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USING TURNITIN.COM

by Alan Mickelson, Director of Professional Development and Training

Plagiarism. Let no one else's work evade your eyes, . . . .  
Only be sure to always call it research,
Tom Lehrer, circa 1960.

"Plagiarism not only undermines the educational experience of those students who plagiarize—it also devalues the efforts of their hard-working classmates" (turnitin.com services screen).

Plagiarism as a problem in higher education was the subject of a recent edition of 60 Minutes on CBS.  According to some faculty members, the problem of academic dishonesty is one that we face here as well.  As we know, and in some cases have experienced, the Internet makes it possible for our students to simply cut and paste information from various Web sites, to copy a document in its entirety, or even to purchase a fully written paper online, complete with footnotes, electronically delivered, ready to print and submit.

How we deal with this problem may be a matter for discussion, but clearly the first step must be to document the offense.  There are several ways to learn if your students have plagiarized materials for their papers.  One of the easiest is to simply search the Web for the suspected plagiarized text using your favorite Web browser.  I am told that www.google.com is very effective.

The college provides another way. We subscribe to a service called turnitin.com. Faculty members can submit student work to turnitin.com via the Internet and receive (usually within 24 hours) a full report on the paper. The report includes a duplicate copy of the paper, with text that had been copied underlined, color-coded, and linked to its original online source. You can also determine from this report the extent of the work that has been plagiarized and the one or more sources from which it was copied. The service not only checks the Internet, but also its database of previously submitted papers. In this way it can identify papers that have been purchased from "term paper mills."

"By presenting the actual paper, the student plagiarized, I could stop all the excuses immediately and move on to the most important thing: academic honesty. I worked with this student for the rest of the semester. He was diligent about bringing drafts and getting papers done on time.  I failed him on the plagiarized paper, but his final grade was a 'B'—which he had earned through his own hard work. I consider this a success story."  (Martha Alston, Central Carolina Technical College: turnitin.com home page)

It is a simple matter to use this service. You will need to do two things.  First, call Alan Mickelson on extension 0464, or email him at amickelson@pgcc.edu to ask for the account number and class addition password. Then create your personal user profile by going to http://www.turnitin.com/static/index.html and click on the <Create a New User Profile> button.  Once you have created your profile, log in and join the college's account using the account ID number and class addition password you received.  You can begin adding classes as soon as you have successfully joined the account.  There is no limit on the number of papers a faculty member can submit.

When you establish your account, the system will provide you with instructions on how to use it.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call extension 0464 or email amickelson@pgcc.edu.

 

The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 18, No. 2

Spring 2003