Home > audience-is-teachers, e-learning, office-software, service-is-assessing, Writing > How to compare two MS-Word documents for plagiarism detection

How to compare two MS-Word documents for plagiarism detection

  1. You could start with the document properties
    1. some  students leave even the author and editing time in. However, author does not prove any wrong doing, a student may have borrowed a laptop, including its MS-word installation, to author a document and submit it
    2. It may  actually be more of an indicator of something illicit if document properties are empty.
    3. Students have likely used the “Document inspector”:
      1. (1): File / (2) Info, (3) view the properties (this document looks like it had its privacy information removed), you can use (4) to view even more. image
      2. to remove all privacy relevant information, like so: (5) unfold “check for issues”, (6) “inspect document””,
      3. in the window: “document inspector”, click image, you will be given the option to “remove all”personal information: image
    4. However, removing personal information can be perfectly legitimate, unless something else was assigned. And it does not help plagiarizers cover their tracks anyway, for…
  2. …there is the more substantial “compare” documents feature which (even though it was developed for the legal profession, as blackline) tracks what really counts: content changes.
    1. Access it form the ribbon’s “review” tab: image
    2. point the tool to your 2 documents: image
    3. make your life easier by selecting on the “review” tab to view only content changes  (formatting comparisons is noise for plagiarism detection): image
    4. You get a handy (here blurred, but still demonstrating the amount of similarity (=black), compared with changes (= blue),  between the 2 documents ) overview of (from the left)
      1. list of changes
      2. view of changes in a merged document (which you can save)
      3. original document
      4. secondary (likely plagiarized) document: compare documents-blurred
      5. The feature is nice, but only moderately intelligent (see the first match, I would obviously not count that as substantially different) and best used with discretion, to make it easier for a teacher to decide how likely it is that these similarities are accidental.
      6. In this instance, even if the teacher questions are not counted, it seems obvious that only minor alterations were made to the original document and many responses, including quite lengthy sentences, are entirely the same.
      7. While this *is* an instructional use, you can find happier instructional uses of MS-Word’s reviewing/tracking changes feature here.
  1. Ahmad Sattar
    2016/11/18 at 11:20

    Well thanks for your post, but it’s a very hard way to compare two documents, instead of that you can also use online comparison tools like https://www.prepostseo.com/plagiarism-comparison-search

    • 2016/11/19 at 18:09

      Many thanks for your post, Ahmad. Such online services can be very useful.

      My users could not upload student assignments because of privacy restrictions (FERPA). Some institutions that I worked had subscriptions to such online services, sometimes integrated with their LMS, which were FERPA compliant.

      An additional problem in the case my blog post derives from was that the student had not plagiarized from public webpages that such online services can compare a student assignment with, but from another student’s assignment.

      Horses for courses… 🙂

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