What a savvy concept (that’s underused): check a paper’s first draft for plagiarism before final submission. Students do a “spell check,” so why not a plagiarism check?
A plagiarism checkup’s benefits are manifold. A student spotting mistakes beforehand saves both the student and instructor the aggravation of a messy paper that could have been cleaned up earlier. The student learns some basics of preventing plagiarism the easy way, instead of the hard way. Deliberate plagiarizers discover, before they get themselves into trouble, that they can’t get away with it.
There are free sites, besides Google, that are useful tools for such a checkup: the University of Maryland’s The Plagiarism Checker (dustball.com/cs/plagiarism.checker) and Plagium.com. For a modest fee, there’s WriteCheck.com.
Preferably, though, students are enrolled in Turnitin and can submit their draft themselves and read the Originality Report for a good analysis. (Not all instructors are aware of the first draft checkup feature of Turnitin, especially the newbies to Turnitin.) A five-step checklist is available to aid students in interpreting their Originality Reports (bit.ly/plagiarismcheck). But even with Turnitin, the free sites and even Google are useful as supplementary tools—it’s not unusual for Turnitin to miss stolen text that the free sites will pick up.