Saturday, September 8, 2007

Turnitin

From what I've read, one of the problems that led to to the plagiarisms problem was the BOT's reliance on the use of Turnitin to test Pres. Poshard's dissertation. For those not familiar with Turnitin, it has become a fairly standard method of checking papers for plagiarism. Basically, you upload the paper in question to Turnitin, the program checks the paper against other papers in its database and reports what percentage of the paper appears copied from other papers in the database and where the papers in question can be found. Once a paper is submitted, it becomes part of the database for future searches. I know of instructors who routinely have all students run their papers through Turnitin before submitting them.

A downside to the program is what appears to have happened in this case. If papers or books aren't in the database or online, Turnitin can't check against them so returns a result of no plagiarism present. The materials in question are old and obscure enough that no one has put them online, ergo they are not accessible for comparison by Turnitin.

I have used Turnitin to catch plagiarized materials in class. A group of students turned in a term paper incorporating concepts more appropriate to a graduate level than an undergraduate class. When I ran it through Turnitin, it showed 90% of the paper had come from another source, specifically a paper from the Wharton School of Business website. If you're going to steal, steal from the best, says I.

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Comments:
Turnitin.com is a crutch for lazy professors.
 
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