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Deterring and detecting plagiarism with Turnitin

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One of the tools that UCL uses to help students learn about and avoid plagiarism and to help detect it when it does occur is Turnitin®. Provided to UK universities by JISC, Turnitin scans submitted work against a large database of websites, books, journals and previously submitted papers identifying matches of text. Turnitin FAQs are available here.

What does Turnitin provide?

As a paper is scanned by Turnitin, the system produces two pieces of information:

  • A similarity score, which identifies how much of the submitted work Turnitin can identify as being matched against another source
  • An originality report, which identifies each match in more detail and allows more detailed investigation of the original source

Turnitin does not in itself identify plagiarism, this remains an academic judgement. However the score and reports can provide valuable evidence in making this judgement as well as a useful resource to support students in developing their own knowledge about plagiarism and referencing and their wider academic writing skills.

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How can I use Turnitin?

Turnitin Assignments are set up within a Moodle course. Students submit their work within Moodle and staff can view the submissions and reports from Moodle as well. For students there is an opportunity to self-check their drafts in confidence - direct them to the Moodle area titled Plagiarism and Academic Writing.

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Managing assignment submission

When using Turnitin departments will also need to consider the ‘workflow’ for assignment submission. As possible examples:

  • Students submit work through Turnitin and in hard copy for traditional marking and feedback
  • Students submit work through Turnitin and submit hard copies of the Turnitin reports together with their assignments
  • Students submit work only through Turnitin and not in hard copy. The assignments may be printed out for marking and feedback, or this may be done online.

Whichever method your department uses, you must ensure that students are aware and give their consent for their work to be submitted to Turnitin. Students must also be properly briefed on what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. Experience suggests this is best done a number of times, and at the points when students are focused on assignments; ten minutes in a lecture at the start of the year or a brief note in the student handbook may well be considered insufficient.

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Important information

To ensure fairness and compliance with data protection legislation, you must:

  • Ensure that students have been informed about Turnitin use and given information about plagiarism prior to the assignment submission; and
  • Either put all student work through, or no student work through, for a given assignment – cherry picking items of work cannot be allowed as it can give rise to accusations of victimisation or harassment.

In particular, if you are storing students' work in the Turnitin database for future checks, then you should ensure that students are aware that this is happening and have given their consent for this to happen. If you are using Moodle for submission, then students will be asked to confirm acceptance of this before their work is submitted.

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Useful resources

Some useful documentation about using Turnitin with Moodle is given below, with further guidance available on the Registry Turnitin pages. 

For your students:

Information for students about plagiarism including using Turnitin is given in the Current Students handbook

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Help and support

Turnitin is supported within UCL by E-Learning Environments (ELE) who are happy to advise on any of the above. Please contact the ELE with your query: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/isd/staff/e-learning/ele

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