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TurnItIn.com and Plagiarism

March 15, 2009
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[The comment below was in response to “False Positives on Plagiarism“–a truly uninspired article about some of the presentations at the latest CCCCs convention in San Fransisco]

I have used TII.com well before it was cool, and I will continue.  Here’s why:

  • Students need/like to see a visual of their work, especially if you are providing critical feedback.  For example, is your student overly relying on the ideas of others?  If there is more than 50% of the text in quotes (which will be highlighted, mostly likely, in the report), you can them, being the supportive writing instructor you are, point out that an audience likes to hear original ideas, not a string of quotations…or the like.
  • Web pages are plagiarized from other web pages (run Wikipedia through the mill and see its percentage).  That’s fine.  The web site on my TII report may not be the one copied, but it puts me on the hunt
  • The professor who comments that such a low percentage of students plagiarize as to not need this service isn’t catching the offenders
  • I can point out, in vivid color, that a writer needs better transitions between her quotes, or needs to review the use of quotes, etc…
  • Not all plagiarism is intention (I would estimate only about 1 in 10 is intentional), but all instances need to be flagged–they are, after all, in school to learn, among other things, how to write
  • I have my students sign themselves up and submit every paper to both myself (via BlackBoard) and to TII.  That way there is no mistaking my use of it.
  • I would rather my students be a little cautious (is this an example of plagiarism…OR…my god, my report says 30% unoriginal, will that hurt me?) than blase
  • TII is a tool, much like a thesaurus or a word processor–know and share its use, acknowledge its place, and focus on getting better content.

Finally, TII needs to do a better job at educating the professorate on how to use it effective.  I would hasten to work for a University who took action on just a TII Originality Report.  How might this come about?  Sally Elliot can e-mail me.  I have lots of ideas.

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4 Comments
  1. March 15, 2009 11:24 pm

    It’s interesting that you note that TII is now supposedly “cool.” Not here in Quebec, where its use is illegal. What students should also be told about TII — and this is one of the key arguments against its adoption here — is that by submitting their work to TII it is then added to this *commercial* service’s database, for free, without any compensation to them. As labour cannot be coerced, nor can labour be done without remuneration, it is an illegal practice. I am sure it would be too in your parts, if it were brought to trial.

    These concerns over plagiarism would have us become policemen, and all students suspects. I prefer to debate the concept of plagiarism, which to me seems tied to another very questionable property norm: copyright. I do not agree with simply transcribing someone’s work without giving them recognition, but in practice policies against plagiarism go well beyond that simple acknowledgment alone. Have a look at my university’s policy, and see how complicated, confusing and subjective it gets toward the bottom of the page — not the part on paraphrasing as plagiarism, even with full attribution:

    http://provost.concordia.ca/academicintegrity/plagiarism/

    Cheers.

  2. March 15, 2009 11:25 pm

    sorry, I meant NOTE the part on paraphrasing, a typo.

  3. March 17, 2009 5:09 am

    Dear PPProf, Pls contact me ASAP. I am Tii’s marketing person and would love to hear your ideas about how to better educate the professorate about effective instructional uses of Tii. In that vein, have you checked out our new WriteCycle Academy webinars? These totally FREE professional development seminars are given once a week. There are 4 different instructional integration topics such as “Teaching the Writing process with WriteCycle”. They are interesting, lively, highly interactive and VERY informative. Go to Turnitin.com and click on WriteCycle Academy. I look forward to talking to you. Cheers, /kp

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