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TurnItIn.com and its use.

October 3, 2006

[This is a cross-post to Dean Dad’s discussion of TurnItIt.com and academic policing.]

I have used TII for about 5 years now.  Given that I teach writing, I have found it a singularly important tool in teaching how to cite.  I have my students create their own log-on (this way they know the tool I am using), post their papers and view their reports.  

I then use any “hits” as a teachable moment. If they see a “hit” before I do or before the due date, then I allow them to resubmit.  I have had great success.

I have also used it in some literature courses, employing the same tactics.  If the students know that they are going to be held accountable (in this method it moves from a gotcha unknown to a “tool” to help them determine just what is and what is not acceptable citations.  

Does it prevent the serious student from submitting a rework of a prior paper?  Yes, and I am ok with that.  I also assign topics that require original work, so I find this to be of low to no occurrence.

One final thought: the reports are to be interpreted…just because I get a line highlighted, I don’t necessarily assume the student lifted it from the linked site.  I have had false hits (common phrases—even of some length: i.e. government titles, etc.) which makes, again, an opportunity for discussion.  Would I be so free with these discussion opportunities if I were teaching something other than writing?  I would hope so, given that almost all academic endeavors engage in it to some degree—AND—a student/professor will be judged on his or her ability to adhere to the common writing practices.

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