textbooks from a file-share website. Similar to websites that facilitate downloading movies or music, these sites provide links to download the contents of the textbook. Often, a version of textbooks has been scanned and uploaded to a computer. Sometimes downloads are unauthorized copies of purchased ebooks. The rise of textbook piracy can be attributed to many factors, but many point to the high cost of textbooks as a major factor.

What are the consequences for those who illegally download textbooks?

There are several problems with illegally downloading textbooks. First of all, it is copyright infringement. Secondly, the publishing company loses money for every downloaded, but not purchased, textbook. Once publishers discover illegal material on websites, they can request that their material be removed. However, these websites are protected by federal law from copyright lawsuits if they remove the material after they receive the request. Some sites strive to be open sharing sites, but people take advantage of the openness.

Many colleges and universities have disciplinary policies in place that explain the consequences for students who engage in plagiarism or are involved in other copyright infringement issues. These cases are taken seriously. The federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act grants the copyright owner the right to take action in court to seek civil liability or criminal prosecution. Media organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have become very aggressive in pursuing revenues lost to illegal downloading. Many believe that with the increasing popularity of e-readers, this trend will extend to book publishers as well.

Are there legal alternatives to textbook piracy?
There are many websites that sell used textbooks at good prices. In addition, websites are getting creative in what their sites include.

  • At Café Scribe, students can purchase ebooks and then join a virtual study group with students who are using the same textbook.
  • Textbooks and ebooks are available at Cengage Brain, which also provides students the opportunity to purchase echapters, which is a great feature that allows students to purchase individual chapters from electronic textbooks. If you register with their website, you can view the first chapter of many electronic textbooks for free.
  • With Course Smart, students can create an account and get a 180-day subscription that grants access to a textbook. On average their prices are $60 less than the listed price of a textbook.
  • Another option is to rent a textbook at site such as Chegg, which offers 60-day, quarter, and semester long rentals. The price of renting a textbook is about half of the listed price of the textbook.

In addition, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin helped create the College Textbook Affordability Act, a part of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization, which was signed into law in August 2008. This act is supposed to help to keep costs of textbooks at a lower rate. As a result of this act, publishers will be required to give professors a written price list for textbooks, information on the different editions, and information about cheaper versions. The hope with this act is to give professors better information about the textbooks they choose for their classes and encourage them to investigate cheaper options for required texts.

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