Ever since the affair of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s dissertation, the topic of “plagiarism” has experienced a strong media coverage. The need for information has increased, as well as the efforts to convict future plagiarists.
The term “plagiarism” generally refers to the unmarked use of foreign intellectual property. While in the case of a multi-page, completely literally quoted quote without naming the source of the case is to be assessed as a clear plagiarism, plagiarism in reality are rarely so clearly visible.
In recent years, the use of plagiarism detection software has expanded. With enormous computing power and using extensive scientific databases, the culprits are to be unmasked.
Software can very quickly and efficiently compare word strings, perform extensive statistical analysis of texts, and is thus able to provide superficial ratings (although false positives are likely). Who plagiarizes scientific, on the Internet or in scientific databases available texts, therefore, has no good cards.
However, this should be clear anyway. Likewise, the fact that the fantasy of plagiarists knows no bounds: Foreign texts are reformulated, provided with new concepts and contexts, they are divided, mixed with their own thoughts or even changed in content. This pushes even the best software to its limits, as it always has only a limited scope of test rules and does not have the necessary intuition, for example, to recognize style breaks.
It also lacks the precision to examine each case individually, to develop its own resources and to understand the relationships in the original literature. It can not assess whether a footnote was forgotten out of carelessness, or whether there is a deliberate intention to deceive.
The best plagiarism examiner is therefore still the one who has extensive experience in writing scientific papers. Ultimately, the ability to detect plagiarism depends above all on the willingness to put a lot of time and effort into the necessary verification work.