Avoiding Unintentional Plagiarism

Implementing a Programmatic Self-Check

Avoiding Unintentional Plagiarism

David Shreiber

Graduate Programs Director Rutgers University, New Jersey

"The most important thing is being able to communicate information in your own words and what that process does to your level of understanding of the material."

“‘Oh, my god, I didn't realize what I’d done. Let me go back and read it and review it and do it the right way.’” This is the student reaction David Shreiber describes when he uses Turnitin Feedback Studio in his Rutgers University classes. Shreiber reviews theses and dissertations, and encounters issues with plagiarism. He says “the ethical considerations are certainly critical and vital and important. But to me, the most important thing is being able to communicate information in your own words and what that process does to your level of understanding of the material.”

Shreiber’s institution places the onus on students, requiring them to submit papers to Feedback Studio to highlight intentional or innocent plagiarism and afford students an opportunity to fix their work, before it is scrutinized in a high-stakes academic environment. “In a sense, you’re protecting the student, perhaps from him or herself, and also protecting the program and the institution and the value of the degrees coming out of it.” Shreiber has has marked success with this program and students have grown to see the process as assistive rather than punitory. “But my experience has been that the overwhelming majority of the students don't want to cheat and they make mistakes… We want to give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.”