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Things to Consider:
Using Plagiarism Prevention Tools

Plagiarism prevention tools, such as Turnitin and SafeAssign, can be used to teach students about academic integrity and proper citation of sources, as well as to detect plagiarism. Below are some questions to think about if you plan to incorporate these tools in your classes.

Discussing Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
How will you bring up plagiarism and academic integrity with your students?

  • Broaden the discussion beyond policy - discuss the concept of academic integrity as it relates to pedagogy, rhetorical processes, and research.
  • Let your students know early in the semester if you plan to use plagiarism prevention tools, such as Turnitin or SafeAssign.
  • Include the Hunter College Senate's Academic Integrity Policy statement in your syllabus.

Can you use plagiarism prevention tools to teach writing and research skills?
Plagiarism prevention tools can provide an opportunity to educate students about academic integrity and the conventions for citing sources.

  • Create opportunities for learning by presenting different examples of well-documented papers and improperly cited or paraphrased passages.
  • Generate sample originality reports and discuss your interpretation with the class.
  • Allow students to see originality reports generated from their own papers and use them as self-assessment tools.  

Tool-related Considerations
How will student papers be submitted?
Both Turnitin and SafeAssign provide options for faculty or student submission of papers.  

  • If you routinely use one of these tools, you can set up an assignment within the tool and ask students to upload their papers by the due date.
  • If you use the tools only for papers in which you suspect plagiarism, you can upload selected student papers or specific sections of student papers.

How will you address copyright and privacy issues?
When papers are submitted to Turnitin or SafeAssign, they may be submitted to a database that can be used by other faculty, including faculty outside of Hunter or CUNY.  Faculty can view only their own students' papers in their entirety, but may have access to portions of other student papers.  If a match is found, an instructor will see the portions of text that matched and will be able to contact the other student's instructor. We therefore recommend taking these steps to protect student privacy:

  • Ask students to eliminate all personal information in the body of the paper before submitting it to Turnitin or SafeAssign.
  • If you are contacted by another instructor who suspects a student of copying one of your student's papers, keep your student's identity confidential when sharing the content of the paper.  
  • Do not submit creative/original works by students (e.g., poetry, short stories, memoirs).  If you suspect plagiarism, you can upload specific sections without submitting the entire paper.

Will assignments be submitted to the Turnitin or SafeAssign student paper archives?  To which databases will you compare student papers?  
Both Turnitin and SafeAssign include multiple databases to which student papers may be compared.

  • Turnitin:
    • All submitted papers are compared to the external databases (e.g., Internet sources and subscription databases).  
    • You can elect to exclude quoted material and bibliography from the originality report to get a more accurate similarity index.  You can also exclude specific web sites, if appropriate.
    • By default, student papers are also submitted to Turnitin's student paper database and compared to other student papers that have been submitted to Turnitin.  You can opt out of submitting student papers to Turnitin's database using the advanced options when creating an assignment.
  • SafeAssign:
    • Student papers are compared to external databases, an institutional database of student papers (including all of CUNY), and a global database of student papers.
    • You decide whether student papers are submitted to the institutional database.
    • Students decide whether their papers are submitted to the global database.

How will you will use the originality report?
The originality report indicates which parts of a paper match other sources to which the paper was compared. The report includes a "similarity index" showing the overall percentage of the submitted text for which matches were found.  The originality report is not, by itself, evidence of plagiarism, but may also provide useful information about whether a student used and cited sources appropriately.

  • A high similarity index does not necessarily indicate plagiarism; it may suggest that a student has included a large number of properly cited citations or quoted passages, rather than including a substantial amount of his/her own analysis.  
  • A low similarity index may indicate that a paper was not properly researched or cited.  A student may have paraphrased content without including the appropriate citations or may have neglected to draw on a significant number of sources for their analysis.

Additional Considerations
What else can you do to discourage plagiarism?  

  • Devise unique and focused assignments.  
  • Place more emphasis on the writing and research process by requesting submissions of an outline or a thesis proposal, an annotated bibliography, and multiple drafts before the final draft is due.
  • Create a "low-stakes" assignment early in the semester to obtain a writing sample for future comparison.  Use the assignment to refer students to Hunter's Reading/Writing Center, as appropriate.

What should you do if you suspect plagiarism?

Where can you get additional help at Hunter?