Turnitin.com restored

Teachers encouraged to use program to detect cheating

Aidan Backus, Online Editor

According to Turnitin, this article has a 1% rate of plagiarism, and if you try to copy parts of it and use it in your own paper, your teacher will be the first to know.

Turnitin is an online service that checks students’ submissions against a database of papers, articles, and writings by previous users as well as those found on the rest of the Internet. If it finds evidence that the submission contains passages that are not original work, it highlights them, as well as notifying the student and teacher.

Many teachers consider this tool invaluable because while teachers are able to recognize a student’s “voice,” or style of writing, not all plagiarism is that blatant. While a three percent rate of plagiarism is usually not a cause for alarm, a 30 percent rate is a red flag that the student didn’t write the paper.

Historically, Bear Creek has used Turnitin to ensure the integrity of senior projects and English papers. Last semester, it appeared that the $5,000 per year service would be allowed to expire, and while cheaper options exist, Turnitin is the most effective and most user-friendly.

“I don’t think enough of the staff uses it,” English department head Twilla Cancilla said. “It needs to become part of the school culture [to justify the cost].”

However, at the request of the school’s English teachers, Principal Bill Atterberry renewed the service, provided that it would be used in two papers per semester in English classes and utilized in other disciplines.

While many non-English teachers have yet to require papers to be submitted to Turnitin, they are only too happy to jump on the bandwagon.

“All research papers should use Turnitin.com,” chemistry teacher Steve Meredith said. “It is the wave of the future, and I should join that wave.”

“Would I be interested in using Turnitin? Absolutely,” European History teacher Jason Johnson said. “I would support whatever is good for students and staff,” Johnson currently does not use Turnitin.com but notes that about one in five papers he receives are cited incorrectly.

Simply making errors in MLA formatting is one thing, but breaches of academic integrity are a serious matter, preventing the cheating student from learning the material they are studying, and undermining the worth of grades of students who worked fairly. Just about everyone in the student body is guilty: Turnitin claims that while 96 percent of students cheat or subvert instruction, only 59 percent consider themselves cheaters, and only 25 percent consider themselves in the wrong.

“You think plagiarism is going to get you through college?” freshman Cat Anaya said. “You’re wrong!”

But Turnitin is all-seeing in the world of student papers, and once a user has submitted a paper, the site will know if they or another student attempts to “recycle” it later. Last fall, a student in a Delta College English class used a paper written and submitted by a former Bear Creek student for their AP English class.

Professor Sheli Ayers, the instructor for the course, was disappointed with her student, and said that while the vast majority of students are honest with their work, those who are not are a serious problem.

“The current prime ministers of Russia and Romania both plagiarized their doctoral theses,” Ayers said in an email. “Their fraudulent doctoral degrees helped them in their rise to power. Do we really want to live in that kind of society?”

Teachers also argue that Turnitin is valuable to instruction rather than simply a means to push troublemakers.

“What’s productive about Turnitin is that it allows students to see what they may have plagiarised by accident,” English teacher Laura Brooke said.

Plagiarism is indeed often accidental, the result of sloppy, late-night attempts at quoting (and subsequently failing to cite one’s sources).

Whether its benefits are accidental or intentional, the expanded use of Turnitin will stop more maliciously-minded students from outright undermining the educational system, and will prevent rushed students from citing their sources incorrectly.