While most students realize that intentional plagiarism is a form of cheating, there’s also a growing awareness that uncited duplicative text can appear in a work on accident. Either through poor paraphrasing, missing citations or even format changes that break quotes or footnotes.
The problem is even more challenging in group projects, where a member could either accidentally or intentionally include plagiarized text in their portion and sink the entire team.
Because of this, more and more students are starting to check their work for plagiarism, especially with larger and more complex projects where mistakes are more likely and the risk is much greater.
But this raises a question: When is the best time to check your work for plagiarism?
Given that many larger projects can go through dozens of drafts and be written in multiple sections, when you check for plagiarism is equally as important as how.
Sadly though, there’s no one correct answer to this puzzle and the best approach involves multiple checks. That being said, there are a few points in which you should NOT check your work, simply because it is too soon.
For example, checking a project immediately after completing the first draft is probably not worthwhile. The reason is because the first draft very often doesn’t look a great deal like the final and many of the mistakes that lead to uncited text take place during the editing process.
As such, the best opportunity to first look at checking for plagiarism is after the text has become fairly settled. After a few rounds of edits, it’s likely that you’ll have the structure and most of the text finalized, making it a great chance to check.
Best of all, if problems are caught at this point, it’s still fairly easy to deal with them simply because fixing the issues becomes part of the editing process.
However, it’s also important to check a final work before handing it in. Ideally, there should be no surprises in this check and it does more to serve as peace of mind.
One additional note is that, if an instructor is asking for submission of multiple drafts, it’s worthwhile to check everything that is submitted as schools often do address plagiarism in early drafts.
The good news is that WriteCheck allows for three free resubmissions of papers. However, those resubmissions too often go unused. This means that, if you use WriteCheck on an early draft of the paper, you can submit it twice more, including right before handing it in to your instructor.
But regardless of what tool you use, the only way to be sure that there are no plagiarized passages is to check it just after the text is more or less finalized and check it again after any major changes. Combine that with a last-minute scan before submission and there should be no surprises lurking in your paper.