How effective are electronic plagiarism detection systems and does it matter how you use them?

Reviewing the evidence

Jo Badge


The advent and use of digital technologies, which open up a plethora of useful and credible information for use by students, at the same time expose the risks of uncritical and unacknowledged use of other people’s work. Institutions have met these concerns with the implementation of electronic detection systems. The situation has moved very quickly, from the introduction of the UK national license for Turnitin in 2002/3 to the present situation where this software is used by over 95% of Higher Education Institutions. Electronic detection of plagiarism is one of the most widely spread technologies used in education and the evidence base for its use is only just beginning to yield results. This paper will examine the evidence to date for the effects of plagiarism detection systems. It is based on a HEA-funded review ‘Digital with plagiarism in the digital age’ which is reproduced in place of a full research paper and is also available online at

This paper was submitted to the International Integrity & Plagiarism Conference which ran between 2004-2014. The paper was peer reviewed by an independent editorial board and features in the conference proceedings.