Turnitin is an electronic text matching system that can be used to find text matches between students' submitted work and existing electronic sources, including extensive databases of electronic articles, other student assignments, and the internet. Since Turnitin is a web-based system, student papers (essays or assignments) need to be made available in electronic format. Equally, Turnitin cannot find any matching text with sources that are not available electronically - even then, the system cannot search databases that are password protected. The resulting Originality Report (which reports the percentage of words in the student paper that match existing electronic sources) requires careful consideration and interpretation.
1. How to use Turnitin
1.1 Academic and administrative staff
Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for Staff.
You can use Turnitin either:
Via the TurnitinUK website (http://turnitinuk.com):
- Request an instructor account from email@example.com
- Activate the Quick Submit option
- Instructions are provided when your instructor account is created
- Contact your Local WebLearn Coordinator or Local Canvas Coordinator to get access to a suitable WebLearn site or Canvas course
- Make sure that the relevant students have been added to the site as site members (WebLearn); or enrolled in the course (Canvas)
- Create an assignment using the Assignments tool
- Select the options for Turnitin (follow the on-screen guidance), and decide whether or not you wish students to view their reports
The advantages of using the Turnitin option from within WebLearn (or Canvas) assignments are:
- No need to set up an independent account with the external service
- No need to upload students into a class list, since your students should already be in your WebLearn site (Canvas course)
- No need to email Turnitin passwords and logon instructions to students
- Assignments within the VLE can be integrated with other teaching and learning activities to provide a streamlined learning experience for students
Oxford University policy (See Section 3) currently does not allow students to submit their own work through Turnitin. Please contact your tutor or supervisor for help in using the system.
Students Beware: do not use so-called 'free plagiarism checking' websites - they may store and use your essay for fraudulent purposes!
2. Oxford University's Turnitin licence
Oxford University has a subscription to the TurnitinUK service, which is supported and informed by JISC. IT Services manages the service and creates instructor accounts for staff members on request. The Turnitin licence allows screening of the prescribed coursework of registered Oxford University students only.
There is a separate product (iThenticate) for professional use to screen the work of academics and researchers, proposed articles for publication, or proposals submitted by prospective students for admissions purposes. For various reasons (mainly file sizes), iThenticate will be used to scan electronic research theses written by registered Oxford students for degree purposes. Please contact student systems if you wish to use the University's iThenticate licence.
3. Oxford University's policy
Oxford University policy currently does not allow student to use the system independently - a tutor, supervisor or administrator needs to use either TurnitinUK (see Section 5); or WebLearn or Canvas (see Section 6). If using TurnitinUK, student papers are uploaded by staff members using the Quick Submit option and the staff member then accesses the resulting Originality Report. If using WebLearn or Canvas, an assignment needs to be created in a suitable WebLearn site (or Canvas course) for students to upload their papers themselves and view their Originality Reports (if this option is enabled by the person setting up the assignment).
From the University's Legal office: ‘Given the disciplinary implications if plagiarism is found, from the point of view of transparency and fairness, all reasonable steps should be taken to alert a student to the fact that his/her work may be subjected to specialist plagiarism detection software.' This is in addition to the overall statement included in the student contract which students are required to sign when they are admitted to the university’ (email from Legal Services Office, 24/02/2012). Education Committee provides a Declaration of Authorship, which can be used to accompany the submission of summative pieces of work. The Declaration may be modified by departments and faculties according to their own regulations. (See http://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/),
Since 2016, departments or colleges who plan to use Turnitin to detect possible plagiarism in examined (summative) work, no longer need to seek advance permission from the Proctors. Online submission by students via the WebLearn assignments tool is permitted -- instead of paper-based submissions. Contact Head of Exams (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you wish to set up a special Weblearn site that will display Oxford candidate numbers (to authorised parties) instead of student names, for purposes of anonymity. Note that this functionality is not available in Canvas, but other alternatives for summative submission are being investigated by the Education IT Programme.
4. Originality Reports
After student papers have been submitted and compared to various repositories and databases, an Originality Report (OR) is produced for each submission. The OR highlights parts of the student's text which match with text already held in the Turnitin and other online databases. An overall score (the similarity index) is assigned recording the percentage of the submitted work which is found elsewhere. Scores can be adjusted to take account of properly quoted text and bibliographies.
‘Originality Reports should not be taken as an indication that plagiarism has occurred. They are simply a tool to help an instructor find sources that contain text similar to submitted papers. The decision to deem any work plagiarised must be made carefully, and only after in-depth examination of both the submitted paper and suspect sources in accordance with the standards of the class and institution where the paper was submitted’ (Turnitin Instructor Manual, 2010, p. 48).
5. Quick submit option
There is a quick submit option in the direct TurnitinUK service (http://turnitinuk.com), which is useful if a staff member wishes to do a quick check on a small number of papers, without having to set up a class and an assignment.
6. Using Turnitin through the WebLearn (or Canvas) Assignments tool
Turnitin is enabled via the WebLearn Assignments tool and the Canvas Assignments tool. The assignment must first be set up in a suitable WebLearn site (or Canvas course) by the staff member (‘maintainer' of the WebLearn site; or 'teacher' or 'course adminstrator' in the Canvas course). Students should already be enrolled as members, and then they can submit their essays. The Originality Report is returned in the Assignments tool within around 10 to 15 minutes.
6.1. Advantages of using the integration with WebLearn or Canvas
- You do not need to request a separate Turnitin account
- You do not need to create a class in Turnitin
- You do not need to enrol students directly in a Turnitin class - your students can be easily enrolled in your WebLearn site (or Canvas course) by importing the course group from the central Oxford University database
- You do not need to create an assignment in Turnitin - you do this in the WebLearn (or Canvas) Assignments tool
- Students make use of their existing Oxford single sign on (SSO) login details
- Students submit their own assignments using the WebLearn (or Canvas) Assignments tool
- Turnitin Originality Reports are delivered back to the WebLearn (or Canvas) Assignments tool, for analysis and discussion with the student
- The environment is familiar to students and staff who already use WebLearn (or Canvas)
6.2. Restrictions on using the integration with WebLearn or Canvas
- In regular WebLearn sites (or Canvas courses) students are identified by their Oxford single sign on (SSO) login details. Anonymity for examined (summative) work is enabled only in specific WebLearn 'anonymous submissions' sites, which must be requested from Taught Degrees.
- University policy is that Canvas may be used for formative assessment only (e.g. essays, quizzes, graded discussions), and not for summative assessments.
7. Support and Training
Various sources of help and support are available in considering using a software text matching system for both the formative improvement of students' academic writing skills and for formal detection of possible occurrences of plagiarism.
7.1 Turnitin At Oxford Blog
Read the latest news and views in our Turnitin blog.
7.2. TurnitinUK website
Use the TurnitinUK website (http://turnitinuk.com) to activate your instructor account, set up classes and assignments, or use the quick submit option.
The TurnitinUK support site (http://turnitinuk.com - click on Support, then select Training): offers detailed support for instructors and students in the form of Quickstart Guides, User Manuals and Narrated Videos.
7.3. Plagiarism Advice website
The website www.plagiarism.org offers a wealth of support material, videos and free training webinars on a regular basis, on both pedagogical and technical aspects.
7.4. Supporting academic practice and students' writing
For information regarding supporting students in their writing and academic development, please refer to the Oxford University website Study Skills and Training.
7.5. Face-to-face sessions
IT Services offers a variety of free lunch-time sessions each term. There is one course for staff and one for students. Select ‘P’ for ‘Plagiarism’ in the A to Z listing: Courses. Places are limited and booking is required via the link provided.
7.6. Online tools
There are various online tools and support materials regarding good practice in citation and avoiding plagiarism:
- Tutorial for Oxford University students: Avoiding Plagiarism (hosted in WebLearn)
- WebLearn support site on Plagiarism and Turnitin support (Staff): https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info/plag
- WebLearn support site on Plagiarism Awareness (Students): https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/skills/plag
- Guidance in supporting students: see video presentations by Jude Carroll
- Citation and referencing tools EndNote and RefWorks: Courses for staff and students are run regularly at IT Services. Book a place at: courses.it.ox.ac.uk
7.7. Further reading
Carroll, J. & Appleton, J. (2001). Plagiarism. A good practice guide. JISC and Oxford Brookes University.
Carroll, J. (2002). A handbook for deterring plagiarism in higher education, 2nd ed. Oxford Brookes University: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development. Available at: http://www.brookes.ac.uk/ocsld/publications/
Carroll, J. and Appleton, J. (2007) Support and guidance for international students: what is good practice? In Jones, E. and Brown, S. (Eds.) Internationalising the University. Routledge.
Turnitin User Guides - integration with Canvas (similar for WebLearn integration). Available at https://help.turnitin.com/feedback-studio/canvas/plagiarism-framework/teacher/teacher-category.htm
8. Useful links
- Use of Turnitin at Oxford University: https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/x/KKrY5D
- Oxford University plagiarism strategy: https://academic.admin.ox.ac.uk/plagiarism-strategy
- Request an instructor login to TurnitinUK: email@example.com
- Use the TurnitinUK service: http://turnitinuk.com
- Education Committee: Academic good practice: http://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/
- University Student Handbook: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/student-handbook?wssl=1
- Avoiding plagiarism - Oxford University guidance: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/plagiarism?wssl=1
- Staff guide to using the WebLearn Assignments tool
- Staff guide to using the Canvas Assignments tool