Verdict: Both the free and paid versions detected plagiarism in two out of the six test documents despite the claim that the paid-for version is three times more effective.
|What are the subscription options? e.g. free, paid only, paid and freeIf paid options, what length of subscription/price structure is offered?||Online checker may be used for free with some restrictions on functionality. Subscription costs $8 a month.|
|Maximum word count? (if any)||Unlimited/ not specified.|
|Resubmissions allowed? If so, is this limited?||Unlimited checks but restricted searches if not subscribed.|
|Type of scanner E.g. software download, copy and paste, upload document online. Say if multiple options are offered.||Two options offered:"Copy and paste' online scanner;File uploader.|
|Sources checked E.g. internet, any specific journal databases mentioned, any electronic book databases such as Google docs mentioned, past submissions from other students etc||Website – no words altered;Website – some words removed;Website – some words changed;Website – fully paraphrased;
|File types supported E.g. doc, docx, rtf, open office, pdfs, ppts||.TXT, .RFT, .DOC and .DOCX.|
|Extra features? E.g. grammar checker, spelling checker||None.|
|Support offered? E.g. phone, email etc||There website features a "help bubble' – an FAQ section which pops up when clicked on.|
|Report / results|
|Type of report Downloadable? Shareable?||Reports are generated within the website's browser but these can't be downloaded or shared.|
|Side by side comparison to plagiarism?||No.|
|Accuracy of results – Which sections were detected and which were not (make sure the correct source is identified)|
|Basic plagiarism – copied and pasted from a website source||Detected. The online scanner correctly identified the webpage which contained material that had been plagiarised.|
|Basic plagiarism – copied and pasted from an online pdf||Detected. The online scanner correctly identified the online pdf which contained material that had been plagiarised.|
|Some words removed – copied and pasted from a website source||Not detected. The online scanner did not identify the website which contained material that had been plagiarised.|
|Some words changed – copied and pasted from a website source||Not detected. The online scanner did not identify the webpage which contained material that had been plagiarised.|
|Full paraphrasing – copied and pasted from a website source||Not detected. The online scanner did not identify the website which contained material that had been plagiarised.|
|Basic plagiarism – copied and pasted from an electronic book||Not detected. The online scanner did not identify the electronic book which contained material that had been plagiarised.|
|General observations Ease of use, overall experience. If other features were included (e.g. spelling, grammar check), how easy were they to use and how useful were they?|
|Dustball.com provides by far the most basic website for its online plagiarism scanner – it might have been designed by a school child in the 1990s it's so simple. The home page simply lists the resources available on its website, including the plagiarism scanner, and when clicked on this opens in a pop-up window. Its design is also very basic but arguably easy to use as a result – free users can paste text directly into the window to perform a search whereas members who subscribe can upload word documents using its file uploader facility.The scanner doesn't make clear which search engines it runs its queries through and, as it's fairly quick, it perhaps only searches one. After a search is carried out a new window opens up which lists any phrases matched to sources on the internet. Clicking on these opens the webpage itself.When the free version of the scanner was tested, it detected plagiarism in two out of the six test documents. When the "improved" version of the scanner was used, at a cost of $8 for a month's subscription, it still only detected plagiarism in two out of the six test documents, despite its dubious claim that the paid-for version is three times more effective.Both versions of the software were able to detect blanket plagiarism, where an entire passage had been lifted from the internet, as well as detecting plagiarism in an online pdf. Neither version of the scanner spotted plagiarism in sources where words had been changed or removed, neither did they spot entirely paraphrased work or a plagiarised ebook.
Under these circumstances it seems hard to justify the $8 a month recurring subscription fee as the only discernible difference between both scanners is that files can be uploaded with the paid-for version. However, as it's still not very good at detecting plagiarism, no matter how the files are scanned, it probably isn't worth your money.