Turnitin.com is a for-profit electronic plagiarism detection service. The service works by having students submit written assignments electronically to Turnitin.com. It then scans assignments for potential sources of plagiarism. Assignments are checked against internet sources, online books, newspapers, journals, and papers submitted in the past by other students. A key feature that makes the service so profitable is the inclusion of students’ assignments. These assignments become part of the Turnitin.com database. While students make no money by submitting their assignments to the plagiarism service, as more and more assignments are submitted to the provider, the database grows, increasing the value for Turnitin.com.
For a hefty price, Turnitin.com sells their services to educational institutions. In turn, the institutions that purchase the program end up promoting the database’s growth by having students submit their assignments to Turnitin.com.
Problems With TurnItIn.com
If you do decide to submit your assignment through Turnitin.com, you should be aware of the following things:
The Originality Report
Once you submit a written assignment to Turnitin.com, a search begins for suspicious sources. Your paper is matched against any other sources that contain the same information.
An “Originality Report” is produced that indicates if there is any amount of duplication in your assignment against any of the sources in the Turnitin.com database (i.e. internet sources, online books, newspapers, journals, and papers submitted in the past by other students).
If your paper contains sections that were not referenced properly, including incorrect or incomplete use of quotations, the Originality Report will highlight these sections as suspicious sources of information.
If you are notified of Academic Misconduct, you have the right to request your Originality Report if not otherwise available.
Distinctions Not Made!
Turnitin.com is unable to make distinctions from assignments that were purposely plagiarized, not purposely plagiarized, and work that is original.
Knowing how to reference correctly is an absolute must when plagiarism detection devices such as Turnitin.com are used. However, learning how to reference correctly is not always an easy skill for everyone to master. Just as learning how to write a paper requires much education and practice, so too does referencing.
Although you may not have applied a standard method for documenting your sources prior to college or university, you are now required to utilize specific referencing techniques such as APA or MLA.
While some instructors may provide handouts or try to guide you to other resources, you may still be at a disadvantage if this is the first time you’ve been required to put the technique to practice and then have to submit your assignment for evaluation.
To make matters even more risky for the novice, if your assignments are submitted to Turnitin.com, which is unable to determine when referencing errors are made by accident or on purpose, you could be facing accusations of plagiarism, leading to charges of Academic Misconduct. This in turn could result in penalties such as a “0″ for the assignment, to an “F” in the course, to suspension, or worse!
Turn It Down (Opt-Out)
Your paper, your rights
It is your right to refuse to submit your work to Turnitin.com, even if your instructor requests you to do so. Turn it down, don’t turn it in! Also, instructors are obligated to adhere to the following guidelines:
- If your instructor chooses to have written assignments submitted to Turnitin.com, he or she must state as such in the course outline. They are also required to include one of the two following statements:
i. “Students who do not want their work submitted to this plagiarism detection service must, by the end of the second week of class, consult with the instructor to make alternate arrangements,” or
ii. An outline of the details of alternate arrangements including the deadlines for consultation with the instructor concerning the use of these arrangements.
- Your course outline should thus include a statement to reflect the option to opt out, as well as your requirement to consult with your instructor by the end of the second week of class to discuss alternative options. For more information please read the following paragraph and refer to:
If your instructor requests that you submit your assignment to Turnitin.com and has failed to follow the Course Management Policy, please address the issue with your instructor promptly and notify the RSU!
Making Alternate Arrangements – You Decide!
Some students have refused to submit their assignments to this anti-plagiarism device on the grounds that any assignment submission enriches the American company’s value at the expense of students’ intellectual property. Others have shown objection by affirming that using Turnitin.com is an assumption of guilt, that a student is considered guilty of academic misconduct even before having submitted any work.
Again, according to Academic Council’s policy, if you do not want your work submitted to Turnitin.com, you must, by the end of the second week of class, consult with the instructor to make alternate arrangements. Other arrangements may include anything from the submission of a draft to an annotated bibliography.
For More Information
To learn more about academic integrity at Ryerson University.
To learn more about how Turnitin.com works.
To learn more about the resources available to help students avoid academic misconduct, you may consult the following websites:
- Writing Support Located on the 4th floor of the new Student Learning Centre, 341 Yonge Street. You can book a 50-minute one-on-one consultation to discuss your essay.
- Student Learning Support 416.598.5978. Offers a variety of workshops, from essay and exam writing to time management.
This software program, available to all Ryerson students, is a quick and easy way to create and manage your bibliographies.
If you have any more questions about Turnitin.com or other academically-related questions, please contact RSU’s Student Issues & Advocacy Coordinator.