Google’s ‘Assignments’ tool flags plagiarism and missing sources

Students can proactively use the tool to improve their work.

Google is setting out to make plagiarism harder than ever. The search giant today announced the launch of Assignments, a new grading software for higher education instructors who use G Suite for Education. Formerly known as Coursework, Assignments will allow instructors to create, assign and grade coursework with Google Docs and Drive. To boot, all student work turned in through Assignments and Classroom (its K-12 counterpart) will receive its own "originality report", a new feature that is essentially a litmus test for plagiarism.

The company says its originality reports will scan student work for matching text against web pages as well as "tens of millions" of books. "We've heard from instructors that they copy and paste passages into Google Search to check if student work is authentic, which can be repetitive, inefficient and biased. They also often spend a lot of time giving feedback about missed citations and improper paraphrasing. By integrating the power of Search into our assignment and grading tools, we can make this quicker and easier," wrote Brian Hendricks, a Product Manager for G Suite for Education, in a press release.

Luckily for students, the new software isn't solely for the teacher's benefits. Students can run up to three originality reports on their own before they submit their assignments. This gives kids a chance to remove any instances of plagiarism they didn't catch in earlier drafts of their writing. Teachers will receive their own originality report after students submit that will also flag uncited text, as well as any paragraphs with high similarity to other texts.


Given that an entire generation of students learned to rely on the search engine in lieu of developing traditional research skills, one can't ignore the irony in this latest Google venture. Google joins a wide field of online plagiarism tools, many of which use the Google API to search the web for similar text. Both TurnitIn and Grammarly also crawl online databases of academic papers. TurnitIn also compares papers against a massive database of papers already submitted by other students. Google's foray into the anti-plagiarism space makes sense, especially as it continues to develop tools for educators. Teachers can sign-up for the beta version of Assignments, which will go live later this fall on G Suite for Education.