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Plagiarism Detection Services, such as Turnitin, may have some value in simplifying the assessment of material that might be plagiarized from the Internet, or possibly from another student's work. Faculty should be aware, however, of the pedagogical challenges posed by these systems.
Student papers are archived and used by Turnitin to create a database against which other student submissions are matched. Students are not queried for permission to gain full access to their work; that request goes to the faculty member who submitted it. It is therefore questionable to what degree students are protected as copyright owners from infringement on their work, or use of their original material for profit.
Thus far, there have been no successful lawsuits against Turnitin for copyright violation, but that is no assurance of the outcome of future litigation, nor of the ethical soundness of the company's practice.
When students are invited into the learning process, they are more apt to take responsibility for their own learning and to be open to diverse teaching practices. Five pedagogical standards will better protect the students' rights as well foster a productive learning environment:
Many people feel that using a plagiarism detection service can establish an antagonistic relationship between faculty and student as a result of viewing requests for paper submission as a presumption of academic dishonesty.
Honest, open communication with students is essential for dealing with issues that arise with the use of plagiarism detection services. Another important element is how that use is integrated into a self-conscious and developed pedagogy.
Ideally, an instructor will use Turnitin in a manner consistent with excellence in teaching: namely,
For more information about the Center for Teaching Excellence, please contact:
Becky Kasper, Ph.D., Director
301 Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Phone: (518) 564-3043
Fax: (518) 564-5100