Turnitin Turn-Ons?

Rebecca Moore “Schenectady Synecdoche” Howard, who has published quite a bit on issues having to do with plagiarism, tells the story of using Turnitin.com for the first time. As she explains, it turns out that she largely plagiarized herself.

We have a site license for Turnitin.com at EMU, and there has been some controversy about its use– the usual issues having to do with the “policing” function, ownership of the text, etc. I have used Turnitin.com a grand total of one time, and I used it to help me vet a couple of student essays I am (hopefully) including in my textbook as examples. These were already good essays and these students were long done with my class, so it wasn’t me trying to play policeman. I just needed to go through both essays to make sure everything was fine.

Now, maybe it was because I was working with some strong examples, but I found Turnitin pretty useless. I mean, all it did was highlight parts of the essays where the students include quotes. Sorta. Big deal.

3 thoughts on “Turnitin Turn-Ons?”

  1. I recently submitted my first assignment which was a literature review to my Qual Research Professor. I worked extremely hard on that paper. I spent hours at the library, retained the help of a tutor, and sent countless hours burning the midnight oil only to come up with a paper I was extremely proud of. I felt like an accomplished author, and was motivated beyond reason to approach my next assignment.
    I received an email from my professor today that took the wind out of my sail. My professor told me that over 40 percent of my paper was plagiarized. I thought it was funny at first, but after I checked my grade and noticed he gave me a zero, he said that I will receive an F for the course and could well be dropped from the school.
    I have not used one word of plagiarism. I was careful to cite my sources, I read each one and made sure to quote direct words. I and my friend, who is also working on her PhD visited the library, We milled through several articles, collected research and I headed home to my house compiled what I had collected into a pretty decent paper.
    To get an email from my professor calling me dishonest – that is what plagiarism is – hurts, makes me angry, and unmotivated. I am dropping out of the program, consulting an attorney and will see this through. Turnitin is not infallible and it is time that everyone stop treating it as though it were. Turnitin is ruining honest people’s lives.

  2. I do not think that Turnitin ruins people’s lives. All Turnitin can do is identify instances of matching text. Shay’s story about working hard on a paper only to find that 40% of the text matches other sources is unfortunate. Only teachers can be responsible for identifying plagiarism, as opposed to matching text in the form of quotations or complete coincidence.

  3. I, too, have had a recent experience with turnitin. I am working on a doctorate and completed a pretty comprehensive literature review on a topic relating to my degree. I received a call from the instructor with the news that there were three areas of concern in the paper that turned up when she submitted it to turnitin. Prior to that she was ready to give me an A and said it was one of the best papers she had read! I went back to the sources that I used to determine the problems without success. I asked the professor if she was able to find the problem areas herself and she admitted that she had not tried to do that; that she was basing her feedback on the turnitin results. I elimated those parts of the paper (as they were very minor) and resubmitted and got an A.

    I wonder if it there is a way that students can get a license to turnitin and screen their own papers before they turn them in???

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