It almost goes without saying that the Internet has enabled countless thousands of students and would-be authors to steal the work of others and present that work as their own.
I've not seen data on the extent of the plague of plagiarism, but I'm guessing it must be a terrible problem. In the classes I've taught at Baylor and the University of Texas, I didn't have to worry about plagiarism because I was teaching courses that required original reporting of discrete events.
I wonder about the issue because I'm a librarian as well as a consumer of information, and I want to trust writers and authors. Better, I want to be able to verify that the words they put forward as their own are, in fact, their own.
I have recently run across a reference to two online services that allow for such verification. One is called Safe Assign, and the other is Dupe Off. I checked them out, and found that Safe Assign is designed for the academic world alone. Dupe Off is available for a fee, for the most part.
So, how else to double-check for originality?
I agree with comments made by Jeffrey Beall, scholarly initiatives librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, in an interview with The Charleston Advisor: He said he finds the best practice is to read the material, figure out where the writing style changes and then Google or Bing those sentences. That works for me.
So, while it is easier than ever to plagiarize, I think it's easier than ever to find a plagiarist.
Although I recall the first plagiarist I came across. He was a sports writer for the university newspaper that I was the editor of. The guy was a native of Yugoslavia and spoke with a heavy accent. He also wrote with a heavy accent, scarcely worrying about things like articles and adjectives. So, when he turned in a story for publication that was in the king's English, I knew something was wrong. Soon, I found he had stolen the work of a real journalist.
Now, that was easy.