AUSTRALIA: Detecting plagiarism and collusion

A Melbourne educationist has developed a free plagiarism and collusion detection tool called DOC Cop that can be used to check files against one another or against material on the web. The system does not retain any material submitted for investigation.

Inventor Mark McCrohon says that DOC Cop is ideal for ad hoc use by academics, bloggers, editors, journalists, researchers, students, teachers and writers. He says the system requires only an email address to get started and is in use within institutions and by individuals around the world.

"I worked at the University of Melbourne from 1998 to 2005 developing educational software for the web. I am currently a postgraduate student in the field of education," McCrohon told University World News.

"I always tried to cover my costs so in the past I charged a nominal fee to use the web check function. However, over the past couple of years I have refined the system so much that it has very little operating costs and I can now offer the system free of charge. To me it is all about offering the most effective plagiarism detection tool to the widest number of people possible."

McCrohon launched DOC Cop in late 2006 but says the current product is significantly different from earlier releases as he continued to refine and develop the system. "The system has constantly evolved to offer what the guests require and it is now faster, simpler and robust," he says.

"Thousands of visitors have used DOC Cop over the past couple of years from a variety of sectors including teachers, universities and businesses, including publishers and scientific researchers. As it has a very simple registration process (requiring only an email address), many use the system on an ad hoc and anonymous basis."

McCrohon says he has had an enthusiastic response with almost 17,000 registered guests and many regulars returning daily. The File Check function that can be used to check up to eight files either Word or PDF documents against one another at a time is unique, fast and popular.

"DOC Cop provides ad hoc and anonymous plagiarism detection with very little overhead such as installation or registration details. It does not keep material submitted for investigation and does not require the purchase of expensive licences."

He says those using the system normally receive feedback on their submissions within minutes as the Web Check function is thorough in checking every string within the submission against the web. The File Check function can detect plagiarism regardless of spelling and punctuation.