UMGC Library

Turnitin FAQ

Effective January 2020, Turnitin has been integrated into online classrooms.

Getting Started

 

About Turnitin


What is Turnitin?

Turnitin is a service integrated into LEO Classrooms that can find and highlight matching or unoriginal text in a written assignment. It compares text in a document against a large database of electronic academic materials which it indexes and stores. Many or most faculty have enabled assignments for Turnitin in the LEO Classroom. Turnitin checks the assignment against its database of materials to look for matches or near-matches in strings of text. Turnitin then generates an Similarity Report online. The Similarity Report summarizes and highlights matching text.

Students find the Similarity Report useful for editing papers that include too much unquoted verbatim text from sources, indicating a need for effective paraphrasing. Students who need help with this skill can visit the Effective Writing Center. Faculty find the Similarity Report useful as a tool to teach students proper citation practices and highlight the need for students to create more authentic work that shows their understanding and mastery of course material. Faculty can also use Turnitin as a tool to detect possible instances of plagiarism.

It is up to the users of Turnitin to analyze and interpret matching text in the Similarity Report. Help screens within the Turnitin interface go into more detail.

See Interpreting the Similarity Report.

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What are UMGC's guidelines for faculty using Turnitin?

As of January 2020, UMGC is using Turnitin through its integrated version in the LEO Classroom. Use of Turnitin is not mandatory but is encouraged because of its value as a teaching and learning tool. Faculty guidelines are to use the richness of the Similarity Report to understand strengths and potential weaknesses in students’ papers. Faculty (and students) are instructed to not draw conclusions from the Similarity Score by itself and to avoid using or advertising a set cutoff score for student work to be considered “acceptable.” See more information at Faculty Guidelines for Using Turnitin.

See Turnitin Resources for Faculty on the ENGAGE Page of the Office of Academic Integrity and Accountability.

  • Faculty Providing Notice to Students
    In all classes, you must notify your students that the Turnitin service will be used through integration into assignment folders in the LEO Classroom. For online courses, the language below will appear by default in the academic policies section of your syllabus. You should also place an announcement in the class announcements section. A sample announcement is found in the Full User Guide for Program Directors and Faculty on the OAIA’s ENGAGE page. For face-to-face courses, place the notice in your syllabus and verbally inform students of the service during the first class meeting. This notice will appear in the academic policies section of your syllabus:

    Syllabus Language:
    Your instructor and other UMGC staff may use Turnitin or other technology resources to support the development and assessment of authentic student writing. To learn more about Turnitin, the feedback it provides, and your options regarding the inclusion of your work in the Turnitin database, visit University guides for Turnitin at 
    http://www.umgc.edu/library/libresources/turnitin-students.cfm and 
    http://www.umgc.edu/library/libresources/turnitin.cfm#studentcopyright.

Faculty: Please do not submit papers prepared by UMGC students to other plagiarism service providers not supported by UMGC.

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How can Turnitin be used as a teaching and learning tool?

The integrated version of Turnitin provides students with an Similarity Report shortly after submission of an assignment in an assignment folder. Students can either use a draft folder created by faculty or an early submission to the assignment folder to check their work on Turnitin. The Similarity Report shows where a student needs to substitute use of verbatim text from sources with properly paraphrased (and cited) explanations. Faculty can provide students with guidance based on areas where students may be struggling to explain difficult concepts from course materials and/or from outside sources in their own words and writing style.

Note to Faculty: Consult the section of the Full User Guide for Program Directors and Faculty on the OAIA’s ENGAGE for how to set up a draft folder where students can access Turnitin prior to submitting to the assignment folder. The User Guide also includes other pointers about using Turnitin as a teaching and learning tool. This Turnitin webinar is a walkthrough of how to support student development with Turnitin.

Note to Students: If the Similarity Report for your first draft shows a high percentage of matching text, for example, review and edit your assignment for proper citation and the need to paraphrase ideas. Paraphrasing includes not just using your own words, but also explaining concepts in your own writing style that matches your explanations in the rest of your paper. Include more original analysis and comment, then submit to the draft or assignment folder again. The Effective Writing Center is an excellent resource for getting help with paraphrasing.

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How does Turnitin work?

Turnitin uses data-mining to compile a large database of electronic academic materials that it indexes and stores. As of January 2020, we are using the version of Turnitin that is integrated directly in assignment folders in the LEO Classroom. Once a document is submitted to an assignment folder, Turnitin checks the new submission against its database of materials to look for matches or near-matches in strings of text. The results are available directly in the assignment folder; a student or faculty member only needs to click the Similarity Score to get the full Similarity Report. If the same student submits multiple times to the same assignment folder, Turnitin will not count the 2nd, 3rd, or subsequent submissions as similar to the first. We have supplied faculty with instructions for setting up a draft folder to allow students to check work prior to submitting to assignment folders.

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How complete is Turnitin?

Turnitin has a database of over a million papers and assignments sent to them by students and teachers, a digitized version of the Gutenberg Collection of Literary Classics, and papers pulled from the Internet and various "paper mills," (i.e., services that sell term papers). However, the Turnitin database currently does not search books or articles in subscription databases available through the UMGC Library Databases. It may not find matching text from those sources or from subscription database such as The New York Times on the Web unless those materials also appear in assignments previously sent to Turnitin. For those resources, it is best to search the UMGC Library Databases and/or supplement your Turnitin review by using a Web search engine (e.g., Ask, Google, etc.)

The Faculty Guidelines for Using Turnitin to detect possible plagiarism provide the following cautionary notes about completeness:

When a paper is evaluated, Turnitin provides similarity reports which tell you that text in the evaluated project or paper is similar to or identical to text Turnitin has in its database. Faculty must still evaluate the quality of the report independently and determine if the parts identified by Turnitin that are similar or identical, are actually plagiarized text. This is because all matches are shown, even those where students cited properly. As a result, faculty must critique the report they receive, use their best judgment and follow University policy before approaching a student about possible plagiarism.

Similarly, if a paper is reported as "original" by Turnitin, that is not necessarily airtight evidence that the paper is original. Instead, it may mean that the student plagiarized from a work that is not available in the Turnitin database. If a faculty member has a concern, and strongly suspects plagiarism, it is best to email integrity@umuc.edu to consult about the situation. No database is entirely comprehensive, and many sources are not available in digital format. Therefore, plagiarism can occur and be undetectable by services such as Turnitin.

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Are student papers kept confidential?

Yes. Faculty are not permitted to release student assignments either to other UMGC faculty or to faculty from other institutions. If a faculty member receives a request for permission to release a student's assignment, faculty shall deny the request. The UMGC license with Turnitin specifies a privacy pledge in accordance with FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The U.S. Department of Education's FERPA Regulations give the requirements on the confidentiality of student records and information. [edit note: using aliases is no longer relevant in the integrated version]

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What about student copyright?

The UMGC license with Turnitin also specifies that students retain copyright to their submitted assignments and that the assignments will be stored only for the duration of UMGC's contract with Turnitin and solely for the purpose of using such papers as source material to prevent plagiarism of such papers.

The University has a license agreement with Turnitin, an educational tool that helps prevent or identify plagiarism from Internet resources. The instructor may use the service in the UMGC class by using the integrated version of Turnitin that is embedded directly in assignment folders in the LEO Classroom. The Turnitin Similarity Report will indicate the amount of original text in the students' work and whether all material that was quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source was cited as appropriate.

If Turnitin is enabled in any given assignment in the LEO Classroom, Turnitin will ordinarily store that assignment in its database. The assignment will be checked to see if there is any match between that work and other material stored in Turnitin's database. If the student objects to long-term storage of their work in the Turnitin database, the student must let the instructor know no later than two weeks after the start of the class so that the instructor can make appropriate arrangements. The student has two options regarding the assignment being stored in the Turnitin database. One, if the student does nothing then the assignment will be stored in the Turnitin database for the duration of UMGC's contract with Turnitin. Two, the student can ask the instructor to have Turnitin store the assignment only for the duration of the semester or term, then have the assignment deleted from the Turnitin database once the class is over.

Faculty who need assistance setting up options should consult with an Office of Academic Integrity & Accountability staff member by emailing integrity@umuc.edu.

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Can students revise work that they submit to Turnitin?

This is up to the instructor. In some classes, students may revise their submissions to Turnitin to try to lower the score on the Similarity Report. For this reason, we instruct faculty to avoid use of a set cutoff Turnitin score. This can lead to a student focused on the score over the learning from the assignment. In other classes, revision may not be an option for students. Students should check assignment requirements to know if their first submission is going to be final or not.

Depending on how the instructor sets up assignments, three things may occur.

  1. Some instructors will set up assignments so that the first submission is going to be final. No revisions will be allowed.
  2. Some instructors will set up assignments so that students can submit their work but then overwrite it with edits and corrections until the due date. Integrated Turnitin works with multiple submissions to the same assignment folder in LEO Classrooms.
  3. Finally, some instructors will set up a draft folder, a different type of a draft process, or a formal revision process so that students can review their work, edit it, and resubmit revised drafts within minutes. To understand what is possible in any given course, consult assignment guidelines and classroom announcements. If you are not sure, email your instructor for clarification.

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What about group projects in Turnitin?

If you are part of a group working on a project that is submitted to an assignment folder where Turnitin is enabled (i.e., present), appoint a team captain to submit the project on behalf of all the team members. If each team member submits the project, then of course Turnitin will detect that you are matching one another. Consult with your instructor to clarify expectations.

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How long does a Turnitin check take?

Initial Submissions/First Drafts
Similarity Reports will be available within minutes when it is embedded in an assignment folder. Allow at least 15 minutes to get your report just in case there is any delay in Turnitin processing.

Revised Drafts
See Can students revise work that they submit to Turnitin? All submissions to assignment folders will get an Similarity Report shortly after submitting. Allow at least 15 minutes to get your report just in case there is any delay in Turnitin processing.

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Where do I go for technical help?

UMGC’s Technical Support is prepared to help faculty and students with integrated Turnitin. Contact them first in any situation where you are having a problem.

If you have tried technical support and they have not been able to solve a problem, email with your Support Ticket number to integrity@umuc.edu.

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Need help?

UMGC’s Technical Support is prepared to help faculty and students with integrated Turnitin. Contact them first in any situation where you are having a problem.