Best Practices

The main value of Turnitin (or other text-matching software) is its use as a formative educational tool to help raise awareness and educate students about plagiarism, and to provide a source of formative feedback on their writing.

University of London faculty explain their experiences using TurnItIn, in this course preview video, courtesy of Coursera: Panel Discussion – Avoiding Plagiarism

The news article Turn it in – for a learning opportunity encourages educators to view and promote the value of software detection programs in the draft stage of essay writing, as an aid in formative assessment and learner skill development.

Turnitin Use at a Canadian University concludes that since students report finding value in being able to see their Similarity report and make changes before submitting their final assignments for grading,  that the use of Turnitin® for formative self-assessment should be encouraged.

The following lists provide guidance for using Turnitin formatively with students and the benefits of using such an approach.

Best practice for using Turnitin formatively with students:

  • Use anonymised Similarity Reports to prompt discussion in class or tutorials around academic writing and plagiarism
  • Encourage students to use their Similarity Reports as feedback on their writing by examining text in their work that Turnitin has identified as coming from a source in its database and to look at how that section of text has been referenced. This provides an opportunity for students to rectify their work by correctly paraphrasing, quoting, citing and referencing the source.
  • Develop an awareness in students that the Turnitin will only match against online sources, and that they need to ensure that ideas or information taken from printed sources such as books need to be referenced in the same way.
  • Use Similarity Reports to identify at-risk students and provide remedial action by inviting individual students to discuss their work and provide guidance with no punitive action taken as a result.
  • Ensure your students have sufficient time to receive and act upon their Turnitin feedback, as Similarity Reports may take up to 24 hours to generate during busy times.

Benefits for students of taking a formative approach:

  • An equitable way of providing feedback on academic writing.
  • An opportunity to undertake remedial action before their final summative submission with no punitive action taken as a result.
  • Similarity Reports can help students in locating additional sources.
  • Deters students who may be considering cheating/plagiarising.
  • Increases awareness and the level of debate around academic integrity, and demonstrates the importance and seriousness of this issue.
  • Perceived as a more objective and effective way of identifying possible plagiarism than individual academic judgement alone.

(adapted from: Sheffield Hallam University, n.d.)