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Oracle Tips by Burleson 

Web Stalkers
Chapter 6 -
Cyber Theft

Plagiarism and the Web Revolution

Plagiarism, by its very definition, cannot be an accident, and it is an intentional act of theft.  No amount of excuses or pleas of ignorance can exonerate a plagiarist from their fundamental dishonesty.

The Semantics of Plagiarism

The act of plagiarism involves the stealing of “original work and thought.”  Plagiarism can be subtle, and many students believe that they can change one or two words in a sentence and avoid detection.  So, how does one detect the work of the sly plagiarist who replaces words with synonyms and alters the sentence structure?

  • Synonyms – A reference to “house” could be changed to dwelling, abode, apartment, etc.

  • Word Stems – A reference to “house” could be changed to housing, home, etc.

  • Semantic Structure – Adverbs and adjectives can be replaced and altered to conceal the crime.

Fortunately, despite these attempts to hide their wrongdoing, the plagiarist can still be detected thanks to sophisticated web tools and the world of applied Artificial Intelligence.  Sophisticated software programs, such as those found at, employ pattern-matching algorithms that glean the meaning of each phrase and compare it to existing works on the Internet. 

Software such as the Princeton Wordnet provides hierarchies of synonyms that can replicate the plagiarist’s attempts to conceal their theft.  This author worked extensively with semantic networks and they can often lead to surprising results. 

The above text is an excerpt from:

Web Stalkers
Protect yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths
ISBN 0-97-45993-9-5

by Donald K. Burleson, Stephen Andert

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