Plagiarism finders at German universities; long overdue?

You may are wondering why I changed the thread of my blog posts so cold-turkey. Indeed, on Sunday I yet informed you about the newest marketing strategies in Japan. Now, I want to talk about my opinion about special “anti-plagiarism-software”. It´s just because of interest! While my research I discovered a hot discussion about new ways to detect this illegal way of academic writing, which seems to be daily routine at German universities. Well, I couldn´t understand this overambitious intention of them just because there are other problems in the university business which are more important to sort out. So, I´m going to write about this current issue which should be also on behalf of my fellow students (don´t forget, in a few weeks we have to write an essay in “Work, Business and Society”!)

What we learned from the Guttenberg affair

The whole discussion about plagiarism started when politicians made headlines in 2011. You may remember some interviews with the former German minister of defense, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was blamed for plagiarism. Even though he denied this criticism and asserts his innocence at the beginning, Guttenberg was convicted and lost his political office. By the way, some people made fun of this affair, especially in the internet. For example, products like this special “Guttenberg keyboard” were hot commodities at “ebay”:

Guttenberg only was caught out because some academic authors who discovered some stolen passages of their own dissertation by chance. That is the reason why IT specialists wanted to develop new software which should detect attempts of rip-off. With the help of “PlagAware”, “Turnitin” and Co they want to make sure that more “Guttenberg-descendants” are found out easier, especially at German academies.


Until now, PlagAware is the most beneficial program to detect plagiarism, even though it was not created to be used in universities. However, PlagAware produces the best documentation of rip-offs and can work out the discoveries in an extra presentation.
But the software has to be improved in future because it only detects 61% of all plagiarism cases. Another disadvantage is that you have to upload all files separately. Therefore, the Germany academy HTW Berlin gave this software a 3.3 grade (C).


This software is more common in the US. But because the developers improved problems like the identification of umlauts, Turnitin works even better with German texts. Therefore, a German version of this software is offered as well which can be used at universities here easily. However, Turnitin was graded as 4.0 (D) by the HTW Berlin because there are operation and translation problems. The program also finds rid-offs from websites which are already out of service.


Graded by HTW Berlin, Ephorus is the third best anti-plagiarism-program with a grade of 4.8 (E). It is produced by Dutch IT specialists and characterized by its user friendliness. Unfortunately, the software is not able to identify plagiarisms which contain umlauts and therefore unusable in Germany. Another problem is that Ephorus still contains lots of navigation levels which can be very confusing at the beginning.

Conclusion of the tests

“I would not recommend even one of these programs” stated Deborah Weber-Wulff, professor at HTW Berlin. She and other professors as well as students tested some plagiarism software for eight years and the results were still non-satisfying. Therefore, a critical reading is still necessary because you cannot trust the software at all.

Why I am opposed to “anti-plagiarism-software”

As a student, I also have a critical opinion about those plagiarism finders. That is not because I love to use the “Guttenberg hot key” (Strg+C ; Strg+V) and try to cheat whenever it is possible. To my mind, there are still other more important problems within the university itself I have experienced in my academy.
These problems mainly consist in the malfunctioning organization of the daily routine in the university. I experienced lots of situation where room changes or cancelled classes are announced too late, where professors don´t keep appointments as well as where the communication between students, professors and coordinators doesn´t work. Wouldn´t it be more efficient to get rid of these problems first? To my mind, they are more important than acquiring new programs (which definitely involve additional trouble).
Otherwise, I would be not opposed to Turnitin & Co, if the problems with the IT and within the university are already solved. It is a great way to stem plagiarism which is still a current issue in nowadays digital-age. But I think that the universities should not be feeling forced by the political pressure to introduce faulty plagiarism detectors just because there were hot discussions about it one year ago.


About Lilly

Hei! Moi! Terve! My name is Lilly and I am a German business student spending two semesters abroad in Helsinki, Finland. I already felt in love with my new home in August, but now I decided to share my experiences with you. My aim is to give you an understanding of Finland itself, its culture as well as some advices at first hand; but hopefully, you are also convinced to get your own impressions visiting this breathtaking country at least once in your life. Tervetuloa!
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3 Responses to Plagiarism finders at German universities; long overdue?

  1. Xteena says:

    Hey Lilly,

    as I did not know anything about different plagiarism softwares before, your article in which you shortly presented the main softwares and their key features, pros and cons was definitely helpful for me! Especially I liked that you chose this topic, because -as you have pointed out- it has real relevance for us students. Therefore, it is truly good to know which programs might scan through our essays! So, thank you for giving me this general overview.

    However, I have to admit to miss a little bit the logical argumentation structure, in your article. Of course, you give for each software different advantages and disadvantages, but for me it is not so easy to understand the link then to your last statement of opinion. I mean, sure it is important that the daily routine at university is working smoothly, but your topic and also the introduction suggest that you tell now why we should or should not use these PLAGIARISM finders in universities. Therefore, it is a little hard for me to understand this jump in topic from plagiarism to daily routine, at the end.
    Maybe it might be helpful for you, to create a mindmap or some other map for yourself before you start writing. It could help you to identify and then also STICK to your central theme.

  2. Pingback: 3 weeks of blogging , being creative and exposing « fastexposure

  3. angi2012 says:

    Hey Lilly,
    I find the topic very current, as we will soon have to write many essays. I didn´know that “Guttenberg keyboard” exists. Such a thing is always good to know ;)I think you’ve done very good research and found good examples.
    But I agree with Helena, you could structure your arguments in a better way.

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