METM15 presentation

Free online plagiarism checkers: their uses and usefulness

Marije de Jager, Rovereto, Italy
Ailish Maher, Barcelona, Spain

It has become common practice for science journals to screen manuscript submissions for similarities to other publications. When similarities are found, the journal is likely to reject the manuscript for plagiarism, although this may be based on no more than an arbitrarily set similarity cutoff. Many journals use CrossCheck/iThenticate, an online service that searches not only the Internet but also its own database of scientific publications. Journals nowadays recommend that authors themselves screen their papers for similarities before submittal, but this is easier said than done. The cost of individual use of iThenticate is rather prohibitive. Google (or another search engine) can screen text fragments but not an entire manuscript, and false negative results are common.

To check their own papers before submittal, authors – and language professionals assisting them – need access to reliable and affordable plagiarism screening tools. In a presentation at METM11, we tested eight applications against iThenticate but found none of them useful because they missed similarities or were unsuitable for full manuscript screening. Have these tools improved since then, or been replaced by better ones?

In this talk we’ll give an up-to-the-minute assessment of free (or almost free) online plagiarism checkers. In addition, we’ll present a recent real-life case in which one of us, using a free online plagiarism tool to detect and document evidence of similarity, guided an author’s response to an accusation of plagiarism in a submitted manuscript.

Marije de Jager received her translator’s training at the University of Amsterdam, went on to study contemporary dance in London, and now lives in Rovereto, Italy, where she works as a freelance translator and editor of (mostly) biomedical texts.

Ailish Maher has the Chartered Institute of Linguists translation diploma and a master’s degree in translation from Dublin City University. She lives and works in Barcelona as a freelance translator and editor. She has also given several courses on scientific writing in English at hospitals and universities in Spain.