Students, writers, working professionals – these and more are dependent upon reference sources for things that they write. For an informal, in-house document, there is far more leniency regarding plagiarism and citing references. As soon as work is published, paid for or turned into a professor, however, plagiarism becomes much more of a hot-bed issue.
Novus Scan is an app which promises to help to point out potential occurrences of plagiarism. The app works by creating a database of reference documents which the application can scan in conjunction with the paper or article being written. The app will then highlight any instances of “heavy borrowing” and outright copying present in the paper. I was interested to see how well the app works – even though I’m no longer in school, I was excited to try it out for the miscellaneous freelance writing that I do.
Preparing the Database
The database in Novus Scan is the spot utilized to keep track of all sources you utilize for whatever document you are writing. Adding documents to the database is a piece of cake – simply upload the appropriate file or files from your computer and let Novus Scan take care of the rest. You can also drag and drop files into the database manager, eliminating one step along the way. Make sure you keep up with the database – you don’t want to spend hours going back and tracking down sources to add them to the database at the very end
It’s important to know what file types are accepted by the program. All the basics are acceptable – plain and rich text files, Microsoft Word and PDF files. Additionally, you can easily add web pages to the mix. Simply save the site as an HTML or Safari Web Archive file and then add to the database as per usual. I didn’t immediately realize this was an option and wasted some time saving the text from relevant sites as a text file. Novus Scan’s ability to utilize HTML files is incredibly helpful and quite necessary in today’s day and age.
The database manager is really quite simple – other than the ability to add documents, there’s not much more you can do. You can add comments to a document to make information like the author’s name accessible and you can search through files. That’s really all there is to it – I do wish there were some more options, but more on that later.
Scan and Study
Once you’ve imported your documents, get cracking on the paper or article at hand. Once it’s all done, it’s time to scan for potential plagiarism. Assuming your database is properly set up, this is an exceptionally easy task. Start by importing your document. You can upload the file like you did your database documents, or you can opt to simply copy and paste the text from your writing application. Either way works easily.
Now it’s time for the results – just click the start scan button, and Novus Scan gets right to work. It took just a few seconds for my document, but I’d only written a few paragraphs. I tried with an irrelevant, longer document and it took a few minutes but nothing too outrageous.
The results are quite easy to understand and interpret. There are three relevant panes, as well as the pane which shows the document in question. The farthest right pane shows a list of all the documents which contain matching words. The number to the right of the document shows the number of matching words. The upper pane contains your document, with any offending text highlighted. The bottom pane contains the matching text found in the reference document. It’s easy to understand and navigate, and the highlights really make it easy to scan and find what you’re looking for.
The last thing to do is to view and save/print a report of your plagiarism offenses. The report contains the full text of your writing, with all matching phrases highlighted for your convenience. You can choose which matches to include by selecting the minimum number of words that must match. At the bottom of the report is also a list of all the documents you copied from. You can choose to print the report or to simply save it to a PDF document.
So we understand how Novus Scan works – now let’s discuss how well it works. I’ll start with the good. First up? Accuracy. I deliberately copied some sentences, both long phrases (10 + words) and short phrases (5 words or so) and set out to see how much Novus Scan would catch – it got everything. Accuracy is not a problem, regardless of document type within the database.
In general, the application is fairly easy to use – there are only a few things that you can do, and all the functions are clearly shown with buttons at the top of the screen. I did have to resort to the online user guide to figure out how to get started, so having a walkthrough for first time users might be helpful. As soon as I understood the basic premise, however, it was easy to use if not the greatest looking app I’ve ever seen.
Novus Scan is also a helpful tool for writers that publish a lot of similarly styled articles – for example, app reviews. You can import your own articles in order to make sure that you don’t plagiarize yourself. It’s also a great way to help yourself to eliminate similar sounding phrases across the various articles that you write. It’s an aspect I found incredibly helpful.
The way the app stores documents is both a good thing and a bad thing. All documents are available offline, ensuring that you have consistent access to the scan. While this is great, I wish that Novus Scan would incorporate a way to convert online documents to offline documents from within the program. For example, it would be great to be able to copy and paste a URL from a web page I’m utilizing as a reference. Ideally, Novus Scan would then save the document internally as an HTML file and allow it to be used completely offline. This isn’t a big deal at all, just a convenience thing that would be nice to have.
Another downside is the lack of ability to scan books, unless you happen to have a book saved as a PDF or text file. Granted, this isn’t a feature in any such program, so I really can’t complain … but it would be great if Novus Scan could eventually scan eBook files, like .epub files. I don’t know the practicality of such a request, but it’s definitely on my wishlist.
Lastly, let’s discuss the database manager in greater detail. As I mentioned previously, organization options are sadly lacking. Currently, all you can do is add a comment with any pertinent information. I’d love the ability to add meta-data to database documents, in order to more easily search and know where any plagiarism is coming from.
Folders might also be nice, especially for anyone writing an especially long document like a thesis paper. I only had 8 sources and it already seemed overwhelming without the ability to further organize my sources. I can imagine that someone with 40 or 50 sources would probably become quite frustrated with the inability of Novus Scan to place the documents in a more organized, searchable fashion. This was definitely the biggest issue that I had
Novus Scan is a pretty good application – it definitely has a particular audience, but anyone who has a worry of potentially plagiarizing someone should definitely look into this application. If you are using solely online resources, you can probably find a cheap (or free) online alternative that will do the job. As soon as you begin adding other digital resources, however, an app like Novus Scan becomes incredibly helpful when preventing plagiarism.
The app definitely has some problems – lack of organization in the database manager and no ability to add eBooks, amongst other issues. The accuracy and ability to see such a detailed scan report, however, help to make Novus Scan a great, helpful application. Anyone who finds themselves struggling to ensure that all sources are properly cited could definitely benefit from a download of Novus Scan. If you’re still wondering whether it’s for you, pick up the trial directly from the Novus Scan site and give it at try with no fear of money spent.
I think Novus Scan is pretty decent, but I want to know what you think as well. Have you tried the app? What did you think? Do you have another app you like better? Perhaps an online alternative? Share these thoughts and more in the comments below.
Prevent plagiarism with Novus Scan. The application allows you to create a database of source documents and scan anything you write for instances of plagiarism with just the click of a button.8