Turnitin: An Early Start

We left yesterday’s post with two maxims:

Turnitin needs to be integrated into the course.  Students need to be aware of it, know how it works, and how you are using it. 

Beyond that, I’d also add:

Turnitin can be a powerful teaching tool.

In order to better integrate Turnitin, begin thinking about it when you’re thinking about your syllabus for the next semester.

Here are some guidelines (or at least things to think about) for next semester and Turnitin.

  1. Set up Turnitin before you class starts.  This is pretty easy (very easy if you’re using it in Blackboard).  If you’re really ambitious, you can put all your assignments in their as well!
  2. Put Turnitin on your syllabus.  You’ll have to do this if you’re using Turnitin outside of Blackboard in order to give the Class ID and Password to your students.  But this is also the initial opportunity to let the students know you’re using the service.  This also gets around any potential FERPA issues associated with using student work in a matter they did not consent to.

Here is some sample syllabus language:

In this class, we will be using Turnitin, a web-based program that checks student papers against an extensive database of websites, submitted papers, and other sources for plagiarism.  You’ll be required to submit all of your essays to Turnitin.

 This would also be a good place to insert your general plagaism policy, as well as any particulars about how you might be using the Originality Report.  If you’re using Turnitin outside of Blacbkboard, you can then give them the class ID and password.  If you’re going to use Turnitin to give feedback and/or grades, let the students know that here as well.

 

3. Discuss Turnitin and plagiarism in your class early in the semester.  A piece of Turnitin’s effectiveness lies in its capability as a deterrent.  If you help your students understand plagiarism (there are ten kinds, apparently), let them know you’re serious about it, and let them know the consequences for it, that (hopefully) would make them think twice about trying it.  Add to that an explanation about how Turnitin works and the fact that it’s checking their papers against hundreds of thousands of other papers, websites, and journals and you’ve got a powerful deterrent against those who would want to intentionally cheat.

4. Have students submit their own work.  This is mainly a work-saver for you; manually uploading a whole class worth of papers takes a lot of time.  You can distribute that load by just asking students to submit their own work.  You can do this even if you also require students to give you hard copies of the papers.  This also sets up. . .
Consider letting the students see their Originality Reports.  Opinion certainly varies on this one.  Plenty of people don’t want to let the students see the report, arguing that this actually helps students plagiarize or, at best, is confusing.  I am of the opinion however, that Turnitin works best when it’s used as a learning tool, not just as a way to catch students who cheat.  Allowing students to see their Report can become a powerful teaching tool.  It can be used to illustrate  proper ways to paraphrase, for example.

5. Consider letting the students see their Originality Reports.  Opinion certainly varies on this one.  Plenty of people don’t want to let the students see the report, arguing that this actually helps students plagiarize or, at best, is confusing.  I am of the opinion however, that Turnitin works best when it’s used as a learning tool, not just as a way to catch students who cheat.  Allowing students to see their Report can become a powerful teaching tool.  It can be used to illustrate  proper ways to paraphrase, for example.

Tomorrow, I’ll have a few more thoughts about “going paperless” and having your students only submit work through Turnitin.

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About the CETL

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Texas Wesleyan University (CETL) promotes a student-centered university by providing resources and professional growth opportunities to faculty on enhancing instructional practice, integrating technology, and promoting essential student skills.

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