Many institutions use plagiarism detection software to combat increasing concerns of copying and cheating in academic writing. Turnitin is one of many cloud-based software available that finds and calculates matching text from other sources such as student paper repositories, current and archived internet and periodicals, journals, and publications and provides the findings through an Originality Report. An Originality Report visualizes the amount of matching content using a percentage amount. 100 percent meaning the entire document matches another source, while zero percent means no content matches any another sources.
A survey completed by Turnitin (2015) highlights different forms of matching, comparing severity and frequency of various types of plagiarism. The most frequent and severe matches compiled through Originality Reports generated through the submissions of over 900 instructors are: cloning, submitting another’s work, word-for-word, as one’s own; a mashup, mixing copied material from multiple sources; and find-and-replace, changing keywords and phrases but retaining the essential content of the source.
While the reports can provide a quick snapshot for instructors of the amount of content that is matching, Turnitin goes beyond the affordances that most users expect from the cloud-based software. For example, students can use Turnitin as a learning tool to they gain access to formative feedback that can guide their editing process and help them achieve writing success. Having access to Originality Scores in Turnitin can help students identify common errors made, such as patch-working, improper sourcing, or missing citations. Additionally, eRater can be enabled to scan the submissions for grammar, usage, mechanics, style and spelling errors. Students can then view the eRater report and click on the errors to learn more through the Feedback Studio interface or print out a copy to review.
To aid in the student’s revision process, instructors may permit students to resubmit edited versions of their paper. This process allows students to track the impact of the improvements made as they work towards a lower originality report with fewer errors through the use of multiple draft submissions. This drafting stage has numerous benefits for students. First, it can alleviate anxiety from students who are not confident about academic writing or have only used Turnitin for a one-shot submission. Secondly, it can help reinforce the importance of proper source integration and expectations can increase as the semester goes on as students are learning and grasping the concepts. Thirdly, it can flag where it may be beneficial to reach out or direct students to available learning support services on campus or provide additional resources.
To summarize, with Turnitin access, the Originality Report and eRater provides students with a starting point in which they can reflect upon for future drafts or assignments while you have access to loads of information that will flag any matching text for you, so you can focus on the feedback and grading process!
Note: Turnitin software requires a yearly subscription fee and may have extra additional costs for add-on features such as the LTI integration and Revision Assistant. It is worth investigating to find out if your institution has already purchased the software or would consider it for the many affordances it can provide to you and your learners!