As a lecturer, I have advised many students to use a free plagiarism checker tool to verify their work is plagiarism free, when they don't have access to a widely-used paid tool like Turnitin. I encountered a questionable issue related to this in a discussion today. My question concern the following scenario:

When students do not have access to Turnitin, they can use any free plagiarism tool. Then they upload a small document (below 1000 word document) or they copy and paste the text and check for plagiarism using any free plagiarism checker. (I do not mention names here, most of the free versions allow only 1000 words.) When students upload their whole document to the university portal (UK universities Canvas or Blackboard), it will automatically check with Turnitin if the portal is supporting Turnitin access for student uploads. In this scenario, will it be shown as plagiarized or not genuine work, since part of the document or the whole document of the student has been uploaded in free tools? (In case the free plagiarism tool has stored the text - I do not know whether the free tools are capable of that or not - this work just like the way Turnitin works with student repository.)

Can the scenario I mentioned above happen?

  • 9
    If students really write their own stuff, why in the world should they "check for plagiarism" at all? Nov 16, 2020 at 15:36
  • 4
    If it does then turnitin is seriously broken. (Which may be true anyway.)
    – Buffy
    Nov 16, 2020 at 15:40
  • 2
    I solved this problem by giving my students access to view their own Turnitin results. That was primarily a moral decision based on the premise that no evaluation of student work should be secret from the students. Of course, if they plagiarize, they'll be able to see what I see, too.
    – Bob Brown
    Nov 16, 2020 at 16:16
  • 3
    'I have asked students to check plagiarism with free plagiarism checkers' Have you read the terms and conditions of those free plagiarism checkers, and are you sure you want to expose your students to those terms and conditions? Nov 16, 2020 at 17:05
  • 5
    The Turnitin report should tell you from what source(s) it has detected plagiarism. That will be a good start in finding out the answer to your question. In general, a high Turnitin score on its own should not be the basis of a formal charge of plagiarism, only the trigger to begin a human-led investigation to find out whether there really are grounds to suspect plagiarism. Nov 16, 2020 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


Technically it would be "possible". It just depends on the systems. If the free tool has stored or published the content anywhere where it can be seen by other systems, then it's going to be a possibility. As has been said, the terms and conditions of any tools should be checked prior to using them to identify if the content is going to be used in any way.

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