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Update August 1, 2013: Sac State pilot program begins for Turnitin

Sacramento State launched a pilot program with faculty interested in using the plagiarism prevention resources from Turnitin. The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Academic Information Technology (AIT) teams of ATCS are conducting the pilot where the faculty will use the Turnitin website to review assignment submissions by students for their courses.

Later this year we anticipate that Turnitin will be integrated into SacCT (Blackboard) and become available for all faculty members. If you wish to use Turnitin before that time, please complete and submit the Request Form.

Improving Student Writing at Sacramento State

Writing is a craft that takes years of practice and refinement to develop competence and master. Some instructors at Sacramento State teach writing and composition itself, while others use writing to develop and assess other skills and concepts. To better respond to the needs of instructors, and to provide a rich Web-based medium for student-to-student and instructor-to-student feedback, Sacramento State has adopted Turnitin.

Selected and employed properly, this tool may help promote better student writing practices and feedback on performance in many forms of writing. By utilizing the Turnitin platform, students are being taught to problem solve, collaborate, review peer writing and think more deeply about the formative process of writing.

The tool is not a quick fix or fully automated solution to feedback, but instead the tool is designed to offer a flexible platform to assist instructors in making clear writing goals, aid students in creating writing strategies for improvement and give students the tools to learn to recognize quality writing before final submission.

Background

Turnitin is an online plagiarism prevention resource for instructors and students concerned with developing quality writing and research skills. The system detects plagiarism by comparing submitted papers against three databases:

  1. A copy of the publicly accessible Internet (more than 2 billion pages updated at a rate of 30-40 million pages per day).
  2. Millions of published works (such as ABI/Inform, Periodical Abstracts, Business Dateline, and tens of thousands of electronic books).
  3. Student papers previously submitted from schools using Turnitin.com.

For each paper submitted, the results of these comparisons are compiled for instructors in custom "Originality Reports." These reports may be available to students, depending on the instructor's settings for the assignment.

Sacramento State has licensed three components from Turnitin: OriginalityCheck, GradeMark and PeerMark.

Faculty can use any of the above products on its own, or use them together to provide formative evaluation to students.

The primary use of any plagiarism prevention software ought to be educational. Anti-plagiarism technology cannot prove plagiarism or acquit an author suspected of plagiarizing. Only the individual assessment of the instructor can make such a judgment.

Use of the tools provided by Turnitin, in addition to the originality reports, may enable rich and rapid feedback to student authors. To preserve legal precautions the University has taken to protect student’s educational privacy and our fair-use of student’s work product, instructors should abide by the best-practice guidelines outlined by the University.

Why Use Turnitin?

Turnitin is a helpful tool for instructors to see what kind of resources students are using in their writing. It can help reveal where the content is coming from so that the student and the instructor can assess if it is properly cited. While the program will not be able to highlight if something is properly cited, it will highlight all matched source material for a quick visual overview.

Instructors are able to get a quick look at the submitted material for how much of the information comes from source material. This allows instructors and students to more efficiently evaluate the extent of source material being used in a draft by highlighting the content instead of having to manually hunt for each item through the paper.

Turnitin is also a platform designed for giving feedback on writing from the instructor and from peers. Criteria and outcomes can be compared with the writing itself so that the student can elaborate, revise and enhance the writing as needed or to get reinforcement on aspects of the writing they are unsure of.

Retention of Student Papers

Please note, based on Sacramento State’s configuration of Turnitin, instructors have a choice about retention of student papers in the Turnitin database. Papers retained in Turnitin’s database will be used in future comparisons of submitted work, and may appear as references in future originality reports. Instructors can choose from four possible settings for each assignment:

  • Standard Paper Repository — The global database for all future comparisons by users of Turnitin at any institution.
  • Institutional Repository — The local database only accessible to future Sac State comparisons and originality reports.
  • No Repository — A comparison between the student’s paper and the global database generate the originality report, then the paper is disposed of, and not retained for future comparisons. Using this option, future submissions of identical papers will go undetected.
  • Student Chooses — Presents the above three choices to students when they submit the assignment.

With all submissions a comparison is made between the student’s paper and the global database to generate the originality report. This means that if a student submits material from a paper that was already submitted earlier by the same or a different student, the material will be identified as already submitted. Instructors may want to choose the option to not submit for retention when multiple drafts of the paper are submitted for assessment or review during the term. This will allow for review and changes to be made to the final product before being added to the larger repositories.

Basic Principles of Ethical Use

The University wishes to encourage effective use, balancing formative feedback to students with academic integrity concerns. When instructors choose to use Turnitin, they should understand these five basic principles of use expected of instructors.

I will use Turnitin as part of a balanced approach to encourage academic integrity and foster student success

  • by providing clear instructions and guidance for assignments
  • encouraging students to manage time and make progress prior to deadlines for submission of graded assignments
  • making other resources known to students (e.g. writing center)
  • applied as a deterrent, not as a “caught you” enforcement tool

I will openly disclose use of Turnitin in this course on the syllabus and at the time assignments are announced

  • including clarifying the choices I’ve made about retention of student work (Global or No Retention)

For a given assignment, I will use Turnitin for all papers

  • I will not submit papers arbitrarily to Turnitin, such as by only reviewing originality reports for papers deemed “suspicious”
  • I will consider exceptions for specific students, who may object to the retention of their work by Turnitin, working with the University to resolve any conflict

I will make the final determination of originality and integrity

  • The originality reports, and the machine judgement that generates them, provide a set of useful resources for comparison. However, there is no substitute for human judgement and assessment prior to generating feedback for students or making a determination about honesty and integrity.

To ensure privacy, I will ask students to remove identification (e.g. names & student numbers) from submissions

  • Turnitin will automatically add student’s names to assignments when instructors are viewing, downloading or printing
  • Removing the identifying information from the document allows it to be preserved in the repository without affecting the student’s educational privacy

Turnitin Syllabus Statement

Instructors should include the following statement in a course syllabus or assignment instructions if Turnitin is used in the course. This paragraph may supplement existing statements about academic integrity included on the syllabus. Please consider highlighting this statement with your students when clarifying expectations for assignments using Turnitin.

Consistent with Sacramento State’s efforts to enhance student learning, foster honesty, and maintain integrity in our academic processes, instructors may use a tool called Turnitin to compare a student’s work with multiple sources. The tool compares each student’s work with an extensive database of prior publications and papers, providing links to possible matches and a ‘similarity score’. The tool does not determine whether plagiarism has occurred or not. Instead, the instructor must make a complete assessment and judge the originality of the student’s work. All submissions to this course may be checked using this tool.

Students should submit papers to Turnitin assignments without identifying information included in the paper (e.g. name or student number), the system will automatically show this info to faculty in your course when viewing the submission, but the information will not be retained by Turnitin.

[Optional statements: “Student submissions will be retained in the global Turnitin repository” or “Student submissions will not be retained beyond the initial comparison”.]


Note: Content on this webpage adapted with permission from Michigan State University's "Improving Student Writing: Feedback, Peer Review & Proper Citation" (as of 08/07/2013). (http://learndat.tech.msu.edu/teach/student-writing)

Last updated: April 2, 2014