What is Turnitin?
Turnitin is a web-based tool that compares submitted work with a number of sources in its database to identify where text matches occur with
- the current and archived web;
- previously submitted work;
- books and journals.
The system generates a detailed originality report which indicates those external sources that contain text from the submitted work. Turnitin does not determine whether plagiarism has occurred – this can only be determined by an academic member of staff after interpreting the report.
Turnitin can be used either by setting up a Turnitin assignment in QMplus, or by using Turnitin’s own website www.turnitinuk.com
There are a number of benefits associated with using Turnitin that account for its wide use in QMUL and the HE sector more generally.
- It is a quick and effective way to check student work against multiple sources.
- It is particularly effective at identifying ‘cut and paste’ offences and will enable schools to pick up more cases of this kind of plagiarism.
- It can identify instances of collusion or copying within a cohort, or between current and previous submissions, which can be very difficult for a marker to spot alone
- The originality report identifies the source of matched text and is a straightforward way to generate the evidence needed to support plagiarism cases at an assessment offences panel.
- It can be an effective deterrent to those who might be tempted to plagiarise as it increases the chance they will be caught.
- It can be used as a tool to educate students on the issues surrounding plagiarism and improve their academic writing.
There are a number of caveats to the benefits above that those using Turnitin should be cognisant of.
- Turnitin does not have access to every word ever written. Its database is large and growing but it does not have agreements with all publishers for their content and so will miss instances of matched text. The company does not disclose which content it has access to.
- Turnitin cannot detect all instances of plagiarism – such as original work that is not the work of the student. It therefore cannot replace traditional methods of detecting plagiarism and can end up adding to workload rather than easing it.
- The report requires interpretation. Where reports are judged solely on percentage thresholds, false negatives and false positives will be identified and the system will not be effective.
These limitations are straightforward for individuals to overcome once they are familiar with interpreting a Turnitin report.
This video gives an overview of Turnitin, how it works and some comments from QMUL staff about how it is of use to them and their students.
The following guides in our Help and Support section are useful for those getting started with Turnitin:
- What is Turnitin? – this guide gives more detail about how Turnitin works
- How is Turnitin used at Queen Mary? – more information on how Turnitin is used at QMUL
- Setting up a Turnitin assignment – how to set up a Turnitin assignment on QMplus
- Assignments – QMplus vs Turnitin – a description of the differences between a standard QMplus assignment and a Turnitin assignment.