Using the Google Search Engine to Detect Word-for-Word Plagiarism in Master's Theses: A Preliminary Study

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The effectiveness and efficiency of the Google Search engine for detecting potential occurrences of word-for-word plagiarism in master's theses was investigated. 210 electronic master's theses from a sample of 260 completed in 2003 were examined. Undocumented phrases from each thesis were searched against the World Wide Web using the Google search engine. Exact phrases from each thesis were searched for 10 minutes. Matches-or potential occurrences of plagiarism were found in 27.14% of the theses searched. Matches were found on or before the first numbered page in 16 of the 57 theses containing suspect passages. The average time for finding a match was 3.8 minutes. The results show that the Google search engine can be used to effectively and efficiently detect potential occurrences of plagiarism in some master's theses. The method described in the study could be used by theses advisors and other faculty as an alternative to anti-plagiarism software packages. Further investigation is needed to determine whether Google's effectiveness is consistent across varied academic disciplines. Comparative studies of Google and anti-plagiarism software and services are needed as well.


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College Student Journal

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