Plagiarism is considered plagiarism

Evaluation of a plagiarism check: from what percentage is a text a plagiarism?

When is plagiarism plagiarism?

Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to this seemingly easy question. For this reason, systems such as PlagAware usually do without a classification such as

  • check_circleNo plagiarism
  • check_circleMaybe plagiarism
  • check_circleProbably plagiarism
  • check_circleCertainly a plagiarism

to undertake. Rather, programs for plagiarism check are generally limited to showing the extent to which texts have been taken over from external sources and the manner in which they have been incorporated into a given work.

In the final evaluation of the sources found, however, the personal assessment and assessment of an auditor will always be decisive, which of

  • check_circlethe specifications for the texts to be checked,
  • check_circlethe experience of the examiner and
  • check_circlethe desired (scientific) level of the work

depends. For example, completely different standards are applied to the plagiarism check of a school term paper than to the plagiarism check of a master's thesis - and again different from the plagiarism check of a dissertation or doctoral thesis.

In the following sections we would like to give you some principles and aids to help you with the individual assessment of the sources found for a work.

Types of plagiarism: structural plagiarism and text plagiarism

First of all, it is helpful to distinguish between two different types of plagiarism - and to decide whether both are equally relevant.

  • check_circleWhen one speaks of plagiarism in general, it is mostly understood by it Text plagiarism. A text plagiarism is an unchanged adoption of several sentences, sections or even entire pages from an unspecified source in your own work. Systems for plagiarism checking such as PlagAware can usually recognize and display this text plagiarism without any problems, provided the source is electronically publicly accessible. It is up to the examiner to assess the scope and relevance of the copy - and to make a decision on the admissibility of the section in question. Tips on this are given in the following sections.
  • check_circleStructural plagiarism are plagiarisms of the content structure - the structure - of a work. For example, a master's thesis at hand could not copy a single sentence from an earlier thesis, but the general structure, the argumentation and the conclusions could be completely copied. Structural plagiarism is much more difficult to unmask, as plagiarism checking programs are often designed to identify matching texts.

PlagAware will also rate a complete structural plagiarism with a percentage of copied words of "0% - no plagiarism". However, in addition to a pure text comparison, the algorithms from PlagAware can also track down texts with similar content. If the same source document is found several times during a plagiarism check, this source appears at PlagAware in the "Potential sources inconsistent" list. However, the (content) comparison of these sources with the present work must be carried out manually by the examiner.

Percentage of words, breaks, and revisions copied

Even with text plagiarism, sentences or sections are usually not taken verbatim. Instead, sentences are rearranged, individual words are replaced by synonyms or tenses are changed. This is usually done in order to better integrate the plagiarism into one's own work stylistically or to disguise the use of the plagiarism - or both. Revised text plagiarism is therefore also referred to as "veiled plagiarism" or "paraphrasing plagiarism".

In many cases, PlagAware's plagiarism checker can also identify and display heavily revised, disguised plagiarism. The graphic text comparison is particularly helpful here, as it enables a direct assessment of the paraphrasing:

The extent of the plagiarized sections and the degree of revision are described by the three parameters percentage, number of copied words (MW: Matching Words) and number of copied phrases (MP: Matching Phrases).

  • check_circleNumber of words copied. This value indicates how many words were taken over unchanged from one or more sources. The number of sources and the distribution of the sources in the text does not matter. For example, if there are 250 words in a text of any length that were also found in other sources, the number of words copied will assume the value "250".
  • check_circlePercentage of words copied. This is the percentage of words copied in relation to the total number of words in the checked text. For a text with a length of 1000 words, the above example of 250 copied words results in a percentage of 25% - a whole quarter of the text was copied from other sources. Here, too, the number of sources and the distribution of the copied sections within the work are irrelevant.
  • check_circleNumber of phrases copied. This value reflects how many phrases a found source is distributed among the checked text. A phrase is understood to be a coherent copied section of this source, such as a sentence or several words. An example: 100 words are copied from a Wikipedia article, 20 words from the introduction and 80 words from the main part of the article. Your own texts were inserted between the two phrases in the examined work. The number of phrases copied here is two and the number of words copied is 100.

Tips and guidelines for evaluating plagiarism checks

As already mentioned, the assessment of a plagiarism check that has been carried out remains largely within the discretion of the examiner. Nevertheless, a few tips can help to enable a comparable and more objective assessment:

  • check_circleExclude sources that have been correctly cited from the plagiarism check. This falsifies the overall statement, since proper citations are of course permissible and should not be included in the assessment. With PlagAware, manually excluded sources are always displayed in the results report.
  • check_circleFor the evaluation of individual sources, the absolute number of copied words is more important than the percentage. Ultimately, it does not matter how long the examined work is: An unspecified source of "significant" scope is and remains a violation of good scientific practice. There are different opinions about the "significance" of a copied source. As a guideline, we suggest:
    • arrow_forwardLess than 50 words copied: Not significant
    • arrow_forwardbetween 50 and 100 words copied: discretion
    • arrow_forwardmore than 100 words copied: Significant
  • check_circleThe percentage of copied words should be used to evaluate the overall work. With regard to the significance, opinions naturally diverge here too. Please note, however, that correctly cited sources must be excluded in order not to receive false positive results in the plagiarism check. As a guideline, we suggest:
    • arrow_forwardless than 1 percent: Not significant
    • arrow_forwardbetween 1 and 5 percent: discretion
    • arrow_forwardmore than 5 percent: Significant
  • check_circleLike other programs for the online plagiarism check of texts, PlagAware can (with exceptions) only access sources that are publicly available. Often, however, summaries or extracts are also freely accessible from paid and protected content. You should become suspicious if PlagAware reports references to these scientific abstracts or summaries from homework portals. If necessary, it makes sense to acquire the corresponding full texts and add them to your library. You can then update the plagiarism check free of charge, taking these texts into account.
  • check_circleWithin the scope of the discretionary scope, the question should be answered whether an unquoted source was intended to be deceptive - or not. Paraphrasing, i.e. the degree and manner of concealment, provides an indication of the intention to deceive. The parameter "number of copied phrases" is an important indicator for this. Together with the graphical overview of the text comparison, it is very easy to decide whether the source has been knowingly and intentionally revised in order to disguise the origin of the text. Give these veiled plagiarism more weight than sources that may have been accidentally or incompletely cited.
  • check_circleIf you carry out plagiarism checks to track down copyright violations: Remember that copyright only applies to specific formulations. A paraphrased plagiarism is not plagiarism in the copyright sense, but a reformulation of the source text and is therefore usually not legally open to attack.
  • check_circleDiscuss limit values ​​for certain permissible and certain non-permissible parameters in your staff in order to enable the plagiarism checks in your institution to be compared. Use specific examples and results reports for this.