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Library Guide for Law Journals : Plagiarism Resources

A guide for Law Journal editors, cite-checkers and staff, including print and online resources.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of stealing another's ideas or words and passing them off as your own. This is a serious offense in the academic world, and one that has become much easier to commit with the widespread dissemination of information now available. Law Reviews must be vigilant to ensure that their articles are not plagiarized or taken from another person's work. For a quick and handy overview of why plagiarism occurs and how teachers try to prevent it, check out this infographic from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Thank you to the University of Michigan Law School Library for creating a plagiarism page on which this one is based.

Plagiarism Detection Tools

How do you watch for plagiarism?

Checking for plagiarism can be a time-consuming and painstaking exercise. However, it is very important that it is done to protect authors and promote the creation of new ideas and concepts.

The first step in locating plagiarism is knowing what to watch for as you read the paper. Here are various types of plagiarism, as outlined by the University of Michigan's guide on detecting plagiarism:

  • Word-for-word direct copying
  • Paraphrasing
  • Copying the analysis of others without appropriate citation; i.e., citing to many or even all of the underlying references but not to the analysis itself
  • Copying structure or organization of an existing piece
  • Copying ideas or arguments of others

These all constitute plagiarism if they occur without proper attribution.

Pay extra close attention to when a phrase or word seems out of place, or there are errors that do not make sense in context. These may be signs that the words or ideas have been taken from elsewhere.

Second, check that the cited sources in the article are both correct and not the source of this potential plagiarism. There are many instances where authors will cite a resource but also take ideas or quotes elsewhere without attribution. This step may save you time in tracking down the original source.

Third, begin searching other sources that you suspect may be the location of the plagiarized article. Searching the same databases that cite-checkers use (Hein Online, Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg, Proquest, JSTOR, etc) is a good start. Googling may also bring back results, especially Google Scholar or Google Books. Try and choose unique phrases or strange words that don't occur very often to get a good set of results.

Lastly, you can use plagiarism detection tools like the ones listed to the left. This will compare the paper with thousands of other sources and see what sentences may be sticking out as potentially plagiarized.

You can also always ask the reference staff for help! The process of checking for plagiarism is a tough one, and we are more than happy to help you in the process of untangling these tricky and confusing processes.


Other useful resources

  • Recognize and Avoid Plagiarism: Think you know plagiarism? Take this handy online test created by Cornell to see if you know it if you see it.
  • Plagiarism resources online: From the Legal Writing Institute, learn more about plagiarism from a writer's perspective, and discover more tools to help you locate plagiarism.
  • The Writer's Handbook on Avoiding Plagiarism: From the UW Writing Center with links to and more about resources to prevent plagiarism.
  • Plagiarism Detection Tips: Written by the UW Law Library's assistant Public Services Director, Bonnie Schucha, this PDF will give you a good starting point for when you suspect plagiarism.
  • The Complete Guide to Discouraging Plagarism: Created by (a plagiarism detection engine), this handbook is meant to give both students and instructors the basics on how to avoid plagiarism and ways to detect when plagiarism is occurring. The consequences of plagiarism are also covered.