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  • Writer's pictureKAIT BEDELL

Turnitin tool to be used in some courses

As the community begins the fall semester, Provost Chrystal Porter announced the university will introduce the use of Turnitin in some classes.

The announcement, which was issued on Sept. 14, said the tool is one of the most prominent resources within higher education and that its purpose is to “help identify text similarities and problematic source use.”

Porter stated in the email the use of the tool will be at the discretion of individual professors, and its purpose is to provide more learning opportunities.

“The philosophy that we’re taking as an institution is not to use it as a punitive device where some institutions it is,” Porter said in an interview.

Porter said the tool is intended to find similarities between texts, and it is not capable of actually detecting plagiarism. For this reason, the university will not be implementing a Turnitin policy.

Assistant Professor of Writing and Writing Program Director Greg Cass said it is important that professors understand Turnitin should not be the sole plagiarism detection tool, rather professors still need to be thorough.

“So one thing I’ve really tried to stress with all the faculty I’ve worked with it on and I think I want to keep repeating to students, is Turnitin is a tool that is known as a plagiarism checker, but actually can’t detect plagiarism,” Cass said. “It detects similarity, which is something that all of us have to get used to.”

In addition to Turnitin not being capable of detecting plagiarism on its own, Cass said many plagiarism cases are accidental. Although Cass said the plagiarism policies at the university will remain the same, he said he thinks Turnitin will create more conversations about the issue.

“I think plagiarism discussions, academic honesty discussions, are always teachable moments,” Cass said.

Cass said in some situations, it is clear a student intentionally cheated by plagiarism and there are rules in effect to prevent those individuals from doing so, but there are also a lot of misunderstandings with students about properly citing.

“So I think those teachable moments should happen between the professors and the students whenever that happens, and it should be a way to have a better conversation…” Cass said.

Although Cass said he did not think there was necessarily a surge in plagiarism cases, there was an increasing need for it with online learning advancing.

Cass said the university first saw a need for the tool within the graduate programs, as these courses rely on remote learning. Additionally, the university felt that it was important to adapt with the technology advancements taking place, particularly with Artificial Intelligence.

Most cases of plagiarism Cass has seen are unintentional but he said the most important part about handling cases such as these is finding out why the student did it.

“We try to think of plagiarism as a symptom, not a disease,” Cass said. “So when a student plagiarized, it’s a symptom of something bigger…Those are the things that I think the threat of Turnitin can turn that into a more valuable conversation where a student can approach a faculty member and explain their situation and how to get help.”

As the university introduces this new tool, Cass said he welcomes any feedback from students and faculty.

“We want to hear what’s working for you and what’s not working for you and especially if you have a bad experience with somebody using Turnitin, I want to hear about it because I want to know how we can improve that engagement,” Cass said. “It really is not meant to be a gotcha thing. It’s meant to help us all in this increasingly complex world kind of figure out what are the boundaries and where we’re making mistakes.”


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