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Staff Guidance - Using Turnitin to support Plagiarism Detection

Turnitin is a web-based similarity detection and online grading service. Turnitin compares the text in work submitted by students with a vast database of electronic sources, including web pages, online journal articles and previously submitted student work.

Turnitin can be used by staff as a tool to help identify plagiarism and poor academic practice. It can also be used to educate students about plagiarism, and as a developmental tool to improve students’ academic writing.

At the University of Leeds, Turnitin is integrated into Minerva, and most staff will access Turnitin via Minerva module areas. Staff should read the introductory guide if they are unfamiliar with the tool.

What is the University position on use of Turnitin?

The University has a Code of Practice for the use of similarity detection software on electronic submission of text based coursework with effect from 1 August 2017. Turnitin should be used for all electronically submitted text-based assignments at the University.

As a minimum, students are required to submit at least one text based assignment electronically using the Turnitin software each semester for the duration of their programme.

What does Turnitin do with submissions?

Turnitin’s software compares the assignment submitted electronically to its database of digital content. The submissions may be stored in the Turnitin database and if so, are available in the future for others to check against.

Supporting student use of Turnitin

Students should be able to:

  • successfully submit a document for assessment using the Turnitin interface within Minerva
  • explain how Turnitin is used as part of the University’s process of checking for academic integrity and outline key features of an Originality Report and their significance, and
  • apply principles of academic integrity and good referencing and use of sources to their written work, demonstrating an understanding that academic integrity is about more than obtaining a ‘clean’ Originality Report

Online student guidance on submitting an assignment through Turnitin is provided by the Learning Technologies Team at https://www.leeds.ac.uk/vle/students/assess/turnitin/.

Explanation is provided to students through the Library's Academic Integrity resources. All new taught students are enrolled on an Academic Integrity Organisation in Minerva.

Lesson plan templates are also available for staff wishing to integrate an introduction to Turnitin into teaching sessions via their School Academic Integrity Lead.

Should I let my students see their Originality Reports?

Students should be allowed to see an Originality Report based either on a model assignment or a draft of their own work as a learning exercise early in their academic career, before marks count towards degree classification.

Schools should run a similar exercise with new taught PG students or Postgraduate Researchers who may not have been made aware of Turnitin at undergraduate level.

At level 2 and above students should not be provided with their Originality Report.

Using Turnitin

When should Turnitin be used?

Turnitin should be used for all text based assignments submitted electronically at the University. A quick start guide to the use of Turnitin is available.

How does it work?

A member of staff creates a Turnitin Assignment in Minerva for the collection and checking of student work. Students (or staff) submit assignments electronically by uploading them to Minerva or copying and pasting text. Turnitin processes the assignments and produces an Originality Report. The report compares the student’s paper to web pages, online journals and its own database of work that has already been submitted and highlights content that is not original (with links to that content where possible). A percentage mark of non-original text is given – the similarity index. The non-original text may be correctly quoted and referenced, poor academic writing or plagiarised. It is an academic decision to decide whether the Originality Report indicates potential plagiarism.

How do I set up a Turnitin assignment submission area?

The Learning Technologies Team provides online guidance about who can set up set up Turnitin and best practice settings for a submission area.

Can I use Turnitin when the assessment is a group assignment?

Turnitin does not enable group submissions, and so in this case an individual student will need to submit the work on behalf of a group. Feedback generated in the Turnitin tools will be automatically returned to the student who submitted the assignment on behalf of the group.

Can I use Turnitin for peer assessment?

Turnitin offers a ‘PeerMark’ tool. The Turnitin PeerMark tool allows students to review and evaluate papers submitted by their peers. Having created a standard Turnitin assignment, the staff member then creates a PeerMark assignment, determining how many papers each student will review and creating questions for students to respond to when completing their review.

Further guidance on Peer assessment is available from the Learning Technologies Team.

What about images in submissions?

Although Turnitin can be configured to accept image files, it cannot check their originality. Similarly, Turnitin cannot check the originality of images within a text document.

Can I submit a paper myself?

Students are responsible for submitting their work electronically, so normally you should never submit work on their behalf.

However, where Turnitin submission has not been used, and you wish to check the originality of a piece of taught student work, it is possible to submit the work yourself to a Turnitin assignment:

  • Find or create an assignment in Minerva and click the ‘View/Complete’ link
  • In the ‘Author’ field the drop-down list will display the names of all registered students on the module (if these names don’t appear, you may need to click on ‘Roster Sync' in the assignment inbox)
  • Select the student from the list
  • If the student is not registered on your module, select ‘Non-enrolled student’ and manually enter the student’s name

Investigation of suspected plagiarism

What do I do if I think that the work has been plagiarised?

Staff should report any work they suspect of being plagiarised to the Academic Integrity Lead in their School.

The work will need to be marked up to be investigated. Separate guidance on how to mark up documents for use in investigation of academic malpractice cases is available through your Academic Integrity Lead.

Should a mark be released to students before completion of a plagiarism investigation?

Provisional marks may be released or withheld, in accordance with School practice. If provisional marks are released to students they must be made aware that marks are not confirmed until after an exam board.

Frequently asked questions

Whether you consider the Originality Reports before marking is a matter to be agreed at School level. Please discuss with your Academic Integrity Lead.

No, whether or not work is plagiarised is always a matter for academic determination and should never be based solely on the similarity index. There is no ideal or expected level, as this can vary greatly according to the settings chosen and the nature of the assignment. A zero% match is not the ideal, as academic writing is expected to include matches and references to external sources. Indeed a zero match is highly unusual in normal practice and may result from inappropriate settings and filters, or from a deliberate attempt by the student to avoid plagiarism detection.

The recommendation is now 0% exclusions. Further advice on best practice is available.

If plagiarism is suspected in a historic case, advice should be sought from the Student Cases Team.

Requests via Turnitin to release a student paper may be responded to. Permission has been given by students to share papers on registration and on submission of coursework, through the Declaration of Academic Integrity.

The standard declarations of academic integrity to be signed at Registration and on submission of coursework are available from Student Cases.

Since all instructors on a module receive the request, schools should agree where the responsibility for responding lies to avoid multiple responses. This person should first make a judgement as to whether a response is appropriate. If responding to a paper request, you may need to read through the text in the automatically generated email to remove any text that may identify the student, institutions or other participants. If in doubt about the efficacy of a request, advice should be sought from the Student Cases Team. No response is necessary if a decision is made to reject a paper view request.

Marking online is encouraged using Turnitin’s Feedback Studio. Advice on “Making the Most of Turnitin and Feedback Studio is available at https://www.leeds.ac.uk/vle/staff/assess/turnitin/

© University of Leeds, incorporating Technology Enhanced Learning Blackboard Guide ‘The Staff Guide to viewing the Similarity Report in Turnitin’, University of Reading’.