Academic Integrity

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Detecting Plagiarism

While some cases of plagiarism are easy to detect, others prove more difficult to identify. The following are cues that may signal the student paper should be examined closely or investigated further:

10 cues that a paper may be plagiarized

  1. Citation styles and bibliographic citations are inconsistent and mixed or non-existent.1 The style guide used is not the one used for the course.2
  2. The paper is clearly written at a level beyond the student’s usual abilities and may include advanced vocabulary, jargon or combined formal and informal language.1, 3
  3. The paper contains a mix of Canadian, American and British spellings(tire/tyre for example) or regionalisms.1, 3
  4. Inconsistencies from one submitted assignment to another, for example, the second essay is far superior.3
  5. The references used throughout the paper are dated (all more than five years old, for example.) Such cases may indicate that the paper was purchased through an essay writing service or written by another student.1 An excessive number of inactive web sites may also indicate that the paper is old.
  6. References are made to tables, diagrams, pieces of text or citations when none of this content exists in the paper.1, 2
  7. References are made to obscure journals or books not readily available in local libraries.1 (Be cautious here, however. Through its electronic databases, the Ryerson Library and other universities throughout Ontario subscribe to thousands of international journals that may be obscure.) Check the Ryerson Library Journal List.
  8. The topic of the paper is inconsistent with the one assigned, or with course content.1
  9. Parts of the paper are inconsistent with each other and the writing style changes from section to section.1
  10. When asked, the student cannot produce any research notes for the paper or summarize the main points in the paper.1


Tools for Detecting Plagiarism

Listed below are some tools you can use to help detect plagiarism, track down the origin of the questionable paper, or locate information contained within the paper:

  1. Harris, R.A. (2001). The plagiarism handbook. Los Angeles. Pyrczak.
  2. University of Alberta. (2005). Detecting Plagiarism. Retrieved August 1, 2005 from
  3. University of British Columbia, Faculty of Arts. (2005). Detecting Plagiarism. Retrieved July 25, 2011 from
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