Editorial: Progress toward combating plagiarism
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 02:09
This year, Tufts has integrated Turnitin, an Internet-based plagiarism detection service created by the company iParadigm, with Trunk.
Turnitin operates by comparing a student’s paper to millions of other papers in a database of peer-reviewed articles and student papers submitted by other users of Turnitin. The system is paired with an advanced algorithm to detect copied words, functioning as an anti-plagiarism tool. Professors who submit students’ papers to this system receive originality reports in return, while the papers are kept in iParadigm’s ever-growing database.
Upon entering Tufts, students complete an academic integrity workshop during orientation that describes what exactly plagiarism is and the university’s disciplinary punishments for it. To ensure that all students receive this information, the university makes the session a mandatory event, a wise idea — the more students know about plagiarism and its consequences, the fewer instances there are of accidental and purposeful plagiarism. Academic integrity is a crucial value that students must uphold, so linking Trunk with Turnitin can provide many academic benefits. The link conveniently allows professors to maintain academic honesty among students. However, there are some ways that the maintenance of academic integrity at Tufts, with Turnitin as an instrument, can improve. While professors aren’t here to explicitly teach how to avoid plagiarism, students should be reminded as to which practices constitute plagiarism and have tools such as Turnitin’s “originality reports” made available to them. Being accused of plagiarism is a serious offense and should not be based solely on a computer printout. Students should have access to the report tool before submitting their papers, which will prevent the rare-but-documented false positive reports of plagiarism and re-educate students on how to correctly cite sources, as well as what does and doesn’t constitute plagiarism.
In addition, students may be unaware that any personal information they may use in papers is being stored offsite on a database without their explicit permission. While there is legal precedent in favor of Turnitin from past court cases, it would be more ethical to inform the students that their work is being used in this way and encourage them to avoid revealing any personal information in their work.
It would have been better if the administration informed students of this change so that they could protect themselves and their personal information, but overall, the integration of Turnitin into Trunk is not anything to be viewed in a negative light. Any easy and inexpensive tool that accurately cuts down on plagiarism and boosts academic honesty is something to be praised.