Internet-based plagiarism-prevention service
|Type of business||Subsidiary, Privately held company|
Type of site
|Online SaaS editor|
|Headquarters||2101 Webster Street Suite 1800 Oakland California 94612, |
Turnitin (stylized as turnitin) is an Internet-based plagiarism detection service run by the American company Turnitin, LLC, a subsidiary of Advance Publications.
Founded in 1998, it sells its licenses to universities and high schools who then use the software as a service (SaaS) website to check submitted documents against its database and the content of other websites with the aim of identifying plagiarism. Results can identify similarities with existing sources and can also be used in formative assessment to help students learn to avoid plagiarism and improve their writing.
Students may be required to submit work to Turnitin as a requirement of taking a certain course or class. The software has been a source of controversy, with some students refusing to submit, arguing that requiring submission implies a presumption of guilt. Some critics have alleged that use of this proprietary software violates educational privacy as well as international intellectual-property laws, and exploits students' works for commercial purposes by permanently storing them in Turnitin's privately held database.
Turnitin, LLC also runs the informational website plagiarism.org and offers a similar plagiarism-detection service for newspaper editors and book and magazine publishers called iThenticate. Other tools included with the Turnitin suite are GradeMark (online grading and corrective feedback) and PeerMark (student peer-review service).
In March 2019, Advance Publications acquired Turnitin, LLC for US$1.75 billion.
In the UK the service is supported and promoted by JISC as 'Plagiarism Detection Service Turnitin UK'. The Service is operated by iParadigms, in conjunction with Northumbria Learning, the European reseller of the Service.
The Turnitin software checks for potentially unoriginal content by comparing submitted papers to several databases using a proprietary algorithm. It scans its own databases and also has licensing agreements with large academic proprietary databases.
The essays submitted by students are stored in a database used to check for plagiarism. This prevents one student from using another student's paper, by identifying matching text between papers. In addition to student papers, the database contains a copy of the publicly accessible Internet, with the company using a web crawler to continually add content to Turnitin's archive. It also contains commercial and/or copyrighted pages from books, newspapers, and journals.
Students typically upload their papers directly to the service for teachers to access. Teachers may also submit a student's papers to Turnitin.com as individual files, by bulk upload, or as a ZIP file. Teachers can also set assignment-analysis options so that students can review the system's "originality reports" before they finalize their submission. A peer-review option is also available.
Some virtual learning environments can be configured to support Turnitin, so that student assignments can be automatically submitted for analysis. Blackboard, Moodle, ANGEL, Instructure, Desire2Learn, Pearson Learning Studio, Sakai, and Studywiz integrate in some way with the software.
In 2019, Turnitin began analyzing admissions application materials through a partner software, Kira Talent.
The Student Union at Dalhousie University has criticized the use of Turnitin at Canadian universities because the American government may be able to access the submitted papers and personal information in the database under the USA PATRIOT Act.Mount Saint Vincent University became the first Canadian university to ban Turnitin's service partly because of implications of the Act.
Lawyers for the company claim that student work is covered under the theory of implied license to evaluate, since it would be pointless to write the essays if they were not meant to be graded. That implied license, the lawyers argue, thus grants Turnitin permission to copy, reproduce and preserve the works. The company's lawyers further claim that dissertations and theses also carry with them an implied permission to archive in a publicly accessible collection such as a university library.
University of Minnesota Law School professor Dan Burk countered that the company's use of the papers may not meet the fair-use test for several reasons:
- The company copies the entire paper, not just a portion
- Students' work is often original, interpretive and creative rather than just a compilation of established facts
- Turnitin is a commercial enterprise
When a group of students filed suit against Turnitin on that basis, in Vanderhye et al. v. iParadigms LLC, the district court found the practice fell within fair use; on appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
Presumption of guilt
Some students argue that requiring them to submit papers to Turnitin creates a presumption of guilt, which may violate scholastic disciplinary codes and applicable local laws and judicial practice. Some teachers and professors support this argument when attempting to discourage schools from using Turnitin.
iParadigms, the company that used to be behind Turnitin, ran another commercial website called WriteCheck, where students paid a fee to have a paper tested against the database used by Turnitin, to determine whether or not that paper would be detected as plagiarism when the student submitted that paper to the main Turnitin website through the account provided by the school. It was announced that the WriteCheck product was being withdrawn in 2020 with no new subscriptions being accepted from November 2019. The economist Alex Tabarrok has complained that Turnitin's systems "are warlords who are arming both sides in this plagiarism war". The website has subsequently been shut down.
In one well-publicized dispute over mandatory Turnitin submissions, Jesse Rosenfeld, a student at McGill University declined, in 2004, to submit his academic work to Turnitin. The University Senate eventually ruled that Rosenfeld's assignments were to be graded without using the service. The following year, another McGill student, Denise Brunsdon, refused to submit her assignment to Turnitin.com and won a similar ruling from the Senate Committee on Student Grievances.
In 2006, the Senate at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia prohibited the submission of students' academic work to Turnitin.com and any software that requires students' work to become part of an external database where other parties might have access to it. This decision was granted after the students' union alerted the university community of their legal and privacy concerns associated with the use of Turnitin.com and other anti-plagiarism devices that profit from students' academic work. This was the first campus-wide ban of its kind in Canada, following decisions by Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford not to use Turnitin.
At Ryerson University in Toronto, students may decide whether to submit their work to Turnitin.com or make alternate arrangements with an instructor. Similar policies are in place at Brock University in Saint Catharines.
On March 27, 2007, with the help of an intellectual property attorney, two students from McLean High School in Virginia (with assistance from the Committee For Students' Rights) and two students attending Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona, filed suit in United States Circuit Court (Eastern District, Alexandria Division) alleging copyright infringement by iParadigms, Turnitin's parent company. Nearly a year later, Judge Claude M. Hilton granted summary judgment on the students' complaint in favor of iParadigms/Turnitin, because they had accepted the click-wrap agreement on the Turnitin website. The students appealed the ruling, and on April 16, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed Judge Hilton's judgment in favor of iParadigms/Turnitin.
Ad hoc encodings, fonts and text representation
Several flaws and bugs in the Turnitin plagiarism detection software have been documented in scientific literature. In particular, Turnitin has been proven to be vulnerable to
- ad hoc text encodings,
- rearranged glyphs in a computer font,
- text replaced with Bézier curves representing its shape.
Another study showed that Turnitin failed to detect text produced by popular free Internet-based paraphrasing tools. Besides, more sophisticated machine learning techniques, such as automated paraphrasing, can produce natural and expressive text, which is virtually impossible for Turnitin to detect. Also, article spinning was not recognized by Turnitin. Asked about the situation, the then vice president of marketing at Turnitin Chris Harrick said that the company was "working on a solution", but it was "not a big concern" because in his opinion "the quality of these tools is pretty poor".
Several years later, Turnitin published an article titled "Can students trick Turnitin? Some students believe that they can 'beat' Turnitin by employing various tactics". The company denied any technical issues and said that "the authors of these 'tricks' are mostly essay mills." The article then listed a few possible "tricks" and how Turnitin intended to take care of them, without mentioning scientific literature, technical treatises or examples of computer code.
The Italian scholar Michele Cortelazzo, full professor of linguistics, who also studies copyright attribution and similarity between texts, noted that, paradoxically, it is impossible to tell if Turnitin's source code has been plagiarized from other sources, because it is not open source. For the same reason, it is unknown what scientific methodologies, if any, Turnitin uses to assess papers.
In 2009, a group of researchers from Texas Tech University reported that many of the instances of "non-originality" that Turnitin finds aren't plagiarism, but are just the use of jargon, course terms or phrases that appeared for legitimate reasons. For example, the researchers found high percentages of flagged material in the topic terms of papers (e.g. "global warming") or "topic phrases", which they defined as the paper topic with a few words added (e.g. "the prevalence of childhood obesity continues to rise").
Turnitin was also criticized for paying panelists at conferences on education and writing.
- ^Christopher Ireland; John English (October 2011). "Let Them Plagiarise: Developing Academic Writing in a Safe Environment". Journal of Academic Writing. 1: 165–172. doi:10.18552/joaw.v1i1.10. (PDF Download available.)CS1 maint: postscript (link)
- ^"A Guide for Resisting Edtech: the Case against Turnitin". hybridpedagogy.org. June 15, 2017. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
- ^Korn, Melissa. "Advance Publications to Buy Plagiarism-Scanning Company Turnitin for Nearly $1.75 Billion". WSJ.
- ^"Turnitin UK 2021-2022"(PDF). University of Bristol.
- ^"Turnitin Integrations". iParadigms, LLC. 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
- ^ "Turnitin Partnership Adds Plagiarism Checking to College Admissions"]. Campus Technology, Rhea Kelly. June 26, 2019
- ^"Turnitin". The Dalhousie Gazette. Dalhousie University. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- ^"Schools' reliance on turnitin.com questioned". Excalibur. York University. December 1, 2010. Archived from the original on December 11, 2010. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- ^ abc"Minutes of Meeting"(PDF). msvu.ca. Mount Saint Vincent University. March 6, 2006. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- ^Foley & Lardner, Id., pp. 3–5
- ^Foster, Andrea L.; May 17, 2002; Plagiarism-Detection Tool Creates Legal Quandary; The Chronicle of Higher Education; retrieved September 29, 2006
- ^A.V. et al. v. iParadigms, LLC, 562 F.3d 630 (4th Cir. 2009)
- ^Carbone, Nick (2001). "Turnitin.com, a Pedagogic Placebo for Plagiarism". Bedford/St. Martin's. Archived from the original on January 2, 2006. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- ^Schreiner, Valerie (November 20, 2019). "Supporting Originality From the Start: An Update on WriteCheck". Turnitin. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
- ^Murphy, Elizabeth (September 9, 2011). "Plagiarism software WriteCheck troubles some educators". USA Today. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
- ^"McGill student wins fight over anti-cheating website". CBC News. January 16, 2004. Archived from the original on March 6, 2005. Retrieved April 15, 2007.
- ^Churchill, Liam (December 2, 2005). "Students: 2, Turnitin: 0". McGill Daily. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved April 15, 2007.
- ^Amarnath, Ravi (March 15, 2006). "Mount St. Vincent bans Turnitin.com". The Gazette. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2011.
- ^"University opts not to 'Turnitin'". The Daily Princetonian. April 4, 2006. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- ^"Turnitin.com Information for Students". Ryerson University. December 5, 2006. Archived from the original on September 30, 2012. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
- ^"Brock Academic Integrity Policy". Brock University. October 3, 2013. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- ^Vanderhye, R. (April 16, 2007). "A.V., et. al. v. iParadigms, LLC: Amended Complaint for Copyright Infringement"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on March 20, 2009. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
- ^Hilton, Claude (2008). "Memorandum Opinion"(PDF). United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. Archived from the original(PDF) on July 5, 2010.
- ^Barakat, Matthew (April 28, 2008). "Students appeal ruling favoring plagiarism detection service". Boston.com. Archived from the original on December 6, 2008. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
- ^Wilkinson, Motz, Traxler (April 16, 2009). "Appellate Decision"(PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Archived from the original(PDF) on April 19, 2009.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- ^Heather, James (2010), "Turnitoff: identifying and fixing a hole in current plagiarism detection software"(PDF), Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, London: Taylor & Francis, 35 (6): 647–660, doi:10.1080/02602938.2010.486471, eISSN 1469-297X, ISSN 0260-2938, OCLC 45107128, S2CID 18091789, retrieved November 14, 2020
- ^Rogerson, Ann; McCarthy, Grace (2017), "Using Internet based paraphrasing tools: Original work, patchwriting or facilitated plagiarism?", International Journal for Educational Integrity, London: BioMed Central, 13 (1), 2, doi:10.1007/s40979-016-0013-y, ISSN 1833-2595, OCLC 812152707, retrieved November 17, 2020
- ^Straumsheim, Carl (April 28, 2017). "Someone else's words". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
- ^Campbell, Audrey (September 25, 2019). "Can students trick Turnitin? Some students believe that they can "beat" Turnitin by employing various tactics". turnitin.com. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
- ^"Michele Cortelazzo" (in Italian). Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- ^ ab"Luci e ombre (tante) dei software antiplagio" [Lights and (many) shadows of anti plagiarism software] (in Italian). September 17, 2015. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- ^ abScott Jaschik (March 13, 2009). "False Positives on Plagiarism". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
Use of iThenticate tool by faculty and graduate students
The Graduate School is pleased to announce the launch of the use of iThenticate to verify originality of documents prepared by VT graduate students and faculty as follows:
- Graduate students can use iThenticate to review their written materials (e.g., papers, article drafts, responses to qualifying or prelim exam prompts, drafts of thesis/dissertation)
- Faculty can use the software to review their written documents (e.g., articles, grant proposals)
- Graduate students and their advisors will be required to verify that the ETDs (electronic theses and dissertations) are appropriately written and cited beginning Summer I semester, 2018. Students are encouraged to use iThenticate to review drafts of their ETD prior to final submission.
Access to iThenticate is granted to graduate students and faculty effective immediately.
Videos to help access and use the tool
Although the tool isn’t difficult to use, it is very important that you view the videos about accessing and using the tool, and especially interpreting the similarity report.
1. To open an account, please click on this link.
2. Instructions on how to submit a paper for review, please click on this highlighted link
3. The webpage with information for reading a similarity report is located here.
As you will learn from the videos, the link to iThenticate can be found on the main Faculty and staff resources webpage under "Admission and Academic Process" on the Graduate School website, and here for your convenience.
The Graduate School and NLI are offering training sessions on the use of iThenticate.
For ETD submissions, the Graduate School will set the filters such that all pages before the abstract and references are excluded along with quotes. This will help in limiting the number of incidents flagged in the similarity report. The following steps are required for approval of the final examination and the ETD:
1. Students must run their ETD through iThenticate and the similarity report must be reviewed by the student and advisor prior to scheduling the final examination.
2. The final similarity report must be included in the submission of the ETD to the Graduate School. This report will be archived separately from the ETD.
Virginia Tech partners with Turnitin to provide plagiarism detection software
Virginia Tech has partnered with Turnitin - Feedback Studio to provide plagiarism detection software for use by all students and faculty. This educational tool promotes academic integrity while also enhancing student learning and improving the student writing experience.
“I encourage faculty to use these tools to assist students in the writing process, as well as to help identify and respond to plagiarism,” said James Orr, assistant provost for academic strategy and policy.
Turnitin - Feedback Studio integrates with Canvas to allow students to receive feedback on the originality of their writing along with spelling and grammar suggestions. Feedback Studio checks for plagiarism, allows for the use of drag and drop comments, and provides students the opportunity to see source matches and view instructor feedback directly on their work. Faculty must add Feedback Studio to their Canvas course through the assignments tool for students to use the software on assignments.
Implementation of the Turnitin system follows the launch of iThenticate by the Graduate School earlier this year. iThenticate is an academic resource that supports verification of original scholarly work prepared by Virginia Tech graduate students and faculty. iThenticate helps writers, editors and researchers prevent unauthorized or improper claims of original academic authorship by comparing manuscripts against a database of over 60 billion web pages and 155 million content items. Graduate students can use iThenticate to review their written materials (e.g., papers, article drafts, responses to qualifying or prelim exam prompts, drafts of thesis/dissertation) while faculty can use the software to review their written documents (e.g., articles, grant proposals).
The Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity and Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS), will provide training sessions for Turnitin - Feedback Studio for faculty during the summer months and throughout the academic year. Training videos will also be made accessible for everyone. Training dates are as follows:
- Thursday, Aug. 16: 1-2:30 p.m.
- Thursday, Sept. 13: 9-10:00 a.m.
- Wednesday, Oct. 17: 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
- Tuesday, Nov. 6: 11 a.m.-noon.
- Wednesday, Jan. 23: 11 a.m.-noon
- Thursday, March 7: 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
All training sessions will be held in Torgersen Hall. Faculty will receive one NLI credit for attending. Those interested can register atapp.nli.tlos.vt.edu.
The Turnitin software is intended to be used as an educational tool that is embedded throughout the student writing process. The utilization of Turnitin will propel Virginia Tech forward with 21st-century policies and the engagement of both students and faculty as partners in the learning process. For more information about how to use these tools, see the 4Help Knowledge Base articles for Turnitin - Feedback Studio.
Both TLOS and the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity provide support and advice on using these tools. For questions on how to incorporate and utilize the tool in Canvas, please contact 4Help. For questions about whether a report from Turnitin - Feedback Studio constitutes academic misconduct, please contact Jessica M. Beckett, assistant director of academic integrity education and marketing at [email protected]
Written by Holli Drewry
Academic Integrity Online Tips for Faculty
Online Suggestions for Faculty Based on Ten Principles of Academic Integrity for Faculty (pdf)
Gary Pavela, Donald McCabe, and DeForest McDuff
Please contact the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity at [email protected] For our Director, please call 540-231-5544. For our Assistant Director, please call 540-231-3336. For all other general questions or concerns please call 540-231-9876.
- Affirm academic integrity as a core institutional value.
- Continue to discuss academic integrity as an institutional value that is important to you
- Include an academic integrity statement on your Canvas site and at the beginning and end of each assignment
- Provide clear expectations for academic integrity and assess how well students understand them.
- Provide your expectations related to collaboration and use of outside materials for students on assignments
- Set expectations for your students regarding academic integrity on the assignment or assessment
- When assigning collaborative assignments, have students account for the portions of work they perform
- Encourage students to complete the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity online module
- Reduce opportunities and temptations to engage in academic dishonesty.
- Provide creative assessments (see #6 below)
- Allow for collaboration on some assignments and set clear boundaries for students
- Respond to Academic Dishonesty when it occurs.
- File a report with the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity. Please contact our Director at 540-231-5544, our Assistant Director at 540-231-3336. Please also feel free to email us at [email protected] and we’ll be glad to speak with you and answer any questions or concerns that you may have. For general questions and concerns, please call 540-231-9876.
- The university’s recommended sanction is an F* and the Academic Integrity Education Program, however, there are other options available to you. Please do not take any action regarding the student’s grade until the case has been resolved. The Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity will copy you on the outcome letter – it is then that
you should alter the student’s grade. Per usual protocol, the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity will assign F* if that is the outcome.
- Know your students and encourage their capacity for learning, self-management, and trust.
- Communicate that you trust your students, and demonstrate that you trust your students.
- Use TurnItIn to create an assignment on Canvas that allows multiple submissions and does not submit the assignment to the TurnItIn repository. This will allow your students to use to help identify plagiarism issues early. If you need assistance, the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity will provide instructions. The Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity has a “sandbox” course that also does this on Canvas. However, this will not allow you access to view how your students are doing on a particular paper or project.
- Develop creative forms of assessment that enhance student learning.
- Use different forms of assessment where possible
- Explain to students what constitutes collaboration and how that is different than cheating and plagiarism
- Consider alternative forms of assessment to exams that are designed to enhance research and learning
- Considering your approach to exams:
- If you can, make your test open book, open note, and open Internet.
- Communicate clear expectations for appropriate use of materials, devices, collaboration among peers, suggesting a distraction-free environment, etc.
- Write test questions that require higher-order thinking; fact-based recall questions are vulnerable to cheating and to cramming and quickly forgetting.
- To the extent that it's feasible with your grading and feedback workload, avoid closed-ended questions (especially multiple choice, true-false, and basic identification).
- Alternatively, require short-answer justifications (Acknowledgement, Ohio State University)
- Utilize Respondus Lockdown – the only browser lockdown licensed by Virginia Tech via the Virginia Tech website
- Consider your approach to written assignments
- Give assignment directions that require students to do novel, hard-to-plagiarize work (e.g., related to personal experience, fictitious scenarios, or very recent events).
- Set a few periodic milestones (topic selection, annotated bibliography, drafts of sections) before a large paper is due.
- Require an annotated bibliography.
- Ask students to record an audio or video commentary about their paper topics or research process.
- Allow students options for selecting topics, methods of research, and presentation styles that are most meaningful to them and allow them to highlight strengths.
- Communicate a clear purpose for the assessment, how it will help them develop skills for the future, how it is relevant to course topics, etc.
- Use formative assignments as a way to build skill and knowledge through meaningful feedback.
- Utilize TurnItIn to mitigate plagiarism. The Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity will assist you in utilizing TurnItIn. Please contact us with any questions at 540-231-5544 (Director) or 540-231-3336 (Assistant Director). You can also email us at [email protected] (Acknowledgement, Ohio State University)
- Affirm the role of teachers as guides and mentors.
- Continue to engage with your students and build relationships online in the virtual environment.
- You may wish to have your students post on the discussion boards and provide them with a brief response.
- Consider holding virtual office hours via Zoom.
- Foster a lifelong commitment to the pursuit of knowledge.
- Consider how your virtual classroom will be intentionally engaging. Students are less likely to cheat when they feel connected and valued.
- Everyone learns differently – consider presenting information in different formats.
- Record lectures and make them available for students after they have been given.
- Recognize that promoting and protecting academic integrity is a collaborative endeavor involving shared leadership by students, faculty members and administrators.
- Empower your students to promote an environment where appropriate collaboration is encouraged and academic integrity is valued – discuss this matter with them, be willing to listen and respond to their thoughts.
- Align the aims of your academic integrity program as a foundation for other core values, including student self-management, inclusiveness, community responsibility
- Enforce that these concepts are not just related to classroom expectations, but expectations in industry and life in general. Use real world examples, make them applicable to a virtual environment.
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