Turnitin's response to recent posts discussing proper pedagogy

Hello, all -

My name is Michael Bruton, and I have worked with educational institutions to assist in the implementation of Turnitin for about three years -

I would like to publicly respond to the allegations that were raised in the post entitled "Issues Raised by Use of Turnitin Plagiarism Detection Software" (located at http://cyberdash.com/plagiarism-detection-software-issues-gvsu, authored by Charlie Lowe, Ellen Schendel and Julie White) - I wrote a personal response to the authors yesterday evening and I was asked to post the response in a public forum to encourage dialogue, which I wholeheartedly support.  I would like this to be a springboard for discussing all of the issues raised in the aforementioned post.  I would also like this discussion to have as much visibility as possible, as I feel that the *misuse* of Turnitin can lead to many of the issues raised in the post but I feel strongly that the proper use of Turnitin can add tremendous value to both students and educators.  I am firmly committed to ensuring that we spread our 'recommended best practices' to as many people as possible.  Unfortunately, our company has spent very little time in working to change some of the ways that Turnitin is promoted in our promotional materials (this will be changing very soon), and I can see how that can lead to misconceptions regarding the most effective ways to use our service.  I strongly encourage you (the reader) to forward portions of this discussion to faculty members who are using Turnitin as you see fit - we are working to add many of these recommendations to our website so that they will have a broader audience, but I appreciate your support in assisting with this grass-roots effort.

Below, please find my response to the authors - I am looking forward to a very fruitful discussion.  Please note that this is *not* my responsibility at Turnitin in any way, shape, or form, so my responses may be delayed as this is a 'personal project' that I am undertaking - but I feel that it is an extremely important project as our service is now being used by millions of people at most levels of academia (starting in primary education and extending into the post-doctoral setting).  Thank you for your time and potential participation!


Dear Charlie, Ellen and Julie -

My name is Michael Bruton, and I have been helping institutions of higher
education effectively implement Turnitin for the past few years -

I'd like to respond to your recent post on Cyberdash ("Issues Raised by Use
of Turnitin Plagiarism Detection Software") - I unfortunately do not have
the time to write a much longer response at this point (the beginning of the
semester is extremely busy for us), but I will be happy to enter into an
interactive dialogue with you and your faculty, and I am willing to follow
up with a deeper response as time becomes available.

I would like to share a response that I co-wrote for a reply to a discussion
amongst the membership of the American Library Association (which I believe
may also have been used for a Writing Center Listserv) - I hate to recycle
content that may not be fully targeted to your concerns, but it covers a lot
of ground and I think that it may be helpful in explaining our point of
view.  I am also going to include comments from a TRIO training at the
University of Washington (and elsewhere) as they speak to this message as
well.  Finally, I am enclosing the link to a summary from the 2nd
International Plagiarism Conference (held in the UK) - there are many, many
customer stories that are specifically focused on the educational value of
using Turnitin, especially when students are allowed to presubmit their work
and use Turnitin as a learning tool.

First, the response from earlier this year:

"The allegation that use of Turnitin impedes rather than promotes learning
is one we take very seriously. Turnitin was created to help make the
internet a safer place for research and collaborative learning. Like other
educational tools such as course management systems, films, and even
textbooks, its successful application in the classroom is to a great part
dependent on the skill and motivation of those educators who use it.

Turnitin is not designed to replace instruction. As any educator knows,
teaching students how to read thoughtfully, write fluently, and cite
properly is an inherently complex and difficult task. There is no software,
book, or automated process that can ever replace a dedicated teacher.
However, today's increased student access to media of all kinds poses
special challenges to even the most determined of educators. While the
internet has made productive and valuable research easier than ever, it has
also undoubtedly made bad research, poor citation, and outright plagiarism
into more significant issues than they have been in the past.  Turnitin is
valuable because it helps relieve hard-working educators of the added burden
of validating the originality of student work. Like any system, it is not
foolproof-- the sheer magnitude and dynamic nature of available sources make
any "perfect system" an impossibility. But while it may not be perfect,
Turnitin has proven to be an enormously effective antidote to plagiarism
when used responsibly, especially in conjunction with time-honored, good
teaching practices.

Turnitin will not make an ineffective teacher into an effective one, nor
will it teach students quality writing and research skills by itself.
Turnitin should not be used as a 'catch-all' that allows teachers to create
inadequate assignments, nor should a seatbelt be used as a license to drive
recklessly - they may both minimize the damage caused by improper methods,
but neither should be viewed as a solution to said methods.  As knowledge
workers, teachers should always be focused on improving the design and
delivery of education, and this is an overarching goal that leads to
incremental improvement.  For unintentional plagiarists, Turnitin can help
to identify and correct educational deficiencies, which will assist the
student in their academic endeavors.  For intentional plagiarists, Turnitin
will assist in identifying unoriginal work so as to assist teachers in their
due diligence process, and will allow teachers to determine the appropriate
corrective actions.  And for out-and-out cheaters, Turnitin provides a
mechanism to identify fraudulent work and to ensure that honest students are
not penalized by the dishonest actions of their peers.  All of this is
within the control of the Turnitin user - Turnitin will not determine how
much content can be attributed before the students' voice can no longer be
found in the paper, nor will Turnitin determine the level of unattributed
text that should lead to some form of academic sanction - but it will
provide the raw data that can assist teachers in making these decisions. 

We do agree that "Faculty and students alike will be much better served by a
focus on how academic writing is produced rather than an arbitrary emphasis
on the proper use of quotations"; however, we feel that these are both valid
concerns, and that one cannot be addressed without considering the other.
The Western way of thinking depends on the attribution of intellectual
property (words, thoughts and ideas), and this is the basis for most
academic research in the Western world.  In order to work within this
environment, a student must be able to understand and apply the basic rules
of citation.  Turnitin has been proven to assist in this endeavor, and the
use of Turnitin during the early stages of a writing curriculum can help to
ensure adhesion to common rules and guidelines during the student's academic
career.  Beyond this assistance, Turnitin will also help to expose gross
academic dishonesty, which is a growing problem on college campuses across
the United States.  The Center for Academic Integrity has recently released
the results of Don McCabe's latest research - the first quote addresses the
perception of the need for proper citation, and the second quote highlights
the problem of academic misconduct.  The quotes are as follows:

"In the absence of clear direction from faculty, most students have
concluded that 'cut & paste' plagiarism - using a sentence or two (or more)
from different sources on the Internet and weaving this information together
into a paper without appropriate citation - is not a serious issue. While
10% of students admitted to engaging in such behavior in 1999, almost 40%
admit to doing so in the Assessment Project surveys. A majority of students
(77%) believe such cheating is not a very serious issue. " (Don McCabe,
posted at http://www.academicintegrity.org/cai_research.asp)

"On most campuses, 70% of students admit to some cheating. Close to
one-quarter of the participating students admitted to serious test cheating
in the past year and half admitted to one or more instances of serious
cheating on written assignments."  (Don McCabe, posted at

As you can see from the first quote, students are agreeing that 'the
arbitrary emphasis on the proper use of quotations' is not important, and -
quite frankly - that is mildly alarming in and of itself.  However, the
second quote highlights one of the larger problems, which is the rapid rise
in academic dishonesty in America (and, anecdotally, across the planet) -
with self-reported results (over 50,000 students were surveyed to obtain
these metrics) that show a 70% rate of 'some cheating' and a 50% rate of
'serious cheating', this issue merits the term 'epidemic' and requires the
full attention of Academic Affairs in order to protect the value of the
degrees that are granted by the affected institutions. 

In summation, Turnitin is a valuable tool that will assist in identifying
both unintentional/intentional plagiarism *and* gross academic misconduct.
This tool will save untold hours of manual research, and will help to ensure
that large-scale issues do not 'slip between the cracks', but the tool still
requires the guidance of an experienced instructor and is best deployed in
conjunction with an intelligent curriculum and an engaged teacher.  There is
nothing that will replace a motivated teacher, but there are definitely
resources that can be used to help leverage their strengths. "

The comment from TRIO is as follows:

"Turnitin's services are highlighted in all trainings provided by TRIO
Training at the University of Washington and are a centerpiece within the
teaching resources of our TRIO Quest online activities. TRIO programs are
federally funded services for underrepresented students with the sole
purpose of preparing them for success in higher education. The topics of
intellectual honesty and appropriate attribution are a priority for our
training of TRIO staff and students. Although we provide numerous resources
and tutorials on our web site, Turnitin is one of the most powerful teaching
tools that we use.

One of the best examples of using Turnitin as a teaching tool within our
training is during one of our TRIO Quest activities, TRIO ThinkQuest (TTQ).
TTQ is a national competition for middle and high school students who
participate in TRIO programs. This competition challenges students to
research, write, and create educational web sites. Students and staff are
instructed to use our plagiarism resources because sites will be submitted
to Turnitin for plagiarism check. Once we receive the originality reports
from Turnitin, we share the results with our staff and students. For our
students, being able to see a highlighted line that is similar or exact to
another document gives us that "teaching moment" to illustrate how to quote
and cite properly in order to maintain academic integrity. Almost always,
students will gasp in surprise when they see the report and then nod
emphatically as they see how a problem area can be corrected with proper

Because technology makes it easier to find sources, and even easier to copy
and paste information, Turnitin plays an extremely important role in helping
our students understand intellectual honesty. The visual strength of
Turnitin's reports allows our students to literally see the similarities
between their writing and others on one page. Along with the teaching
moments that result from reports, we are seeing less and less plagiarism
within our educational web site competition." - Sharon Primm-Dayot,
Curriculum Coordinator, University of Washington

The link to the Plagiarism Conference is:

We have an extensive customer base in the UK and in Australia, and our
experience has been that those nations are (generally) much more advanced in
their usage of our service than many schools in the United States.  The
proactive use of Turnitin by students has been in place in those locations
for a few years, and the ability to use Turnitin to create a 'teaching
moment' has been very successful.  In addition, it completely changes the
students' reaction to Turnitin as it becomes a tool that can help *avoid
plagiarism-related issues* instead of a black-box tool that is aimed at
'catching and penalizing students'.
I appreciate your comments, and I feel that you are trying to work towards
the common good - I hope that these 'alternative' ways of using Turnitin
(which should not be alternative, and which we will be promoting much more
heavily in the future) display that Turnitin can be used in a way that is
aligned with your mission.

I look forward to hearing back from you.  Thank you for your time!





First of all, thank you for the public comments. Secondly, as a writing teacher who helps other teachers in other disciplines understand how to incorporate writing assignments in their courses, I have the following to say.

You are right in saying that, in and of itself, Turnitin will not make an in effective teacher effective and vice versa. But, the availability of your service on campuses encourages the creation of sloppy writing assignments.

Here is what I mean. The "default" and much criticized writing assignment on many campuses has been the "generic" research paper. The deficiencies of this kind of writing task are so plentiful that it would take be several posts here just to name a few. These things are especially plentiful in non-writing classes whose teachers feel that they "have" to have some writing component, but don't really know how to create an effective writing assignment. Unscrupulous students (1-2 per term, perhaps) steal the paper from schoolsucks.com or osme other such site. The teacher catches them using Turnitin and feels good about that. In the meanitime, the bad writing assignment which was given in the first place remains bad and unrevised, thus putting all the honest students who do the often meaningless work at a disadvantage.

Therefore, the road to eliminating plagiarism is not through policing, but through the creation of such writing assignments that cannot be downloaded anywhere. It is not so difficult to do!

Sincerely, Pavel.

  After reading your response, I began to rethink my approach to services such as turnitin.com.  Your response does a good job of invoking what is important in student education-that is focusing on helping students become writers, and recognizing that technology can not be a panacea, that indeed good teaching is perhaps the best way to address concerns about academic writing and integrity.   In my new found respect for turnitin.com I turned to the company website to find out about the product, and this is what I found: (on the lead page under success stories)   "

To address the situation, [Colorado] established a university-wide honor code, written by the students themselves, and adopted Turnitin to help enforce it. Now plagiarism is on the decline, and a culture of academic integrity is beginning to flourish"

  So now it appears that turnit.com is a panacea, that is crucial for helping to "enforce" academic integrity.  Discouraged that perhaps turnitin was not the benevolent supplemental tool for educators that Michael's post suggests it is I decided to download a brochure, where I learned more about how Turnitin views its product.   After praisiing the internet as a tool for research, the second sentence in their brochure reads,

""The [internet] has also increased the ease with which students find ways to shortcut the process of producing original work."
  Further down I learned that:
"Turnitin's comprehensive plagiarism prevention system lets you quickly and effectively check all of your students' work in a fraction of the time necessary to scan a few suspect papers using a search engine.  More than just a tool for detecting plagiarism, Turnitin also acts as a powerful deterrent to stop plagiarism and cheating before it starts."

  The brochure certainly pitches Turnitin as a tech tool for teachers to stop and prevent those evil student cheaters who are running rampant over our school systems.   And finally in the side bar Turnitin tells us that,

"Turnitin's plagiarism prevention system is the world's most widely used solution to the growing problem of cut and paste plagiarism." 
This claim is followed by six points all which highlight how effective the technology of Turnitin is, seeming to work against Michael's claim that it is a supplement, but rather that it is the ultimate search engine for catching students.   Perhaps if Turnitin wants to change its image it should start with its brochures and website.     

Thanks, Michael. I appreciate your willingness to share your post publicly. First off, I want to comment that it's not clear to me which specific "allegations" you are referring to in the public statement that Ellen Schendel, Julie White, and I wrote (I don't feel like there are many allegations in there). If there were specific points you'd like to address, it would make it much easier to discuss them.

Nevertheless, I was glad to see in the passage you posted here that you feel that the "misuse" of Turnitin is a problem which might be connected with some of the issues we are concerned about. In that I think we can partially agree. On the one hand, I do believe that the are less objectionable uses of Turnitin than others. On the other hand, I am a supporter of the Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices as the best long term solution to prevention of plagiarism because it focuses specifically on students' needs and what faculty can do to promote learning about academic integrity, citation, paraphrasing, and other things necessary to a good writing process when working with the writing of others as a source.

This is quite different from the focus of documents I have perused on the Turnitin website. Just today, I took a look at

Now maybe I missed it, but I don't see any reference to best pedagogical practices which would discourage the misuse of Turnitin you mention. Even the success stories I read were bare of good pedagogical practices, focusing instead on flexibility of the software and strategies for getting everyone to use Turnitin.

So if indeed there are "recommended best practices" it's not apparent that this information is being provided to institutions considering purchasing Turnitin (or even after purchasing).

However, I will guess that one of the "allegations" concerns your use of student intellectual property by storing the student's paper in your database. To me there is a certain irony in creating a service which is used to prevent one type of intellectual property problem--and in doing so--using someone else's intellectual property in ways which they may find objectionable. I firmly believe that most students if given proper opportunity to consider that their work would be used by a third party vendor as a means to make money would choose not to do so if they felt their grade in the class would not be at risk. This is an educational ethics question that writing teachers should especially consider. Is it right to force students to submit their papers to Turnitin for Turnitin's continued use when so much of our writing theory centers on the importance of giving students ownership of their writing within the classroom? Instead, we seem to be pushing them to give some of that ownership away if we use Turnitin.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that there seems to be additional lack of attention to students' interests in their IP. The instructor guide specifically mentioned above says,

If the paper is from another instructor’s class, we cannot provide direct access to the paper. To view the paper, you must first request permission from the instructor in possession of the paper by clicking the permission request button 4. We will then auto-generate an e-mail detailing your request. If permission to view the paper is granted, a copy of the paper will be sent back to you via e-mail.

An awareness of student rights would immediately tell one that the teacher typically cannot authorize someone outside the institution to look at a student's paper without the student's permission. Not only would that be a violation of the student's IP rights, but maybe even a FERPA violation since the student's writing could be considered part of their educational record. If Turnitin were acting responsibly in this regard, their only option would be to contact the student of the original paper.

That's enough for now, but I would definitely be curious to know about where to find information about your best practices.

Charlie | cyberdash

We seemed to have been writing last night at the same time with some similar emphasis :-)

Undoubtedly, attention to discussing teaching methods is important for a company where even the vendor understands that misuse of the tool pedagogically is highly controversial. In this case, one particular problem is the rhetoric of plagiarism. To emphasize that a tool is for teaching students about academic integrity, paraphrasing, etc., one should move away from continually over-highlighting the negative aspect of student behavior--in this case plagiarism--and instead stress the positive behaviors one expects to promote as the learning outcome. Instructors don't need to be teaching "how not to plagiarize," they need to be teaching the techniques of good research writing.

This in turn would discourage the "misuse" of the technology. As it is, I expect many teachers and administrators see Turnitin as the magic technology which will solve their plagiarism problems. These marketing strategies may indeed be best for selling such a service to administrators and teachers caught up in the plagiarism panic, but they will never serve student learning best and do not demonstrate and reaffirm accepted pedagogical theory nearly enough.

Not that Turnitin is the only one who does this. I know I've written previously on how Blackboard prioritizes development so that it sells well to administrators and other decision makers over developing the best online environment for learning (WebCT is no better). If Blackboard ever focused on what we know about creating community and carrying on discussion online, they would have long ago reworked their discussion forums so that they incorporate design strategies from popular open source software tools, if nothing else, just to make their tools more user friendly.

Charlie | cyberdash


Thanks for your response. It seems to me that there are possibilities for Turnitin to change to be responsive to student and faculty concerns, and so I'm glad this dialogue is happening on this forum.

There's a lot to discuss here, so I just want to focus on one small piece of the larger discussion.

I'm interested in knowing more about how you--or Turnitin more generally--respond to the issues Charlie, Julie, and I raised about students' intellectual property rights.

More specifically, could you answer these two questions?

1) Can Turnitin be configured at campuses so that students' papers do not become a part of Turnitin's database?

2) What is your--and perhaps Turnitin's--response to the lawsuit won by a McGill student regarding his right *not* to submit papers to Turnitin?

Given this article on the McGill community's conflicted feelings about Turnitin, it's pretty clear that faculty and students are still wary of a software company using student writing for the company's own purposes.

Here's a pertinent passage from the article:

Legal Services, which has been working with the DP-CIO and the Dean of Students to create the Turnitin contract, voiced concerns that the anti-plagiarism software violated provincial privacy law by storing students' personal information on corporate servers.

Turnitin.com, which claims over 2500 institutional users, compares newly submitted papers to those in its database of previously submitted work. It then generates "originality reports" flagging potential instances of plagiarism.

In response to the legal concerns, the university will now store student data on campus servers. Professors seeking additional information about matched papers or their authors will be required to file formal requests, the guidelines for which are still in development.

Do you understand--and accept as important--this concern about students' privacy, and the similar concern for students' intellectual property rights? If so, in what way is the company evolving to take into account these pressing concerns of many students & faculty?

Again, thanks for the conversation. I look forward to learning more by listening in at this forum.

I'd be curious to know the ratio between students copying and pasting from publicly available online sources and those who "recycle" papers written by friends and the like. My guess is that there's an overwhelming number of copiers in the former category, and very few in the latter. I know that when I've used TII and actually detected misattribution, it was always someone either copying verbatim from a single online source or merging several different sources into a single (mostly incoherent) essay.

However, any good discussions about TII that I've seen tend to get bogged down in some esoteric legal morass and fail to address the real issue. Both sides tend to get too fixated on what they call "intellectual property," which is itself a very loaded word that distorts the whole issue. When you try to treat a student essay like a fiefdom, discourse tends to break down. The only "intellectual property" I own is a few pounds of gray matter packed neatly into my skull.

Besides, I think the term "misattribution" makes more sense than "plagirism" anyway, though both are damnably hard to spell. While I'm at it, for God's sake, folks, please stop saying "CUT and paste." That doesn't make any sense in the context. A much more accurate phrase is "COPY and paste." When I first started seeing "cut and paste," I figured it was just folks coming from a print environment who were just sticking to the old terminology. Now I think it's just one more rhetorical mechanism in place to try to shore up what amounts to textual feudalism...

The real issue is simply to prevent students from cheating. To my mind, there's little difference between a student who copies and pastes a bunch of text from various websites and turns it in as his essay, and another who uses a cell phone cam to take a picture of a bio test and distributes it to his buds. Either way, it's someone trying to get out of doing the work. The best word to describe either activity is "cheating." Students who successfully cheat earn good grades and graduate without the benefit of actually learning the skills that turn them into good honest citizens who send their former profs musical birthday cards every year.

Besides, "cheating" is much easier to spell.

I think it's very important to keep this discussion rooted in "cheating" rather than "copyright infringment," because once we go down that road, we might as well join up with the RIAA and MPAA and everyone else who wants to put the clampdown on intelletual freedom. I'm not going to use my class as a platform to "teach students about respecting intellectual property rights" or what have you. That'd be like asking Martin Luther King Jr. to explain to ignorant people the value of Jim Crow laws.

Check out Barton's gaming blog at Armchair Arcade.


Ellen should probably know that you are typically very interested in IP rights and free software (sort of like open source, Ellen, although Matt will disagree), but are currently experiencing an identity crisis because you still use MS Office ;-)

BTW: I think you are right, Matt. It's much more likely that mis-cited (is that a word? misattribution is defiitely better) information is the problem, not wholesale use of other people's papers.

Charlie | cyberdash

Perhaps it's more about what sort of reciprocity exists between the writer and, in this case, Turnitin.

I guess Turnitin (and others) would argue that students turn over their writing (although not in the copyright sense) to the database and what they get in return is some semblance of assurance that other students won't plagiarize their texts. And further, that they are on a level playing field, if we want to believe that Turnitin cuts down on cheating (and therefore any unfair advantages that cheating may provide to the cheaters).

But this trade-off doesn't satisfy me very much. Cheaters will find ways around the system and still cheat. At yesterday's faculty senate meeting, when we discussed the document Charlie, Julie, and I wrote, one of the student senators present said that his high school subscribed to a plagiarism detection service. Students somehow used a different subscription to see whether the papers they were buying/using were in the database *before* submitting them to their teachers. Or something like that. I forget the details of how the students outsmarted the system...just that a student claimed that his high school peers had figured it out.

A tangent, not related to plagiarism detection services: I don't think that every discussion of IPR is necessarily a discussion of preventing the free exchange of ideas.

In many cases, when academics talk about (and argue for) IPR, it's because they're trying to protect themselves from being used, and to retain some control in how their ideas are circulated in useful, accessible ways. That sort of conversation about intellectual property strikes me as a very different kind of conversation than what you're referencing. Perhaps your argument is that we should "stop the madness" altogether and quit invoking intellectual property rights? I could maybe buy that...but only if the bad guys flinch first. ;-)

And finally, one last tangent: It's possible that a student copying & pasting text into a mosaic of an essay may *not* be cheating, depending on the student's intentions, her understanding of citing words/ideas in the United States, the drafting/revision opportunities for that assignment and peers' and my feedback about how to cite ideas correctly, etc. In other words: if I see a student taking pictures of her bio test and sending those files to her friend, I think "cheater." If I see a student essay that is a mishmash of copied & pasted text from a variety of websites, I am not always certain what to think about that writer. In some cases, sure, I would think "cheater." But often, it wouldn't be so clear, and I would need to investigate further.


Indeed, Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices, should be required reading for everyone teaching writing, in the main because it does not reify, that is, collapse a whole range of actions into a single (ill-defined) category. Plagiarism, after all, is many things to many people.

Copy and paste plaigrisism (Plat Matt, help me out here with the splling), or patch writing, can actually, as I've previously suggested here, be a sign of cognitive work. I've found that most students have no idea that they can gain ethos by citing--if you contextualize it for them in terms of their own experience, e.g., exclusive knowledge of what's going on in a certain frat, with a certain sports team, or in a certain TV series--they begin to understand what citations mean.

Don't get me wrong. I know how easy it is to slip into using terms like "intellectual property." It's very easy to do so because it's part of the terministic screen (see Kenneth Burke) that the many commercial interests involved have constructed to frame the discussion. Unfortunately, it's a frame that works best for them and compromises our position. At times I feel like the stereotypical "savage" trying to figure out why some settlers are slaughtering off my tribe's buffalo and building farms all over our hunting grounds. "Oh, well, we have property rights." Uh, okay, how can you own land? How can you own a river? This doesn't belong to anyone! You get the idea. As soon as we agree to frame the discourse in a certain type of legal verbiage, which carries with it a great deal of assumptions and an entire ideology that is anti-freedom...Well, you might as well just give up...Or get violent, because there's no way you can reach a consensus when the other side refuses to listen.

To use yet another analogy, we might bring up the slave trade and the language used to describe human beings as "property" or "chattel" or whatever term was handy back then. There is no way in hell you could be a true abolitionist and agree to use the terms put forth by the slave owners and slave traders. Just the very act of referring to a human being as a "property" loaded the dice and stacked the deck. I don't really see anything different going on here with "ideas." An idea isn't property any more than a human being can be property.

To butcher Kant, you should never use an idea as a means, but only as an end. ;-) Right now people are trying to use the language of "IP" to use ideas as a means to acquire wealth, squelch opposition, keep the poor poor, and just be bad guys in general.

On the other hand, when I teach writing, I'm teaching a skill that's different than copying and pasting from various sources on the net and merging it all together. That activity, by the way, has a lot of value, but that's not how I write. Nor am I teaching students how to find an essay online or download one from a paper mill. In short, I'm trying to teach them how to sit down and compose something without having to copy it directly from another source. If a tool like Turnitin.com can help me achieve that, then I'm all for it.

Check out Barton's gaming blog at Armchair Arcade.

Okay, I tried this earlier, but I got an error message and lost my wondrously eloquent piece of prose. So, if this stinks, it’s the server’s faulty because my previous post was astonishing in its rhetorical power. That being said, this is my recollection of my earlier rant:

First, like the others, I’d like to thank Michael for posting his thoughts here. Since others have touched on a number of the concerns regarding cheating and intellectual property, and the attitudes many of us see turnitin fostering in the teaching of writing, perhaps more by non-writing/English teachers than others, there are a few concerns/assumptions I’d like to address.

The first assumption I’d like to touch on is that attribution is an important concept in western thinking. While I agree that it is, of late anyway, I don’t know that such fluid notions are much of an argument in favor of a service such as turnitin. I, of course, teach attribution/citation and expect as much out of my students. But it’s also important to keep in mind that attribution does not make for great writing. Perhaps the most famous of all American documents would be flagged as plagiarized by any plagiarism tool. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the section before the life of crimes and transgressions committed by the king and parliament, is a brilliant summation of Locke’s Second Treatise on Government. Does this make Jefferson a plagiarist? By today’s standards, I’d have to say yes. What this points out, more than anything, is that these notions are transitory, not carved in stone by any stretch of the imagination. I think this is important at least contextually.

I think the use of the TRIO Thinkquest material as evidence of the value of a program such as turnitin is at odds with the teaching we do. Thinkquest is a competition, school is not. There can be only one winner in a competition, while, conceivably, all students could be winners, no matter their grades, in any given class. People are more prone to cheat in competition, or anything viewed as a competition, making some method of detecting cheaters appropriate to the context, at least in part because there is a physical prize of some sort. In the classroom the student cheats only him/herself and the system/man perhaps. I find it inappropriate to institute some intellectual anti-doping policy in the classroom. Yes, I know students cheat in the classroom in a wide variety of ways, but using a competition to show the value of a tool for use in a non-competition context seems not the best of evidence.

Which leads me to the next point: I’m just not sure what’s meant by the web being unsafe for research and collaboration. Sure, we’ve had the overly publicized myspace business, but what does that have to do with academic research and collaboration? This strikes me as being somewhat akin to the president’s repeated invoking of 9/11 and terrorism to get his way with the voters and congress because he wants to torture information should he think it wise. Sure, students can do shoddy research on the internet, just as they can with the library of their choosing. Or they can by a paper, just as they always could. It’s not the place that’s a problem and there is nothing inherently unsafe about the web for academic work. If there is, I’d sure like to see the evidence.

Finally, the notion that there is an added burden of conducting manual research should I suspect the work is not a student’s. While I can only speak for myself, this is hardly a burden, making sure my students complete tasks as assigned. It’s my job, my chosen profession. It’s what I do for a paycheck if nothing else. Part of this job is not creating crappy assignments that lend themselves to plagiarism. Another part of my job is revising those assignments that to lend to plagiarism. Additionally, I have to teach students proper attribution, no matter what I say in the first point. Part of doing this is knowing how my students write, which means they must be reading and writing regularly, and I must be reading their writing so I can see. Generally, a quick web-search will turn up the obviously plagiarized. Inadvertent plagiarism can be dealt with through gentle reminders based on knowledge of a student’s voice. There is no real need for the expense and hassle of screening each piece of student work.

I think I said this all better this morning before losing my work to a danged server error. And I still have a ton of work to get done today, so I’m signing off.

bradley || bleckblog.org

Ah...I'm sorry, but this topic seems to be making me bristle more than a baby seal trapped in a kiddie pool filled with big plastic balls.

Of the many things I hear people say when they're talking about that thar plagiarism is that really it's the teacher's fault for giving out bad assignments. I've always thought this was a lot like the argument that women who get sexually harassed really bring it on themselves by wearing scanty clothing--i.e., it's a case of blaming the victim. And who is the victim in the case of a student's cheating? Whether it's turning in a paper downloaded from ihateschool.com or using your programmable calculator to store formulas you were supposed to have memorized--well, either way, the teacher is the victim. After all, it's the teacher who's going to look incompetent if he doesn't realize that a student has managed to deceive him. There's also the matter that a prof puts her reputation on the line when she assigns a certain grade to a certain student. If the student who earns an A cheated his way through the course, he essentially stole something from that teacher.

We like to say things like "a cheater only cheats himself." Nice sentiment, but it's wrong. A cheater cheats his teacher as well as his classmates, and, when he gets away with it, the number of victims can grow exponentially. I don't need to rehearse the old but still fearful examples of surgeons, architects, and personal trainers who cheated their way through school...I can't speak for everyone, but I want to know that the man on the video telling me to bend over and gyrate like an electrified hippo for 30 seconds didn't cheat on his anatomy final.

Besides that, the so-called "plagiarism proof" assignments are always a bit too cozy for my taste. I think they're only "plagiarism proof" to the extent that we're deluded. Sure, if you have an assignment like, "Write a five paragraph essay about some vague aspect of Hamlet," you're making it easy for a student to download a paper and turn it in. However, I think it says something very negative about teachers that we'd hesitate to assign it just because we don't trust our students to do the right thing.

If we can't teach students to write their own essays and to resist the impulse to cheat, then I seriously doubt we're equipped to teach them anything worth knowing anyway. I'd rather give a student a chance to be honest than just assume he's not.

Check out Barton's gaming blog at Armchair Arcade.

If we can't teach students to write their own essays and to resist the impulse to cheat, then I seriously doubt we're equipped to teach them anything worth knowing anyway. I'd rather give a student a chance to be honest than just assume he's not.

I feel like there is a contradiction here between what you have just said and your support of using Turnitin. It's a "plagiarism detection service" for catching plagiarists. When you require all of your students to submit their final drafts for plagiarism detection, inherent in that is the assumption that they might be a cheater.

Meanwhile, I don't think the WPA statement on plagiarism--the definitive document for our field concerning the prevention of plagiarism--talks about "plagiarism proof" assignments. Was it this document you object to? Rather, the WPA statement talks about implementing writing as a process methods. It's just good pedagogy regarding writing assignments that happens to also make it harder to plagiarize.

Charlie | cyberdash

Hi, all -

I am going to be responding to many of the threads on this topic later this evening, but the most recent post made me feel the need to jump in ASAP:

While I understand that our initial marketing as a 'Plagiarism Detection' tool may be seen as alluding to a focus on catching students on their final draft, we have shifted most of our materials to reference the goal of 'Plagiarism Prevention' and we have considered this to be our mission for the past few years.  Our service started when our founder posted a number of papers for Peer Review on an online forum at UC-Berkeley and discovered that students were subsquently using the papers as their own - as such, the initial focus was definitely oriented towards stopping gross academic dishonesty.  During the past few years, we have been strongly recommending the proactive use of our service as a learning tool and we have watched many of our customers move in this direction, although (to date) this has been much more successful within Secondary Education.  It may be that secondary educators are more likely to assume that students need assistance in learning proper citation skills rather than assuming that students already have this knowledge, or it may be the fact that secondary schools tend to embed Turnitin deeper into their curriculum effors.  However, one fact is definite:  Turnitin can be used as either a policing tool or as an educational tool, and it is up to the educator to determine the way that our service will be used. 

Regarding best practices: As I mentioned in my initial message, I completely agree that we have not displayed our best practices in an overt manner, and I am working to change this within our organization.  The free section of our site ("Research Resources") is located at http://www.turnitin.com/research_site/e_home.html, and it has a wealth of information for both educators and students, but it has not been kept as up to date in the recent future as it could be - I anticipate that this will be changing in the mid-term future as well.

I will be responding in much greater detail this evening - thank you for your patience and for your participation. 



Hello again -

I'm going to try to address some of the (several) issues that have been raised in separate posts - please bear with me if the conversation does not flow as naturally as it could, but I am a novice to the 'blogosphere' and I may have difficulty in responding to threads that have already sprouted offshoots of their own.

re: Dave's comment about the fact that our marketing materials, brochures and the like still represent more of a 'detection' approach than a prevention approach:

Dave, I agree with you.  Please understand that this is something that we are beginning to address and change at several different levels.  If I had to summarize some of the top reasons that our 'image' or 'messaging' have not seemed to adapt with our current initiatives, they would be as follows (in no particular order):

1)  Our founders (who are still in charge of our organization) are academics from UC-Berkely, and they have always seen marketing as a type of 'necessary evil', while potentially believing that the word 'necessary' can occasionally be dropped.  While I can understand this thought pattern (spending $50,000 on a print advertisement means that we have $50,000 less for development efforts, and our organization started with a shoestring budget), it makes it difficult for us to communicate changes to a wide audience.  However, redesigning some of the messaging on our brochures and website to show a proactive, educational focus is not extraordinarily expensive, and I am confident that you will begin to see some of these changes in the not-too-distant future.  This is an initiative that many of us at Turnitin are pursuing, and this is the message that we have been pushing in a one-on-one fashion as we have assisted schools in deploying Turnitin.

2)  The 'media machine' is very receptive to "cheating students getting caught" and much less receptive to "teaching proper citation skills while ensuring that the voice of the student appears loud and clear in the paper" - this does not mean that we are pandering to the former media image, but it does mean that you are much more likely to hear about an incident of academic dishonesty than you are to hear about a strong 'teaching moment'.

3)  There are many people who still want a strong, robust tool for detecting matching text.  (Please note that we strive to let instructors know that our service shows 'matching text', and that the definition of plagiarism (which is highly fluid) is up to the educator).  At the Syllabus conference (now called Campus Technology) in 2004, Dr. Barrie (our founder) gave a speech where he made a comment to the effect that 'at the end of the day, noone wants to catch a student plagiarizing - it's not a pleasant process'.  He was interrupted by a gentleman who jumped to his feet and said "I do!  I've been doing this for 25 years, and I'm sick of it - I want to catch them and hang them up on the wall (or words to that effect)."  In retrospect, a fitting retort (attributable to one of my colleagues) would be: "Ladies and Gentleman, please meet a member of the Old Guard."  In all seriousness, there are many, many people who still want a detection tool for occasional use with suspect papers, which has made it more difficult to provide a solid foundation for the need for our basic message to be updated so as to more accurately reflect the way that many educators are now using our service.

I hope that this helps - I'll be back in a few to begin to address some of the IP issues... I agree with Platypus Matt that they should be addressed separately from the pedagogical implications, but I also agree with Ellen that these are very serious issues that merit discussion.



of this thread is that detecting or preventing cheating is somehow the instructor's responsibility.

I'm not certain all faculty feel that *is* their responsibility.

My own view: it's up to me to provide challenging, useful assignments that connect to the goals of the course and that will help students learn. It's my job to talk about how to integrate research into their writing ethically and effectively--and to talk about the importance of academic integrity, especially as it relates to responsible participation within the academic community and one's ethos as an academic writer.

But to figure out which students are cheating? Not so much a job I want to tackle.

Seems to me that one way to read the phenomenon of campuses buying site licenses to Turnitin as a solution to a (perceived or real) problem with cheating is that folks at those campuses have decided that finding cheaters *is* an instructor's responsibility.

Not an idea I'm wild about.


At its most basic level, isn't a classroom discussion about citing sources and the importance of doing so in Western academic writing pretty much a discussion about respecting intellectual property rights?

Also, you lost me when you compared ideas (and owning them) to people (and slavery). Seems quite a stretch.

Hi, all -

This is going to be a very brief initial comment on the subject topic - I've already noted 3 spelling errors in my past two comments so I should probably keep today short and start fresh on a non-Monday... :)

Let me first address Ellen's questions in order:

1) Absolutely, positively yes.  This can be done in two ways:

a)  The teacher can set the assignment so that papers are not stored in the database.  This can then be set as the default for all future assignments for that instructor (at least within the same school account - i believe this is true if the instructor teaches for multiple schools but this should be verified).  This functionality has been in place for a couple of years.

b)  The school can license our 'client node', which allows all student papers to be stored in a school-specific node that will only be accessible to instructors and students within that school and will *not* be accessible to our primary student paper database in any way, shape or form.  We developed this as a fail-proof alternative to option A for institutions that prefer this functionality.

2)  McGill.... this will require a much longer response than I can manage tonight, but please note the following as a temporary/short answer:

a) The student was never informed that Turnitin was going to be used in the class.

b) The student challenged the requirement with an internal body (akin to Student Judicial Affairs) - there was never a lawsuit, although inaccurate reporting on the topic definitely made it appear that way.  (I sat next to our Canadian representative one - two years ago and I heard the explanation of the situation so often that I hear an echo when I think about it...)

c) Given that there was no prior notice (nor consent), the governing body agreed that the student should not receive a failing grade for the paper.  (Please note that we strongly, strongly recommend that the use of Turnitin is covered in either the Academic (Student) Handbook for the school or the syllabus for the course).

d) McGill University spent a considerable amount of time discussing Turnitin as a result of a) this experience and b) their other experiences while piloting Turnitin, and

e) McGill University recently adopted Turnitin with a multiple-year Institutional license.

With respect to student anonymity and related concerns: While we (and others) feel that our service complies with all relevant laws and statutes, we do understand that there are some contentious areas, and we are striving to make these areas clearer whenever possible - as a result, we are working on a better method of working within FERPA by encrypting student information at the browser level so that the information is never stored in a non-encrypted format on our servers.  We should have a formal announcement regarding these changes in the next few weeks.  Even without these changes, I have been encouraged by the fact that Turnitin has passed legal muster with thousands of institutions that have performed very diligent research on the specific workings of our service.

Ok - I think I'm done for the night, but I may get a second wind - in either event I will be back in touch by this time tomorrow.

Thank you for listening!


Hi, all -

Ok, one more quick comment:

I realize that the term 'allegation' can have a negative connotation, even though that was not my intention -

The allegations that I was/am referring to are the three 'topic headings' in the initial letter ("Issues Raised by Use of Turnitin Plagiarism Detection Service") - the headings are:

1) "Turnitin Discourages Good Pedagogical Practices Concerning Writing"

2) "Turnitin Can Be Ineffective for Detecting Plagiarism"

3) "Turnitin Makes Questionable Use of Student Intellectual Property"

I appreciate the clarity of being able to address these items as separate topics (which they are), and I hope that I have begun to express my thoughts on #1 and #3 - I will continue on those topics and begin to address #2 tomorrow.


John Walter, Lanette Cadle, and Rebecca Moore Howard are others following along with this conversation and offering commentary.

Charlie | cyberdash

Also, you lost me when you compared ideas (and owning them) to people (and slavery). Seems quite a stretch.

Indeed, if I were talking about the moral implications. However, I had in mind only the rhetorical ones (i.e., the use of certain terms to frame a discussion in a calculated way). I don't think anyone would contend that plagiarism or its prevention is just as serious an issue as slavery.

Besides, it's much easier to just ignore whatever I said here and focus on the "IP" and the like. Don't worry, I'm used to it.

Check out Barton's gaming blog at Armchair Arcade.

While I understand that our initial marketing as a 'Plagiarism Detection' tool may be seen as alluding to a focus on catching students on their final draft, we have shifted most of our materials to reference the goal of 'Plagiarism Prevention' and we have considered this to be our mission for the past few years.

Plagiarism detection service is the academic term for the type of service that you offer. This is how we talk about Turnitin and software applications like it in intellectual property studies within composition. You can change the name in your marketing to "plagiarism prevention," but that's not going to change what your service is unless you truly shift your emphasis, something that was not represented in the marketing documents I mentioned previously.

Now I can't obviously speak for the WPA and everyone in composition engaged in intellectual property studies, but to align yourself more with our views on reducing or eliminating plagiarism, Turnitin would need a major shift in focus--that of becoming more student centered.

So for example, while I tend to agree that Turnitin's use of student papers in your database may indeed be fair use (I'm a supporter of Google Books--there are obvious parallels), that doesn't mean that it is the right thing to do in terms of students, nor does it mean that the teacher should be requiring students to allow their papers to be stored. It is not in the best interest of those students who are not plagiarizing; it merely serves the goal of policing those who do. I think you would be hard pressed to find a scholar in composition studies working on intellectual property who would say otherwise.

So here's a question which would demonstrate one aspect of how student-centered Turnitin's plagiarism prevention software is. You have mentioned that Turnitin can be configured by the teacher not to store papers. This alone is not enough. Is the default setting that it will store papers or not? Do you recommend that institutions *not* store student papers in the best interest of their students?

As you mention, you've switched this emphasis a few years ago. Yet, with the plagiarism detection service the main feature of your marketing, there is very little difference from a pedagogical perspective from what I have seen on your company website and what I would imagine for a marketing approach based on plagiarism detection. A company providing a student centered, pedagogically grounded plagiarism prevention service would need to act as consultants for the practice in the WPA statement and integrate it all through their marketing.

By the way, Turnitin may be able to market to administrators and teachers in other disciplines in higher education without being student-centered in its message and approach, but if it wants to incorporate accepted pedagogical theory, it's going to have to do a much, much better job of aligning itself with composition theory. We are the people doing research in the teaching of writing. This is our speciality among academic disciplines.

Charlie | cyberdash

Hi, Ellen et al -

First, a quick thank you to everyone for understanding my lack of blogging acumen - Charlie keyed me in to the idea of using the threaded view for this conversation, and I hope that I am able to come up to speed on this format ASAP.

Second, I'd like to reply to the following comment: "It's possible that a student copying & pasting text into a mosaic of an essay may *not* be cheating, depending on the student's intentions, her understanding of citing words/ideas in the United States, the drafting/revision opportunities for that assignment and peers' and my feedback about how to cite ideas correctly, etc. In other words: if I see a student taking pictures of her bio test and sending those files to her friend, I think "cheater." If I see a student essay that is a mishmash of copied & pasted text from a variety of websites, I am not always certain what to think about that writer. In some cases, sure, I would think "cheater." But often, it wouldn't be so clear, and I would need to investigate further."

I agree completely - and I see Turnitin as being one of the tools at your disposal to help you with your investigations.  If you can imagine a spectrum with "Use Turnitin as a black box to catch students after they submit a final draft" at one end and "Let students submit as many papers as they want to Turnitin without saving any results" on the other, I think that you may find usefulness towards the latter end of the spectrum. 

Let me try to be a little more specific:

Just as the usage of Turnitin (multiple pre-submissions allowed, one rough draft, final draft only) is at the discretion of the instructor, so are all of the actions that follow.  (This may not be true at all institutions, but that is out of our control and is something that I do not (personally) support as it moves away from academic freedom and creates an atmosphere that may cause instructors to avoid using Turnitin.)  As such, you may decide to use Turnitin when you receive a paper that appears to be 'a mishmash of copied and pasted text', you can use Turnitin to produce an easily-comprehensible report that you can use to help instruct your student about proper citation, and you may determine that there are no penalties whatsoever so long as the student revises the work to a) properly cite material or b) remove the material.  You may also decide to allow the student to submit papers to Turnitin for their own uses and *only approach you if they feel that they need clarification on an issue*.  If you use Turnitin in this fashion, you may decide to never view any of the reports yourself - that is completely up to you.

I am including two links that speak to more 'modern' ways to use Turnitin - I plan on compiling a list (by the middle of next week) of many of the academic studies that have been conducted by schools that use Turnitin, but here are two quick ones that may help to speak to this topic:

"Scaffolding Academic Integrity:
Creating a Learning Context for Teaching Referencing Skills" can be located at: http://jutlp.uow.edu.au/2005_v02_i03a/emerson005.html - this was created by three professors at Massey University in New Zealand and speak to using Turnitin as both a plagiarism deterrent *and* as a teaching tool.

Plagiarism Across the Curriculum: How Academic Communities Can Meet the Challenge of the Undocumented Writer
(Jonathan Hall, Rutgers University, Newark) http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/articles/hall2005.cfm - the best description of this document can be found in its initial outline:

"I: Prevent plagiarism through pedagogy. II: Foster a serious ongoing campus dialogue about plagiarism as an intellectual concept and a social phenomenon. III: Get students involved in developing anti-plagiarism activities. Help faculty, administrators, librarians, and tutors understand the student experience of plagiarism and incorporate that perspective into their interactions. IV: When prevention fails, make the plagiarism intervention not only an occasion for punishment, but also an educational opportunity, a way to prevent the next plagiarism." (Jonathan Hall)

Using this method, we can be effective in assisting with the issues raised in sections III and IV.

Finally, I'd like to briefly respond to Ellen's sentiment that "In many cases, when academics talk about (and argue for) IPR, it's because they're trying to protect themselves from being used, and to retain some control in how their ideas are circulated in useful, accessible ways. That sort of conversation about intellectual property strikes me as a very different kind of conversation than what you're referencing. Perhaps your argument is that we should "stop the madness" altogether and quit invoking intellectual property rights? I could maybe buy that...but only if the bad guys flinch first. ;-)"

I agree that IPR issues are serious issues, but I also agree that they can cause distractions when discussing the other aspects of this topic - as such, I really appreciate everyone's assistance in keeping the issues as separate (but related) topics.  I promise not to 'duck' questions by bifurcating the issues, but this should help to keep the conversation focused.


  ps: I may be able to respond further tonight, but I will be embarking on an extended Autumnal Equinox celebration Thursday AM and will likely be offline until Monday (9/25). 

I am delighted to learn that you're going to give us some leads on research that's been done on the use of Turnitin. As you may know, I'm a skeptic concerning your product, for all the reasons that have been detailed by others.

One of the two links you've provided, though, doesn't accomplish what you suggest. The Hall article mentions Turnitin twice, to-wit:

"People will want to quiz us on our opinions about the relative merits of Turnitin.com vs. Glatt Plagiarism Screening, but WAC directors should avoid getting bogged down in futile searches for a technological magic bullet, because what we have to offer is both a more nuanced way of thinking about plagiarism, and a set of pedagogical approaches to preventing it."


"Train faculty to detect plagiarism, and to track down sources of plagiarized papers — search-engine strategies, Turnitin.com, Glatt plagiarism screening, etc — .but emphasize how to use these technological tools without creating an adversarial atmosphere in the classroom."

The Hall source does mention Turnitin and does suggest that it's possible to use the program without destroying the classroom environment, but it does not say what those moves might be. 

Brock Read, in a September 19 posting to Wired Campus, gives a summary of this thread.

I just posted a blog about the draft of the CCCC-IP statement on plagiarism detection services, which was made public last night.

Charlie | cyberdash

My sarcasm and skepticism not withstanding I still have a hard time taking your message seriously. Not that I doubt your personal sincerity, you persuasively point out that the functionality of turnitin.com can be used towards good pedagogical aims.  But I do heavily question the sincerity of this company.   As I and others have pointed out all over this discussion board the rhetoric Turnitin.com uses is one of plagirism detection, and even if I grant that there is a subtle shift to plagirisim prevention the focus is still on plagirism over any of other places it might be.  At the very base the name turnitin.com suggests a policing force, a panopticon on all students work, "You Must TURN IT IN," rather than a name such as "Citation Checker."  

Blaiming media perception seems to be a spurious claim.  Most people on this discussion board are not forming their opinions by reading the NY Times article on this subject, but rather through carefully formed pedagogical analysis. If we were so easily swayed by media perception you would see a more positive reception here, as media coverage of this product has been more on the positive than negative side (at least in the mainstream).   The image of this product is in no way separate from what it can do.  Of course any technology can be used two ways.  But the problem with image, is it is how your product operates.  I have often heard other faculty suggest we need "Turnitin.com" at our campus. Why? Because they want a plagirism detection service to catch students. If your product is seen in the academy as plagirism detection it is, and faculty will want to use it this way.  My suggestion, fire these faculty and hire ones who aren't trying to police students rather than give them tools to do so. But I digress. . .   But perhaps I pick on turnitin.com a bit too much, as it is really only a symptom of the larger problem. That is, a corporitization of the University where we are increasingly required to teach more students, to discipline them (yes Foucault double meaning here). And products which pitch themselves as technological answers are solving a problem that is merely a syptom. If turnitin.com was really an academic aid it would be a free online resource that would allow students to check their papers online before turning them in, to see if they had cited correctly. 

At heart, Platypus Matt, you're right. A student shouldn't cheat no matter what the quality or value of the assignment is. That said, there are ways to structure assignments so that you can make, in the words of Paul Wedlake, "the chances of plagiarism . . . vanishingly thin."

Here's what Wedlake writes:

Finally, offering the students an off-line alternative makes their consent absolutely clear. For instance, as an alternative, the student could be required to turn in a photocopy of the first page of all reference sources used, an annotated bibliography, and a one page paper reflecting on their research methodology. Such an option would be unlikely to be chosen by any students, but if they did choose it, the chances of plagiarism would also be vanishingly thin.

Paul Wedlake Director of Sales
iParadigms, LLC., developers of Turnitin.com/Plagiarism.org
Last paragraph from Turnitin.com's "standard statement regarding the Copyright Issue."

The letter cited and linked to addresses concerns about student copyright. Turnitin.com's argued that their use of student work is fair use because the processing of the paper, the application of the programs algorithims to the writing and how the writing is subsequently stored in its database is transformative. I've heard of no legal opinion or court case which has upended that argument, by the way. Despite that, there is this letter which is meant to address concerns.

Don't use our product without explaining what it is and telling students that you're using it. In fact, give students an option, this letter says: you can submit your paper to Turnitin.com or you can copy sources, annotate your bibliography, reflect on your writing instead. This option, in the letter above, is laid out as a choice so odious that it "would be unlikely to be chosen," and instead students will want to just upload their paper to Turnitin.com.

But what the letter posits as odious is in fact what students should be taught to do. All of those things are either necessary or extremely useful practices for doing good research writing.

Assignments that ask students to draft, that have them start writing in class or from class discussions and then evolve out from there, that require notes on research, research logs, notes on drafts, peer review, bibliography building along the way instead of at the end, and other practices and habits that students should be taught because they're good writing and research practices are assignments that have wonderful pedagogic value and which make the chances of plagiarism "vanishingly thin."

True, vanishingly thin isn't foolproof, no more than using Turnitin.com is fool proof, but it's a good step in shifting the balance of approach.

 Nick Carbone

Hello again, all -

I would like to try to begin discussing the subject document ("Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices") -

I am going to attempt to keep this discussion in some form of order, but I appreciate your patience if things begin to spill together.

I'd first like to discuss the following section:

"What Is Plagiarism?

In instructional settings, plagiarism is a multifaceted and ethically complex problem. However, if any definition of plagiarism is to be helpful to administrators, faculty, and students, it needs to be as simple and direct as possible within the context for which it is intended.

Definition: In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledg­ing its source.

This definition applies to texts published in print or on-line, to manuscripts, and to the work of other student writers.

Most current discussions of plagiarism fail to distinguish between:

submitting someone else’s text as one’s own or attempting to blur the line between one’s own ideas or words and those borrowed from another source, and
carelessly or inadequately citing ideas and words borrowed from another source."

I agree strongly with this distinction - I tend to call the first area 'gross academic dishonesty' and the second area 'misuse of sources', but they have been blended together as 'plagiarism' for quite some time now.  As such, I will try to keep discussions of the former separate from discussions of the latter, but please understand that the term 'plagiarism' (as commonly used) does represent both of these topics, and Turnitin has been designed to assist in both arenas.  This is often the disconnect between some of our marketing and our usage in the field - many schools are now beginning to use us to assist students with the misues of sources (again, this is more common in Secondary schools and with some of our international customers), but we have always been known as a tool that can help to address gross academic misconduct. 

To discuss the misuse of sources -

I will have some more academic research for you in the next few days, but - in a vacuum - here is a brief position statement from the University of Newcastle (in Australia):


As you will see, it speaks to a) allowing students to proactively utilize Turnitin final to the final submission of an assignment and b) obtain backup support from individual teachers, modules (InfoSkills) and sessions within a 'Learning Support Program'.

I have also been authorized to post an abstract for a proposal for an upcoming Educause conference (however, I have redacted the names since this is still in a proposal stage - but the schools are major Universities within their geography) - it is as follows:

Proposed Workshop: A Workshop on the status of whole-of-university implementations of technologies to support Academic Integrity - lead by 4-5 [removed] academics who are actively involved in supporting the academic goals of their institutions.

Integrity of assessment is critical to academic standards in [removed] universities. Opportunities for universities to use electronic technologies in responding to challenges to the integrity of assessment

Up until the recent past, and within a growing climate of increased availability of electronic resources, the validity of submitted student work was judged exclusively by the responsible academic. Over the last three years [removed] universities, have increasingly realised, that in an era of online content ubiquity, educational technology has a major role to play in the quality of assessment practice. This has resulted in the introduction of a variety of technical tools, evaluation trails and policy changes.

This workshop will cover how a number of [removed] universities are using technologies to maintain a culture of scholarship rather than using the technologies for detection and punishment, which risks compromising the student-academic relationship.

Proposed Workshop Program

Background: the various roles that the [removed] group have taken up to
address quality management in education.

Discovery: Identification of issues and the evaluation of current

Education: The central role that education plays in assisting both
staff and students to work with the new technologies

Policies and Processes: Assessment changes and the focus on evidence
based writing

Summary and Future Directions: The value of a collaborative approach to
address issues of academic integrity that are common to all [removed]

I am also encouraged that this conversation may have already helped to move some of our usage into a more positive direction -

As you may recall, this conversation began as a response to a specific letter that was sent to the Grand Valley State University community.  As a result of the letter (and potentially some of the responses), please visit their updated Turnitin-related page:


Highlights include:

"This new tool can be used as an outstanding educational tool. As we are teaching our students how to research and write properly with appropriate credit and citations, Turnitin will allow them to review their assignment to improve their writing. If set up properly, they can even view their assignment and revise it, submitting their best original work by the assignment's due date. It also contributes to peace of mind for faculty who have that "gut feeling" about submitted work but it's difficult to verify the sources. Although Turnitin is not foolproof, it is a great resource for all in the academic community.

In Educational Technology, we agree with the developers of the product that it should be used as an educational tool rather than a policing tool. We're here to help with that!"

For me, this speaks to (at least three specific points):

1)  Turnitin *can* be used as an educational tool, where students can submit rough drafts (which can easily *not* be stored in our student paper database), make any corrections that they understand need to be made, and work with their teachers (or the Writing Center on their campus) to understand any additional areas of concern.

2)  Turnitin is *not* foolproof (I will begin a thread on this topic later this week), but it is still a tremendous automation tool for verifying online citations and identifying matching text from various sources.

3)  Groups such as Educational Technology should (and are beginning to) take the charge in educating faculty about the proper uses of Turnitin.  In fact, I'd like to take this one step further, and bring this into a light that someone alluded to a few days ago:

I would like to see members of the Writing Center community begin to discuss the proper ways that Turnitin may be used.  I agree with one of the WPA statements that states: "Use Plagiarism Detection Services Cautiously" - and I would like to work with members of the community to determine if ideas and processes can be developed that may bring value to all of us at this table.  I think that it is still slightly premature to discuss specific policies and steps, but one of my goals in this conversation is to see if we can begin to make inroads in this direction.  I agree with Charlie's (paraphrased) comment that 'this (the art of writing) is our discipline', and I am eager to see if we can find common ground in our (similar) goals.

Ok - I think that there are a few unanswered questions in another post, so I'm going to try to address a few of those items before time runs out for tonight.



To reply to Gina:

I agree with your statement: "Copy and paste plaigrisism (Plat Matt, help me out here with the splling), or patch writing, can actually, as I've previously suggested here, be a sign of cognitive work. I've found that most students have no idea that they can gain ethos by citing--if you contextualize it for them in terms of their own experience, e.g., exclusive knowledge of what's going on in a certain frat, with a certain sports team, or in a certain TV series--they begin to understand what citations mean."

I think that this is one of three basic stages of development (to use a very rough structure):

1)  The relative 'beginning' is when research starts, be it through patch writing, copy and paste plagiarism or anything in this vein.

2)  The transition begins when the idea of citation is introduced, understood and embraced.

3)  The transition is 'completed' when the student internalizes the practices and begins to utilize proper citation skills in a self-managed fashion.  (this does not rule out the pursuit of further assistance, but simply means that the basic skills have been learned).

I think that we can be a great strength in the educational capacity of #2, and that we are an excellent tool for verifying that the skills have been successfully used (either by the student or by the teacher) in #3.

The basic mentality shift that I recommend is summed up as follows:

"Please do not assume that your students understand all of the rules in advance"

I plan on bringing the discussion back to the WPA recommendations soon (tomorrow?), but it seems that the WPA statement leans in this direction as well.



I'm glad to see that Turnitin recognizes the differences between plagiairsm and misattribution. And thanks, Micheael, for the offer of sharing research. You might want to consider looking into the research on plagiarism conducted within the field of composition. If you are interested in learning more, Rebecca Moore Howard has complied what I believe is probably the most comprehensive biblography on plagiarism which includes scholarship in composition studies, work by other fields, items in the news, etc. Click on the various tags in the middle of the page which begin with plagiarism to get an idea of the wealth of information available. Dig through it, and you'll find a ton of scholarship in composition studies, enough to keep you busy reading for weeks.

I would also strongly encourage you--or someone else in your company--to do so. As I read these discussions, I've been getting the message that you continue to miss the primary objection to Turnitin. As is often the case with new technology, there can be productive uses that serve society and other uses that create more problems than the technology solves. Just ask Alfred Nobel.

In the instance of plagiarism detection services, I don't think anyone would disagree with the point that there are more effective pedagogical uses of this technology than others. There are teachers doing the best that they can with the software. It's just that Turnitin could be doing much more. It's not enough to say that Turnitin can be used this way or that way. These approaches should be an integral part of Turnitin's marketing approach and initial client training. If it was, Ellen, Julie, and I might not have had to write that position statement. It's not because of Turnitin that those changes were made on the GVSU website; it's because of us. In the same vein, you have answered in reply to comments about storing student papers that there is an option to not do so. This should not even be an option; it should be the standard configuration.

It all comes down to this: to be an expert on plagiarism prevention (not just detection) from a compositionist perspective, a company must understand the principles of teaching writing and implement those principles. The WPA statement is the culmination of thousands of hours of scholarly work over the years, discussions at conferences, and years of experience in the teaching of writing. It's clear to me from these discussions that Turnitin needs to do a lot of study in this area. If you (and Turnitin) had even a basic grasp of this pegagogical area, your writing--as an official representative of Turnitin--would demonstrate this. It's been very hard to follow some of your posts because of huge chunks of texts from other sources thrown in. This is not how we teach students to use source material effectively in their writing.

I hope you won't take the previous statement as a personal attack. It was just to make a point. Turnitin has a lot to learn about the teaching of writing, and as such, plagiarism prevention. Too bad, really, since you market peer review software. You'll always have problems with market penetration into first year writing and composition courses with that product as long as you resist how your plagiarism detection software needs to fit into accepted pedagogy.

These comments seem to indicate what I've been saying all along--it's best to keep the focus of the product squarely on preventing cheating and not try to engage the wider discourse on "plagiarism," which has always been a confusing and (as many would argue) an intellectually bankrupt concept. I wouldn't have the words "plagiarism" or "intellectual property" anywhere on the website, much less on the marketing materials.

As long as you market turnitin.com as purely a tool to alert teachers to unauthorized copy-and-pasting, you seem on solid ground. If you start talking about how it's a tool that prevents "plagiarism" and enforces traditional notions of copyright and the like, you start tripping alarms. The whole concept of "plagiarism" has been ripped to shreds by many a righteous academic, whereas no champion of a student's rights to cheat has stepped forward.

I would also consider a compromise that should appease most of the complaints about how the service uses students' own essays against them. The solution is this: Make that part of turnitin.com free. If I want to compare one of my student's essays to those stored in the turnitin.com database, I should be able to do that without having to pay you a cent. On the other hand, if I want to compare the paper to all the paper mill sites and other online sources, then ask for payment.

Of course, I'm sure that anyone using the "free" part of this service will likely want to access the commercial part as well, so it seems like a win-win situation to me.

Check out Barton's gaming blog at Armchair Arcade.

Hi, Charlie -

While I don't take your statement as a personal attack per se, I do feel that a critique of my writing as it appears in the comments of a blog is a form of a smear.  The dialogue within this forum also seems to be becoming more of a series of position statements and less of a constructive conversation.  I have spent several posts asking for any and all feedback relating to ways that we can improve our best practices, and many of the responses (including your most recent one) are still discussing how Turnitin is resisting the need to fit into accepted pedagogy.

I have been encouraged that this conversation has been crossposted to many additional forums, and I am eager to join in those conversations upon my return from vacation.  There have been a wide variety of viewpoints expressed on all sides of this fence, and - while I disagree with some of the viewpoints - I feel that it is important that all sides are given a voice. 

On a related note:  We have started a Discussion Group using Google Groups to discuss our Peer Review feature.  The initial commentary has been tremendous - some of it has been critical, but all of it has been constructive, and our developers are enjoying the feedback that they are receiving from the field.  This is what I hoped to achieve using this forum, and this is what I will continue to work towards using any mechanism that seems to be productive.  If anyone has any ideas for furthering this discussion and assisting us in our development of best practices, please let me know - we are soliciting this input from various groups, but the WPA seemed to be one of the groups that would want to be involved in this effort.

I will be offline for at least one week and likely two - I am taking a vacation week for the first week of October, and I will be at Educause in Dallas from October 9th - 11th.  If anyone reading this is planning to be at Educause, please come by the Turnitin booth to say hello - I really enjoy the face-to-face interaction that is enabled at a conference.

If anyone would like to offer any constructive comments in a non-public forum, please feel free to contact me at mbruton@turnitin.com.  If there are other public forums that you feel should be involved in a constructive discussion regarding best practices and proper pedagogy for using a plagiarism prevention service, please let me know as well.

Thank you all for your time!  I have enjoyed my entry into the 'blogosphere', and I look forward to communicating with many of you in the near future.



These comments of Charlie's seem to me to be fairly specific constructive suggestions:

You might want to consider looking into the research on plagiarism conducted within the field of composition....It all comes down to this: to be an expert on plagiarism prevention (not just detection) from a compositionist perspective, a company must understand the principles of teaching writing and implement those principles.


In the instance of plagiarism detection services, I don't think anyone would disagree with the point that there are more effective pedagogical uses of this technology than others. There are teachers doing the best that they can with the software. It's just that Turnitin could be doing much more. It's not enough to say that Turnitin can be used this way or that way. These approaches should be an integral part of Turnitin's marketing approach and initial client training.


In the same vein, you have answered in reply to comments about storing student papers that there is an option to not do so. This should not even be an option; it should be the standard configuration.

These strike me as some useful suggestions for changing the software's default configurations, the marketing/training aspect of your company's work, and your company's understanding of an important potential segment of its client base: writing teachers.

***This post was edited by lnschen b/c I realized I was misreading something Michael said.***

Hi, Ellen - Yes, they are, and these are some of the topics that I am hoping that we can address.  In response to:

"In the instance of plagiarism detection services, I don't think anyone would disagree with the point that there are more effective pedagogical uses of this technology than others. There are teachers doing the best that they can with the software. It's just that Turnitin could be doing much more. It's not enough to say that Turnitin can be used this way or that way. These approaches should be an integral part of Turnitin's marketing approach and initial client training."

Stay tuned.  I think that you will see some significant changes in the not-too-distant future. 

re: "You might want to consider looking into the research on plagiarism conducted within the field of composition....It all comes down to this: to be an expert on plagiarism prevention (not just detection) from a compositionist perspective, a company must understand the principles of teaching writing and implement those principles."

I am eager to work with you, Charlie, the WPA, and any other relevant parties to discuss how we may be able to build some of these principles into our best practices.  As I mentioned in one of my initial posts, we take the statement that 'Turnitin Discourages Good Pedagogical Practices Concerning Writing' very seriously, and that is one of the primary reasons that I felt the need to response to your initial letter.  I think that we have discussed a few issues at a high level, and I am hopeful that we will begin to drill down on specific recommendations that we can offer so as to improve the ways that our service is used by faculty members and students.  The effective use of our service ultimately resides in the hands of the practitioner in the field, which is something that we cannot control, so we will need the support of Faculty Development centers and Writing Centers to ensure that any advice that we provide is understood and effectively implemented. 

To attempt to jump-start this process, let me ask a high-level question that I hope can be a launchpoint for some drill-down discussion:

"What would be some specific recommendations that you (the reader) feels that Turnitin should convey to work within good pedagogical principles?"

As an example, here are a few pieces of advice that I relate to instructors on a regular basis:

- Allow your students to pre-submit drafts of their work to Turnitin.  If they do not understand any of the material within the report that they receive, encourage the student to either a) work with you directly to understand the issue or b) bring the report to the Writing Center so that they can work with a tutor to understand the report.

- Make sure that your student knows that Turnitin displays 'matching text' and not plagiarism - it may be that the text is cited, or it may be that it is common knowledge and does not require citation.  Turnitin simply displays matching text - as such, the report needs to be interpreted by someone with an understanding of proper citation.

- Understand the difference between gross academic misconduct (intentional cheating) and misuse of sources - not every student arrives in your class with the same level of citation skills, and not every student received the same education with respect to proper citation.  If the issue is related to the misuse of sources, you have a great opportunity to work with your student to enhance their understanding of this topic, which will likely assist the student in their future endeavors.

Ok - I need to leave for now, but I am still compiling a list of third-party research and stories regarding positive uses of our technology - I may be able to send the list prior to my vacation.



In an attempt to gain focus on the issues addressed in this discourse; there seems to be two areas of concern.

 1)     The protection of Intellectual Property Rights

 2)     The use of Anti-plagiarism software and its role in effective teaching. 

Problem 1:


We can leave the first concern up to the lawyers: however, the sensible way to avoid the matter all together is clearly outlined in this post from the staff member (Michael) at Turnitin:


“The teacher can set the assignment so that papers are not stored in the database.  This can then be set as the default for all future assignments for that instructor.  This functionality has been in place for a couple of years.”

“The school can license our 'client node', which allows all student papers to be stored in a school-specific node that will only be accessible to instructors and students within that school and will *not* be accessible to our primary student paper database in any way, shape or form.  We developed this as a fail-proof alternative to option A for institutions that prefer this functionality.”


We are all in agreement that most of the problem is lifting from internet sites … not copying the papers of others. If the above features are in fact available to TII, then  Problem Solved  

The second concern; the concern over the “gottcha mentality”.

From my experience as a classroom teacher; the problem lies in students abusing the copy/paste tool on their web browser..

In the distant past; students would copy the Encyclopedia; line - by brutal line - pound it out on a type writer then submit as original work  At least, during that era, they had to read what they copied. Now,  one needs to merely high-lit / copy / paste / followed by a quick spell check … print and submit. You may or may not choose to read the final product.

“What … you don’t trust your students … guilty before proven innocent … GIVE ME A BREAK!

In fact, spare me the rhetoric about “teachers fail to provide proper guidance”. The copy/paste mode is the way it’s done … it’s almost hardwired into their systems.

In an AP level Biology course; I expended enormous energy explaining proper formatting and hours on the need to respect the Intellectual Property Rights of others.

In my first use of the software: Twenty-seven papers were submitted to Turn-it-in. Twenty-five of them would have failed even the most ‘relaxed’ guidelines of resource recognition. Of those; seven were exact replicas of a single  “web site”.

Efforts to validate such acts of plagerism would have been impossible in the past. At best you may have identified a few of the "unlucky" ones.

“Gottcha” … well maybe.

At the time, I had no idea the tool was so effective in ferreting out those who constructed a 10 page paper in 5 minutes or less. They were warned of the service and its potential to detect such attempts; however, none of us realized just how effective of a tool it is.

The scenario has never reoccurred. The word is out. They listen to my instructions on proper formatting and the need to recognize the sources from which they draw their information. They make every attempt to do it the right way. If it is out of fear… so be it.

It is a very effective TEACHING tool.


I am actually getting quite sick of all this rhetorical broo-ha-ha!!

I AM A CTU STUDENT, and I was NEVER asked about this program. I have over 20 years experience working in the "Real World" and quite frankly have had to deal with Intellectual Property theft in the past. I must admit that CTU did a pilot of this system sometime in the fall 2006 session, at which time I voiced my ethical and legal concerns regarding their use of this system as well as my extreme displeasure that it was even being considered - though I was NEVER asked for my input. Additionally, NONE of the students I am in class with were ever asked anything about the implementation of this system, pro or con, agree or disagree. So their claims that this is a success story are a bit premature and are not fully revealing the facts. Then again, this seems to be a common thread in the psychological makeup of the leadership at iParadigms, LLC.

I don't care what Mr. Barrie or Mr. Bruton have to say, this service is a blatant violation of IPR and they know it. The fact that they are now changing their story by offering a non-database storage option (which I find very difficult to believe they are actually doing) should make it obvious to everyone that this is a REAL legal issue. No matter how you slice it, iParadigms aka Turnitin.com, Plagiarism.org, iThenticate is profiting from the forced and uncompensated inclusion of student papers in their database and the colleges and universities are in collusion with them.

Just to give you a bit more perspective, My university and iParadigms, LLC have BOTH been provided Cease and Desist letters which NIETHER one have complied with. They have until the 15th of March, 2007 to comply; this subject is NOT open to negotiation.

Also, as an interesting side note, I have just recently submitted a paper to MY SCHOOL which in turn was submitted/transferred to the Turnitin.com system (in direct violation of my copyright notice and C&D) and I received a 20% originality score. This paper was written purposely and with observation to determine whether compliance was implemented and/or what results would be obtained. Incidentally, the paper was also written without the availability of ANY reference material whatsoever. The copyright notice is what received the hits out of a two and one-half page report. Incidentally, the document contains 886 words, 149 of which are the full copyright notice, which actually comprises 16.8% of the document. Obviously the Turnitin.com system is "erring" on the side of caution when it computes your "cheat factor".

Something else of interest regarding this whole mockery; If you think you have signed away your intellectual property rights because you were forced to sign them away to your college or university by signing an agreement, you may want to contact an attorney and discuss this issue as an agreement can be void and unenforceable.

This may be “tipping the hand”, but whatever you do, beware of the arbitration clauses that will inevitably creep into this issue as they are generally (though not in every state – see United States v. Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation, 282 U.S. 30) severable from a contract/agreement and will most likely only be modifiable by the arbitrator, who is generally determined by the university or college, even if it says “impartial”. It’s really a shame that you must now have an attorney examine your enrollment documents before you enroll in a higher learning institution. Of course, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford have all flatly refused to use the Turnitin.com system and UC Berkeley has a few of their own issues with all of this, Mr. Barrie’s (founder of iParadigms, LLC) own university where he apparently worked while developing the iParadigms service/assets.

You may also want to consider the implications of the USA Patriot Act as well as other pre-employment or future employment practices. In today’s era of “Anti-Terrorism” activities, many personal protections, specifically with regard to thought, speech and privacy, are being slowly, systematically, and quietly eroded if not outright eliminated.

Just a couple of reference articles to read:

PS: It became obvious that Mr. Bruton works for Turnitin (as a senior account manager), but as the company's usual methodology applies here, he has not been forthcoming in revealing that information now - has he?

Since you have solved the problem, why don't you lead by example and submit ALL of your college level work to the Turnitin system, including your thesis or dissertations and publish those reports for all to see?

If you are not willing to do what you require of others, then you are in no position to make the demand!

-- added after initial posting --
Oh, I forgot to mention... This means nothing if you are not held to the same standards and penalties as those you aim to challenge. That would mean if your work receives a high enough "score" and deemed plagiaristic, then you should be terminated and not permitted to teach at any institution. That is essentially the same stakes as your students - expulsion for academic dishonesty is almost as fatal as having a dishonorable discharge from the military.

I am a bit confused. What teachers have solved what problems in this thread? Seems to me that the only person who speaks in favor of Turnitin is the company reprsentative, and he, something tells me does not teach.

That's my point - it is a facetious comment about the teacher solving anything. (and yes if you read the whole thread, you will find those in academia who are hailing this as the best thing since sliced bread - can you say L-A-Z-Y?) It was made in response to an earlier post in the thread. If you change your view to "threaded" and look toward the middle of the messages, you will see where it replies to the person exhibiting a complete disregard for other's property and claiming to be a teacher. Also, it was a bit of a satire in that the very people who are demanding that students be held to this higher ethical ground (which most have anyway) possess absolutely no integrity themselves. If they did, then they would have no problem with submitting ALL of their previous works for "scoring" in the turnitin system, and suffer the consequences if their works are deemed plagiaristic by other authors. Then again, unless it were a teacher/professor chosen at random, at a random time, by students and the events were unknown to the iPlagiarize,LLC people, it would mean nothing as I don't trust them or the institutions that use their services. I don't really want to spend more time on this particular aspect as it only serves as a distractor to the larger problem - theft of intellectual property for commercial use and violation of copyright ownership for commercial gain by the company.

My comment is intended not as a "Real" solution to the problem because the only REAL solution is for the Turnitin or Plagiarism.org or whatever name they are operating under today, to stop stealing the property of others (which extends beyond students). This will certainly require a complete change in their business model, but they won't have to worry about that if enough people start filing action (lawsuits) over the infringement. The universities need to be held accountable for this as well since they are making using of the stolen property and contributing to the theft of student works as well.

The only way that they could have done this with any decent ethical position is if they had paid the rightful owners for the material they are using to "compare" students' works to, including compensating the students for the works that they have stolen from those students.

This has happened to over 40 of my papers! The only thing it has caused me to do is to limit the content of my papers and to make sure that I present NO ORIGINAL concepts... and I'm not the only student at my university who has more than a passing issue with this situation.

You know, before this issue became the focal point of problems, I had an issue as to why students who obviously had no command of the subject matter (even at the end of the class) were being passed - apparently with A's as they continued to appear on the Chancellor's List from quarter to quarter - and the focus of the education was on making proper APA citation -- NOT LEARNING THE MATERIAL or exhibiting sufficient comprehension of the subject matter of the class. Maybe the university sees this as a way to divert attention from their larger problems at hand - as in maybe their accreditation needs to be substantially reviewed!

BOTTOM LINE!! DON'T ATTEND A UNIVERSITY OR SCHOOL UTILIZING TURNITIN OR A SIMILAR SERVICE! If the teachers/professors can't do their jobs, then they and the school should be held accountable, not the students! New students can best accomplish this by NOT giving those institutions your education dollars - and they are yours, especially if you are using student loans as you WILL have to repay that money at a later date from your future labors. For the rest of us caught up in this debacle - PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS!!

One Last Thought!!
Consider This! Since I've heard teachers and supporters of the plagiarists at Turnitin.com and educational institutions state that student materials have no marketable value anyway! (can anyone say thesis?) here is something for you to contemplate --- As a result of my educational pursuit, in conjunction with my real world experience before returning to college, I have found TWO uses already for materials that I created while in school. The first one may potentially help me obtain what I would consider to be the "Perfect Job" as it was based on a paper in school - imagine if this employer (who works with other education institutions in the area) were to submit this presentation to this service - WHAM! Very High "Similarity Score" and I'm deemed untrustworthy - I lose the job!! If that happens, the resulting backlash will not be very pleasant for those at fault. Secondly, I have been offered an opportunity to write a course book as well as collateral teaching materials based on my performance in another setting coupled with concepts that were presented in school papers. Now tell me that these papers I am creating for school have No Value!!! Bunk!! They are HIGHLY VALUABLE, especially if they become part of a published work and especially if they help me to attain the job of my dreams!!

If you change your view to "threaded" and look toward the middle of the messages, you will see where it replies to the person exhibiting a complete disregard for other's property and claiming to be a teacher.

FYI: If you hit the reply link directly beneath a comment, your reply will fall into the threaded view as opposed to this comment which is not in the thread in it's proper place.

Charlie | cyberdash