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Academic Integrity

Why Do Students Plagiarize?

Back in 2008, a student at The University of North Texas interviewed faculty and students in an attempt to uncover the reasons behind why plagiarism is a widespread occurrence on college campuses. The reasons and its potential long-term consequences are relevant today.


What Is TurnItIn?

TurnItIn is a tool that checks original work (essays, research papers and other written assignments) against a vast amount of previously published papers in the software's database. The company asserts that it is a similarity checker rather than a plagiarism checker. What this means for the faculty and students is that TurnItIn will pull up text that is similar to text within each source from which it was found. It is up to the instructor to determine if the similarity to existing published work (without citations) constitutes plagiarized work. However, it is up to the student to practice ethical writing and submit original work to TurnItIn. If the work is original or all words and ideas that belong to other authors are cited, then the student will likely not be guilty of committing plagiarism.

TurnItIn not only checks internal databases for similarity of content in research papers submitted by students but it also checks for similarity across the open web. Therefore, if a paper has ever been published on the web, and the content is utilized without proper attribution, the student will likely be caught

Professors use TurnItIn to ensure students submit original work. Similarity reports are generated upon receipt of the files as TurnItIn, like a web crawler, finds similarities in sentences and paragraphs. Borrowing a paper or purchasing one online (or offline) is just not worth the risk. If the paper has ever been uploaded, it can likely be discovered. 

Actually, TurnItIn suggests that faculty provide their students with the originality reports from their submitted work. According to the company, this allows the students to see how they may have inappropriately used source materials or referenced content. 

Sample Originality Report:

Screen shot of a TurnItIn Assignment with a high similarity index to indicate plagiarism

TurnItIn and Submitting Assignments:

Students ask if it is permissible to submit an assignment previously submitted to other classes. Not only is this not permissible, but if the assignment was originally submitted via TurnItIn and then again submitted via TurnItIn, the program will find the similarity to be as high as 100% (refer to the story board on self-plagiarism from Unit 1).

The Professor That Doesn't Use TurnItIn

Don't assume that just because your instructor does not utilize TurnItIn, that you are safe from being caught. Iona faculty make use of a number of plagiarism detection tools. Outside of plagiarism detection services available, a professor can simply type a phrase into the Google search box with quotations around it and find out where a particular paragraph or essay has previously been posted online.

All About Patchworking

Patchworking is a term that is important for scholars to know. Why? Patchwork plagiarism involves the work of a student stitching together paragraphs, sentences, and ideas from different sources. While a paper should incorporate different sources designed to substantiate a thesis, each source needs to be correctly cited. "In this Information Age, students produce research projects by piecing together passages quoted verbatim and stitched together with a few introductory or transitional words."
(Source: Cooper, Janice. "Patchwork Plagiarism." Knowledge Quest 35.4 (2007): 62-65.)

The problem students encounter with "patchworking" is that TurnItIn and other plagiarism detectors will check their databases to reveal all sources pieced together and list the original sources of all paragraphs, sentences and phrases. Therefore, it is just as likely for a student to get caught using this method of plagiarism as it is for the student to get caught copying verbatim.