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Turnitin is a service, available via ELE, that compares submitted assignments to material held in the Turnitin database, allowing staff and students to check that their work is properly referenced. The software itself makes no decisions as to whether or not the work has been plagiarised, but highlights sections of text, and returns an overall percentage of material that has been found in other sources. Turnitin compares the assignment with current and archived web pages, a database of previously submitted student work, about 4000 electronic journal titles, and about 5000 copyright-free books.
Tutors can check that the matching work has been referenced fully and decide if work has been plagiarised. The option also exists to allow students to see their originality reports and to submit their work multiple times until the due date for the assignment, and if necessary take corrective action thus avoiding accidental plagiarsim. Availability of electronic material on the internet has allowed uses of the material that couldn't have been envisaged when the majority of material was paper based.
Allowing students to take an active part in discovering what academic honesty means will be more successful than a lone statement at the start of students' courses and modules that they must not use the materials of others and claim them to be their own.
When designing assessments consideration should be given to reducing opportunities for plagiarism, and Turnitin should be used in conjunction with:
- Academic Development materials on academic honesty and plagiarism
- ELE courses 'Academic Honesty and Plagiarism' (available to all schools)
- Library guidelines on citing and referencing
- University 'Code of Good Practice on Managing Academic Misconduct'
What Turnitin can do
- Quickly identify sources of plagiarised material.
- Encourage students to think about their referencing and citation skills.
- Help to prevent against accidental plagiarism (when used as part of the development of academic writing skills).
- Act as a deterrent against plagiarism.
- Work as a positive aid to marking by highlighting where students have referenced correctly and used the work of others well.
What Turnitin can't do
- Replace sound academic judgement.
- Teach academic writing skills.
- Prevent determined plagiarists.
- Recognise all instances of plagiarism, copying and cheating.
- Detect copied pictures, diagrams, formulae, or computer programmes.
- Detect cleverly paraphrased text that has been vastly altered by the use of a thesaurus.
Turnitin is available for use by all Schools in the University. If you would like further guidance on using it in your module programme, please contact the e-Learning team.