1. About Turnitin

“Plagiarism attracts significant media attention and is damaging to public perceptions of higher education. Expectations of students with respect to the originality and referencing of their work must be clear and unequivocal, and guidance about what constitutes plagiarism must be instilled early in students. The higher education sector rightly takes this issue seriously and institutions will need to continue to develop their policies for dealing with plagiarism, building on the significant work already underway.” Higher Ambitions, Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), October 2009

View OUCS service level descriptions

Turnitin is an electronic text matching system that can be used to find text matches between students’ submitted work and existing electronic sources, including extensive databases of electronic articles, other student assignments, and the internet. Since Turnitin is a web-based system, student papers (essays or assignments) need to be made available in electronic format. Equally, Turnitin cannot find any matching text with sources that are not available electronically – even then, the system cannot search databases that are password protected.

1.1. Oxford University’s Turnitin licence

Oxford University has a subscription to the TurnitinUK service, which is supported and informed by JISC. Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS) manages the service and creates instructor accounts for staff members on request. The Turnitin licence allows submission of the work of registered Oxford University students only.

Separate licences can be negotiated for professional use by academics and researchers to screen their own work, or for admissions purposes to screen proposals submitted by prospective students.

1.2. Oxford University’s policy

Oxford University policy currently does not allow student to use the system independently – a tutor or supervisor needs to set up a class and an assignment, either in TurnitinUK, or in WebLearn (see separate section). Once this has been done, papers can be uploaded by students, the tutor or an administrator.

From the University’s Legal office: “Given the disciplinary implications if plagiarism is found, from the point of view of transparency and fairness, all reasonable steps should be taken to alert a student to the fact that his/her work may be subjected to specialist plagiarism detection software. This is in addition to the overall statement included in the student contract which students are required to sign when they are admitted to the university” (email from Legal Services Office, 24/02/2012). Education Committee provides a Declaration of Authorship, which can be used to accompany the submission of summative pieces of work. The Declaration may be modified by departments and faculties according to their own regulations. (See http://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/),

As University guidance currently stands, if departments or colleges plan to use Turnitin to detect possible plagiarism in examined (summative) work, then advance permission from the Proctors is required. (Note: As at March 2012, the guidance from the Proctors is undergoing review and is thus temporarily not available on their website.)

1.3. Originality Reports

After student papers have been submitted and compared to various repositories and databases, an Originality Report (OR) is produced for each submission. The OR highlights parts of the student’s text which match with text already held in the Turnitin and other online databases. An overall score (the similarity index) is assigned recording the percentage of the submitted work which is found elsewhere. Scores can be adjusted to take account of properly quoted text and bibliographies.

“Originality Reports should not be taken as an indication that plagiarism has occurred. They are simply a tool to help an instructor find sources that contain text similar to submitted papers. The decision to deem any work plagiarised must be made carefully, and only after in-depth examination of both the submitted paper and suspect sources in accordance with the standards of the class and institution where the paper was submitted” (Turnitin Instructor Manual, 2010, p. 48).

1.4. Quick submit option

There is a quick submit option in the direct TurnitinUK service, which is useful if a staff member wishes to do a quick check on a small number of papers, without having to set up a class and an assignment.

1.5. Using Turnitin through the WebLearn Assignments tool

Turnitin is enabled via the WebLearn Assignments tool. The assignment must first be set up in a WebLearn site by the staff member (‘maintainer’ of the WebLearn site). Students should already be enrolled in the site as members, and then they can submit their essays. The Originality Report is returned in the Assignment tool within approximately 10-15 minutes.

1.5.1. Advantages of using the WebLearn-Turnitin integration

  • You do not need to request a separate Turnitin account
  • You do not need to create a class in Turnitin
  • You do not need to enrol students directly in a Turnitin class - your students can be easily added as participants in your WebLearn site by importing the course group from a central Oxford University database
  • You do not need to create an assignment in Turnitin – you do this in the WebLearn Assignments tool
  • Students make use of their existing Oxford single sign on (SSO) login details
  • Students submit their own assignments using the WebLearn Assignments tool
  • Turnitin Originality Reports are delivered back to the WebLearn Assignments tool, for analysis and discussion with the student
  • The environment is familiar to students and staff who already use WebLearn

1.5.2. Restrictions on using the WebLearn-Turnitin integration

  • Students are identified by their Oxford single sign on (SSO) login details. Anonymity for examined (summative) work is not enabled.
  • Any re-submissions in the WebLearn assignment do NOT currently go through Turnitin on second or subsequent submissions. This restriction will fall away with the next upgrade of WebLearn.

1.6. Support and Training

Various sources of help and support are available in considering using a software text matching system for both the formative improvement of students’ academic writing skills and for formal detection of possible occurrences of plagiarism.

1.6.1. TurnitinUK website

Use the TurnitinUK website (http://submit.ac.uk) to activate your instructor account, set up classes and assignments, or use the quick submit option.

The TurnitinUK support site (http://submit.ac.uk – click on Support) offers detailed support for instructors and students in the form of Quickstart Guides, User Manuals and Narrated Videos

1.6.2. Plagiarism Advice website

The website www.plagiarismadvice.org offers a wealth of support material, videos and free training webinars on a regular basis, on both pedagogical and technical aspects.

1.6.3. Supporting academic practice and students’ writing

For information regarding supporting students in acquiring academic writing skills, please contact Oxford Learning Institute: email services@learning.ox.ac.uk.

1.6.4. Face-to-face sessions

OUCS offers a variety of classroom sessions each term. The courses are listed under “P” for “Plagiarism” in the A to Z listing: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/itlp/courses/atoz. Bookings open 30 days in advance of the course, but you can express an interest and you will receive an email when bookings open. If any courses are scheduled then they will appear directly below; this list also includes Turnitin User Group meetings.

Wed 22 Oct 2014, 12:30 : Plagiarism: WebLearn and Turnitin
Wed 5 Nov 2014, 12:30 : Plagiarism: Interpreting originality reports using Turnitin
Thu 23 Oct 2014, 14:00 : Plagiarism: Turnitin fundamentals
Fri 10 Oct 2014, 14:00 : Plagiarism: Turnitin User Group

1.6.5. Further reading

Carroll, J. & Appleton, J. (2001). Plagiarism. A good practice guide. JISC. Available at: http://www.plagiarismadvice.org/resources/institutional-approaches/item/carroll-goodpractice-2

Carroll, J. (2002). A handbook for deterring plagiarism in higher education, 2nd ed. Oxford Brookes University: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development. Available at: http://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/ocsld/books/plagiarism.html

Carroll, J. and Appleton, J. (2007) Support and guidance for international students: what is good practice? In Jones, E. and Brown, S. (Eds.) Internationalising the University. Routledge.

Turnitin Instructor Manual (2010). Copyright 1998 – 2010. iParadigms, LLC. Available at http://pages.turnitin.com/rs/iparadigms/images/en_gb_instructor_manual.pdf

1.6.6. Online tools

There are various online tools which can assist you in discussions with students regarding good practice in citations and avoiding plagiarism:

1.7. Useful links