Turnitin

What is Turnitin?  
Turnitin is a suite of tools which includes the Originality Checking tool. Though there are more functions within the suite of tools, the originality checking element is most often referred to as Turnitin. At Plymouth University, the use of Turnitin with students as an aid to skills development in academic writing has been strongly encouraged, particularly in referencing and citation.
In the current academic year Turnitin has been switched on by default, for electronic submissions using the Assignment activity in Moodle. As the default is to make Turnitin reports available to students when they submit their work, and to allow submissions to be updated until the coursework deadline, the constructive use for skills development by students should continue and grow.
How does it work? 
Turnitin creates a report indicating which text in the submitted document is similar to text found in a variety of sources: web pages, electronic journals and student submissions. By highlighting the original material and providing a direct link to similar material in the sources, Turnitin makes it relatively simple to check whether material has been correctly cited. A similarity score for the entire document is also generated, as a percentage, indicating proportionally how much of the document is similar to text found in one or more other sources.
What does the score mean? what is an ‘acceptable’ score? 
The similarity score generated by Turnitin is strongly dependent on the context of the assignment. For example, an essay that predominantly focuses on personal reflection is likely to have a very low score, whereas an assignment critiquing the writings of Shakespeare is likely to contain many references, and will therefore have a high score. There can be no set rule as to what should be deemed as an acceptable or unacceptable score. However, a similarity score that shows as an outlier, when considering the submissions of a group of students, may well indicate poor citation or some other problem with that piece of work.

Advice for using Turnitin with students:

  • Make students aware that Turnitin is available on their coursework submission as a learning aid.
  • Advise students that the percentage similarity score has little significance. The report should be used to check referencing and citation.

Advice for staff using Turnitin:

  • Turnitin is an indicator and not an absolute measuring system.
  • As a rough guide, look for outliers in similarity scores. These may indicate students that have referenced more or less frequently, or have had other issues with correct referencing and citation.

How can I find out more about Turnitin? 
ASTI currently runs a Talking about Turnitin session, which staff can book to attend.
If there are no suitable dates available and there is a group of 5 or more that wish to do the session, please email asti@plymouth.ac.uk.
View the online companion for the Talking about Turnitin course.

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