Prevent Plagiarism – Scan Papers With Novus Scan

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.

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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.

Adding my documents to the database.

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.

I chose to copy and paste my work from my writing app of choice.

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 results of my scan – a few instances of plagiarism are easy to spot.

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.

The results of my scan – a few instances of plagiarism are easy to spot.

Preventing Plagiarism?

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

Closing Up

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.


Summary

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.

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  • GV

    I would have liked to read about some of the free or low-cost alternatives mentioned in the article. Most of my references are from online sources.

    Other than that I appreciate hearing about Novus Scan. I had no idea such services were available.

  • Alexandre Dumas de Rauly

    This seems à good idea but a long way to only scan for plagiarism.
    I would have liked if it could works with others writing managers as Scrivener, Ulysses or Devonthink pro Office or Sente Reference Manager.
    This kind of apps would greatly benefit for such a plagiarism scan feature but as they each have their own database, people won’t recreate a database in a new program only for this plagiarism feature.
    I think that it must be a feature integrated in a reference manager as Sente or Endnote that would let us import and scan our writing file and check for plagiarism with their database. it would be also nice to have a direct citation replacement that we could apply to a match.

    As a side note, there is programms who let us scans books. DevonThink Pro Office (which is quite expensive) let us scan books, do an OCR on it to recognize text and create a PDF file of it with text searchable and hidden behind the scan.

    Novus Scan seems nice but I don’t think serious writer will create a new database in it only for the purpose of this feature as they will likely already have a database of their texts and references in others program which have much more power and features.
    But Novus is cheap compared to the others app I cited so it may be useful for peoples who don’t use any other writing or reference apps.
    For others, I just hope Novus scan would sell or would inspired reference manager apps maker.

    • GV

      I use both DEVONthink Pro (a lower-cost version than Pro Office that omits a few features that most people won’t miss…) and Scrivener to research and compose articles about health care issues.

      While it would be great if Novus Scan could be integrated with the databases used by other software, I don’t think that it is likely since it wouldn’t be cost-effective considering how many proprietary databases are out there.

      But since it is so easy to move referenced files from either DEVONthink or Scrivener into Novus Scan I don’t consider the lack of integration to be a big deal. I can simply drag-and-drop my referenced documents into Novus Scan and let it do its thing.

      BTW, DEVONthink Personal is a reasonably priced alternative to its big brothers. The main difference is DT Personal can only access one database vs. multiple databases. But there is a good upgrade path if a user grows beyond DT Personal. And Devon Technologies has a 150 hour free demo period that should be plenty of time to throughly test the software to see if it meets your needs.

      DEVONthink is often available at a discount in software bundles and it is always offered at a good discount around Thanksgiving. Go to http://www.devontechnologies.com/ to sign-up so you will receive an announcement when the annual sale commences.

      Personally, I wouldn’t want to tackle a serious writing project without DEVONthink or Scrivener…

  • Marcus

    DO NOT trust any plagiarism software or web plagiarism checker, many have small print, you give up ownership of your work for the service for it to be freely used and distributed, very dangerous.

    TurnItIn is the only software which universities trust!

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