Using Plagiarism Prevention Tools

Plagiarism prevention tools, such as Turnitin, can be used to teach students about academic integrity and proper citation of sources, as well as to detect plagiarism. Below are some questions to think about if you plan to incorporate these tools in your classes.

Discussing Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
How will you bring up plagiarism and academic integrity with your students?

  • Broaden the discussion beyond policy – discuss the concept of academic integrity as it relates to pedagogy, rhetorical processes, and research.
  • Let your students know early in the semester if you plan to use plagiarism prevention tools.
  • Include the UNTHSC Academic Integrity Policy statement in your syllabus.

Tool-related Considerations

How will student papers be submitted?
Turnitin provides options for faculty or student submission of papers.

  • If you routinely use one of these tools, you can set up an assignment within the tool and ask students to upload their papers by the due date.
  • If you use the tools only for papers in which you suspect plagiarism, you can upload selected student papers or specific sections of student papers.

How will you address copyright and privacy issues?
When papers are submitted to Turnitin, they may be submitted to a database that can be used by other faculty, including faculty outside of UNTHSC.  Faculty can view only their own students’ papers in their entirety, but may have access to portions of other student papers.  If a match is found, an instructor will see the portions of text that matched and will be able to contact the other student’s instructor. We therefore recommend taking these steps to protect student privacy:

  • Ask students to eliminate all personal information in the body of the paper before submitting it to Turnitin.
  • If you are contacted by another instructor who suspects a student of copying one of your student’s papers, keep your student’s identity confidential when sharing the content of the paper.
  • Do not submit creative/original works by students (e.g., poetry, short stories, memoirs).  If you suspect plagiarism, you can upload specific sections without submitting the entire paper.

Will assignments be submitted to the Turnitin student paper archives?  To which databases will you compare student papers?
Turnitin include multiple databases to which student papers may be compared.

  • Turnitin:
    • All submitted papers are compared to the external databases (e.g., Internet sources and subscription databases).
    • You can elect to exclude quoted material and bibliography from the originality report to get a more accurate similarity index.  You can also exclude specific web sites, if appropriate.
    • By default, student papers are also submitted to Turnitin’s student paper database and compared to other student papers that have been submitted to Turnitin.  You can opt out of submitting student papers to Turnitin’s database using the advanced options when creating an assignment; however, only papers submitted to the database will be compared to other student papers.

How will you will use the originality report?
The originality report indicates which parts of a paper match other sources to which the paper was compared. The report includes a “similarity index” showing the overall percentage of the submitted text for which matches were found.  The originality report is not, by itself, evidence of plagiarism, but may also provide useful information about whether a student used and cited sources appropriately.

  • A high similarity index does not necessarily indicate plagiarism; it may suggest that a student has included a large number of properly cited citations or quoted passages, rather than including a substantial amount of his/her own analysis.
  • A low similarity index may indicate that a paper was not properly researched or cited.  A student may have paraphrased content without including the appropriate citations or may have neglected to draw on a significant number of sources for their analysis.

Where can you get additional help?

  • The Center for Innovative Learning can help you get started with Turnitin.

Photo by AJC