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Plagiarism Proofing Assignments with Turnitin

In our first blog "Does Turnitin Detect Plagiarism?” we said that Turnitin does not detect plagiarism but, rather, generates a similarity index indicating text matches to the Turnitin databases. Instructors and their students can use that information to determine if there are issues with intentional or unintentional plagiarism. So, while Turnitin does not specifically "detect" plagiarism, instructors can work towards plagiarism proofing their written assignments by implementing Turnitin in their courses using some well-documented best practices.

Research suggests that assignments can be made more difficult to plagiarize if instructors:

 
  • Emphasize the recursiveness of writing.1
  • Require significantly revised multiple drafts.1
  • Break an assignment into parts that are to be turned in at different stages of the creation process: pre-writing, drafting, revising, reflecting.1

This idea of plagiarism proofing assignments makes sense, suggesting that students are less likely to leave the work to the last minute—when research and writing skills may deteriorate or students might be tempted to use writing that is not their own—if they are engaged in writing as a process.

However, this type of assignment set up can seem burdensome to instructors, especially for content-area instructors who may not have the time to collect, manage and grade multiple drafts or assignments from each stage of the writing process.

Instructors can engage students in process writing by asking students to provide feedback to one another through collaborative peer assessment activities and by encouraging students to assess their own progress through reflective self-assessments, but instructors need a tool to facilitate this work. Turnitin (the combination of OriginalityCheck plagiarism prevention, PeerMark online peer reviewing and GradeMark digital feedback) is such an instructional support tool that can:

  • Engage students in the process from the beginning stages of writing.
  • Hold students accountable for developing awareness, skills and scholarship.
  • Develop prewriting with substance as students collaborate and discuss writing topics.
  • Offer opportunities for self-assessment through Revision and Reflection Assignments.

Assessing students’ prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing is a daunting task for instructors given the sheer volume of writing activities for even a small number of students. Turnitin aids instructor management of written assignments throughout the writing process as it …

 

  • Provides a central location on the web for instructors to manage and view student work.
  • Helps instructors monitor and assess student progress throughout the writing process.
  • Offers students better feedback and more meaningful feedback from various sources, such as Turnitin OriginalityCheck, PeerMark’s collaborative peer reviews, and GradeMark’s QuickMarks and rubrics.

When students are engaged in writing tasks, they are less likely to plagiarize, and Turnitin asks students to actively participate in self-assessment, peer collaboration and process writing. Instructors can monitor student progress throughout the writing stages of prewriting, drafting, revision and editing but further ensure that students receive more feedback and better feedback on their written work. Thus, Turnitin is a tool that does not detect plagiarism, per se, but can help instructors—and students—prevent it.

 

1 Writing @CSU (1993-2010). Strategies for a writing classroom. Retrieved from http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/plagiarism/classroom.cfm