What is Turnitin?
Turnitin is a Web-based service that can find and highlight matching or unoriginal text in a written assignment. It uses data-mining to compile a large database of electronic academic materials which it indexes and stores. Faculty can send their students' assignments to the Turnitin database or else set up to allow students to send their own assignments to the service for checking.
Turnitin basically checks the assignment against its database of materials to look for matches or near-matches in strings of text. Turnitin then generates an Originality Report online. The Originality Report summarizes and highlights matching text.
Students find the Originality Report useful for editing papers that include too many quotes and paraphrases. Faculty find the Originality Report useful as a tool to teach students proper citation practices and highlight the need for more student originality. Faculty can also use Turnitin as a tool to detect possible instances of plagiarism.
It is up to the users of Turnitin to analyze and interpret matching text in the Originality Report. Help screens within the Turnitin interface go into more detail.
What are UMUC's guidelines for faculty using Turnitin?
- Undergraduate School
Undergraduate School faculty may either upload students' work themselves on behalf of their students or else require their students to enroll in a Turnitin class created by the faculty member.
- Graduate School
Graduate School faculty should upload students' work themselves on behalf of their students. They should not require their students to enroll in a Turnitin class created by the faculty member. When uploading students' work be sure to use an alias first name and last name, like Student One, Student Two, and so on.
- Faculty must notify their students in advance that they may be using the Turnitin service. This notice will appear in the academic policies section of your syllabus:
Note: Your instructor may use Turnitin, an educational tool that helps identify and prevent plagiarism from Internet resources, by requiring you to submit assignments electronically. To learn more about the tool and options regarding the storage of your assignments in the Turnitin database go to http://sites.umuc.edu/library/libresources/turnitin.cfm
- Student papers are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. If faculty send a paper on behalf of a student to Turnitin for evaluation, use an alias instead of the student's name.
- Please do not submit papers prepared by UMUC students to other plagiarism service providers not supported by UMUC.
- Please see the full copy of the Faculty Guidelines for Using Turnitin.
How can Turnitin be used as a teaching and learning tool?
It is easy for faculty to set up Turnitin classes and assignments in such a way that students can see their own Originality Reports and can turn in multiple drafts of an assignment. This way students can edit their first draft and resubmit their assignments if the Originality Report shows more matching text than they desire.
Note to Faculty: Login to Turnitin Instructions for UMUC Faculty for instructions on how to set up assignments so that students can submit multiple drafts to Turnitin and correct their own work. Use the Originality Report for the first draft to point out to students whether they need to improve their citations or include more original analysis and comment.
Note to Students: If the Originality Report for your first draft shows a high percentage of matching text, for example, review and edit your assignment for proper citation. Include more original analysis and comment, then send it to Turnitin again. Turnitin will know not to match the text in your second draft with text in your first draft, and so on.
How does Turnitin work?
Turnitin uses data-mining to compile a large database of electronic academic materials that it indexes and stores. Use your Web browser to access the Turnitin Web site, then submit assignments electronically by copying and pasting a digital copy of the work (e.g., a Word document or an html document) in a Turnitin text box or by attaching a file, much like in your online classroom. The service then checks the new submission against its database of materials to look for matches or near-matches in strings of text.
Users then login to Turnitin to access the Report Inbox within Turnitin to view an Originality Report generated for each assignment that is uploaded. Faculty can view Originality Reports for each student in the class, but students can only view the Originality Report for their own assignment, not the assignments of other students.
How complete is Turnitin?
Turnitin has a database of over a million papers and assignments sent to them by students and teachers, a digitized version of the Gutenberg Collection of Literary Classics, and papers pulled from the Internet and various "paper mills," (i.e., services that sell term papers). However, the Turnitin database currently does not search books or articles in subscription databases available through the UMUC Library Databases. It may not find matching text from those sources or from subscription database such as The New York Times on the Web unless those materials also appear in assignments previously sent to Turnitin. For those resources, it is best to search the UMUC Library Databases and/or supplement your Turnitin review by using a Web search engine (e.g., Ask, Google, etc.)
The Faculty Guidelines for Using Turnitin to detect possible plagiarism provide the following cautionary notes about completeness:
"When a paper is evaluated, Turnitin provides originality reports which tell you that text in the evaluated project or paper is similar to or identical to text Turnitin has in its database. Faculty must still evaluate the quality of the report independently and determine if the parts identified by Turnitin that are similar or identical, are actually plagiarized text. This is because all matches are shown, even those where students cited properly. As a result, faculty must critique the report they receive, use their best judgment and follow University policy before approaching a student about possible plagiarism.
"Similarly, if a paper is reported as "original" by Turnitin, that is not necessarily airtight evidence that the paper is original. Instead, it may mean that the student plagiarized from a work that is not available in the Turnitin database. If a faculty member has a concern, and strongly suspects plagiarism, it is best to ask the library staff to assist him/her to check further and/or check the student's paper references in addition to digital sources. No database is entirely comprehensive and many sources are not digitally available. Therefore, plagiarism can occur and be undetectable by services such as Turnitin."
Are student papers kept confidential?
Yes. Faculty are not permitted to release student assignments either to other UMUC faculty or to faculty from other institutions. If a faculty member receives a request for permission to release a student's assignment, faculty shall deny the request. The UMUC license with Turnitin specifies a privacy pledge in accordance with FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The U.S. Department of Education's FERPA Regulations give the requirements on the confidentiality of student records and information. If faculty are concerned about student privacy, it is a good idea for them to use aliases for actual student names when submitting assignments for review by Turnitin. UMUC recommends that faculty use aliases to ensure that student privacy is protected.
What about student copyright?
The UMUC license with Turnitin also specifies that students retain copyright to their submitted assignments and that the assignments will be stored only for the duration of UMUC's contract with Turnitin and solely for the purpose of using such papers as source material to prevent plagiarism of such papers.
The University has a license agreement with Turnitin, an educational tool that helps prevent or identify plagiarism from Internet resources. The instructor may use the service in the UMUC class by requiring students to submit assignments electronically to Turnitin, by submitting assignments on their behalf, or by providing the option for students to submit their work to Turnitin and check their work for originality. The Turnitin Originality Report will indicate the amount of original text in the students' work and whether all material that was quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source was cited as appropriate.
If the student or the instructor submits all or part of an assignment to the Turnitin service, Turnitin will ordinarily store that assignment in its database. The assignment will be checked to see if there is any match between that work and other material stored in Turnitin's database. If the student objects to long-term storage of their work in the Turnitin database, the student must let the instructor know no later than two weeks after the start of the class so that the instructor can make appropriate arrangements. The student has three options regarding the assignment being stored in the Turnitin database. One, if the student does nothing then the assignment will be stored in the Turnitin database for the duration of UMUC's contract with Turnitin. Two, the student can ask the instructor to have Turnitin store the assignment only for the duration of the semester or term, then have the assignment deleted from the Turnitin database once the class is over. Three, the student can ask the instructor to change the Turnitin settings so that the assignment is not stored in the Turnitin database at any time.
Faculty who need assistance setting up these options should contact the library directly.
Can students revise work that they submit to Turnitin?
This is up to the instructor. In some classes, students may revise their submissions to Turnitin to try to lower the score on the Originality Report. In other classes, this may not be an option for students. Student should check their assignment requirement to know if their first submission is going to be final or not.
Depending on how the instructor sets up assignments, three things may occur.
- Some instructors will set up assignments so that the first submission is going to be final. No revisions will be allowed.
- Some instructors will set up assignments so that students can submit their work but then overwrite it with edits and corrections until the due date. In this scenario, however, note that it will take 24 hours for Turnitin to process each overwrite. Plan your time accordingly.
- Finally, some instructors will set up assignments so that students can review their work, edit it, and resubmit revised drafts within minutes. The way this works is that instructors set up a baseline assignment called a Paper Assignment. Students submit the first draft of their work to this Paper Assignment. The instructor also sets up one or more Revision Assignments, which is where students submit one or more revised drafts of the work submitted earlier to the Paper Assignment.
What about group projects in Turnitin?
If you are part of a group working on a project that must be submitted to Turnitin, appoint a team captain to submit the project on behalf of all the team members. If each team member submits the project, then of course Turnitin will detect that you are matching one another.
How long does a Turnitin check take?
Initial Submissions/First Drafts
Originality Reports should usually be ready within 15 minutes. However it may take up to 24 hours during peak times such as the middle or the end of semesters when many papers are being submitted to Turnitin.
If students are allowed to view their Originality Reports, revise their work, and resubmit to Turnitin, see Can students revise work that they submit to Turnitin?
Depending on how the instructor sets up assignments, students may have to wait 24 hours before overwriting their work with edits, OR they may be able to submit edits of a Paper Assignment to one or more Revision Assignments within minutes. Plan accordingly when working on a deadline.
Where do I go for technical help?
Instructions for using Turnitin
Tufts University has a University-wide contract with the Turnitin plagiarism detection service.
Instructors can arrange to have papers submitted to the Trunk Assignments tool checked, by Turnitin, for potential unoriginal content by comparing submitted papers to several databases using a proprietary algorithm. Turnitin scans the Internet, its own databases, and also has licensing agreements with large academic proprietary databases. Instructors receive (in the Trunk Assignments tool) an “Originality Report” from Turnitin for each student submission.
Turnitin can be used only once per assignment. If you have students submitting a "draft" paper assignment and assign a Turnitin originality report to it, you will need to create a second assignment for Turnitin to check the final draft of the paper.
The Tufts contract with Turnitin is an instructor only service. Students cannot check their own papers via Turnitin without an instructor created assignment.
Note:When Turnitin is used on an assignment, students will have a note on their assignment form indicating that the assignment will be checked by the Turnitin plagiarism service.
To use Turnitin: