Turnitin is a web-based service that can compare text in uploaded student papers to a database of compiled electronic academic materials in order to highlight any matching or possibly unoriginal text in the student paper. Instructors (and students, if authorized) can then use the information provided by the tool to identify whether sources have been used appropriately and cited correctly.
Turnitin.com can be used as both a plagiarism detection tool and as an instructional tool to help students learn to use sources correctly, paraphrase, quote appropriately and to cite where needed.
Students may find the Turnitin Originality Report to be useful in helping them to identify situations where they have included too many quotes or have missed important citations. Faculty may use the Turnitin Originality Report to teach students proper citation and to detect and highlight the need for proper referencing.
When a paper is uploaded into the turnitin repository, it is compared against the turnitin database, and an Originality Report is generated which summarizes and highlights potentially unoriginal content (text that has matched against one or more sources in the TurnItIn database).
If students upload their own papers, they can see their originality report themselves (for only their own paper, not other students’). The instructor can also choose to allow students to run the report, make changes to their paper and re-submit. If the instructor uploads the papers, students do not have access to the resultant originality reports.
TurnItIn does not provide a judgement regarding whether sources are appropriately cited. It is the responsibility of the user to analyze and interpret the data provided in the Originality Report.
Turnitin does not distinguish between plagiarized text and correctly quoted text - it considers both instances to be a “match” to something in the database. It is the responsibility of the instructor to determine if matching text is correctly cited. You can set up an assignment to ignore quoted text, but you should still make sure that any matches are evaluated regarding proper referencing.
Conversely, just because Turnitin does not find text to be a “match”, that is not conclusive evidence that the text is original. Turnitin does not have access to PubMed and other public health resource databases (any for-fee journals or password-protected websites), therefore faculty/instructors (and students) should realize that not all potential sources for plagiarism will be referenced. Turnitin can also not identify instances of plagiarized ideas that have been paraphrased without appropriate citation.
In both CoursePlus and the online course system, there is a section of the syllabus that may be added that includes the following text:
If faculty/instructors are to use Turnitin, they should apply its use uniformly for all students on any assignment. It is not acceptable to run only a subset of student papers through TurnItIn.
As an educational tool, faculty may instruct students to submit their papers to Turnitin for plagiarism detection. Only one submission and evaluation of an assignment is permitted within a 24 hour window.
Students should be informed that when a paper or assignment is submitted to Turnitin, either by the faculty/instructor or the student, that submission becomes part of the permanent master Turnitin database to which any future submissions will be compared for plagiarism checks.
To request a Turnitin account under the JHU license, please email your request to CTL Help - firstname.lastname@example.org
Once you have an account, go to http://turnitin.com and enter your user name and password.
This QuickStart guide for instructors has instructions for setting up classes and assignments as well as running Originality Reports.
(Note: if you have gone through the process of obtaining a user account from CTL Help, you can skip Step 1 of this guide)
This QuickStart guide for students walks students through creating an account, uploading their papers, and viewing Originality Reports (if available).
The following resources are provided for additional training and information regarding Turnitin. Detailed user guides, tutorial videos, and other documentation are available via the links below, and on the Turnitin.com website.
Several tutorial videos are available on Turnitin's help site:
The Center for Teaching and Learning and the Office of Academic Integrity will be offering training on Turnitin at the beginning of most academic years. Notices will be distributed with dates and specific registration instructions.
Next Training Session: TBD
While helping students understand situations in which they may have plagiarized, and preventing cases of unoriginal work using a tool like Turnitin are important, it is also important to design your assignments so that there is less potential for plagiarism. The following handouts provide some tips on creating assignments, discussing the purposes for referencing with your students, and encouraging good scholarship.
If, after you review the results of an Originality Report (or based on other research or information), you suspect that you have found a case of plagiarism, you should contact the Office of Academic Integrity (director Jon Vernick). The School's policy on Academic Ethics (linked below) includes several options for first-offense situations of plagiarism, and the Office of Academic Integrity is available to provide you with details and options.
Academic Ethics Code (on my.jhsph.edu portal)