Turnitin is a commercial, Internet-based plagiarism-detection service launched in 1997. Universities and high schools typically buy licenses to use the software-as-a-service website, which checks submitted documents against its database and the content of other websites with the aim of identifying plagiarism. Results can identify similarities with existing sources, and can also be used in formative assessment to help students learn to avoid plagiarism and improve their writing.
Type of site
|Online SaaS editor|
2101 Webster Street (Suite #1800)Oakland, California 94612, United States
Students may be required to submit work to Turnitin as a requirement of taking a certain course or class. The software has been a source of controversy, with some students refusing to submit, arguing that requiring submission implies a presumption of guilt. Some critics have alleged that use of this proprietary software violates educational privacy as well as international intellectual-property laws, and exploits students' works for commercial purposes by permanently storing them in Turnitin's privately held database.
Turnitin's parent company, iParadigms LLC, runs the informational website Plagiarism.org and also offers a similar plagiarism-detection service for newspaper editors and book and magazine publishers called iThenticate. Other tools included with the Turnitin suite are GradeMark (online grading and feedback) and PeerMark (peer-review services). Turnitin released the WriteCycle Suite on February 3, 2009, which bundles the Originality Checking service with its GradeMark online grading tools and PeerMark tools.[jargon] Turnitin released Turnitin2 on September 4, 2010, dropping the "WriteCycle" nomenclature.
The Turnitin software checks for potentially unoriginal content by comparing submitted papers to several databases using a proprietary algorithm. It scans its own databases, and also has licensing agreements with large academic proprietary databases.
The essays submitted by students are stored in a database used to check for plagiarism. This prevents one student from using another student's paper, by identifying matching text between papers. In addition to student papers, the database contains a copy of the publicly accessible Internet, with the company using a web crawler to continually add content to Turnitin's archive. It also contains commercial and/or copyrighted pages from books, newspapers, and journals.
Students typically upload their papers directly to the service for teachers to access. Teachers may also submit student papers to Turnitin.com as individual files, by bulk upload, or as a ZIP file. Teachers can also set assignment-analysis options so that students can review the system's "originality reports" before they finalize their submission. A peer-review option is also available.
Some virtual learning environments can be configured to support Turnitin, so that student assignments can be automatically submitted for analysis. Blackboard, Moodle, ANGEL, Instructure, Desire2Learn, Pearson Learning Studio, Sakai, and Studywiz integrate in some way with the software.
The Student Union at Dalhousie University has criticized the use of Turnitin at Canadian universities because the American government may be able to access the submitted papers and personal information in the database under the USA PATRIOT Act. Mount Saint Vincent University became the first Canadian university to ban Turnitin's service partly because of implications of the Act.[full citation needed]
Lawyers for the company claim that student work is covered under the theory of implied license to evaluate, since it would be pointless to write the essays if they were not meant to be graded. That implied license, the lawyers argue, thus grants Turnitin permission to copy, reproduce and preserve the works. The company's lawyers further claim that dissertations and theses also carry with them an implied permission to archive in a publicly accessible collection such as a university library.
- The company copies the entire paper, not just a portion
- Students' work is often original, interpretive and creative rather than just a compilation of established facts
- Turnitin is a commercial enterprise
When a group of students filed suit against Turnitin on that basis, in Vanderhye et al. v. iParadigms LLC, the district court found the practice fell within fair use; on appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
Presumption of guiltEdit
Some students argue that requiring them to submit papers to Turnitin creates a presumption of guilt, which may violate scholastic disciplinary codes and applicable local laws and judicial practice. Some teachers and professors support this argument when attempting to discourage their schools from joining Turnitin.[full citation needed]
iParadigms, the company behind Turnitin, runs another commercial website called WriteCheck, where students must pay a fee to have a paper tested against the database used by Turnitin, in order to determine whether or not that paper will be detected as plagiarism when the student submit that paper to the main Turnitin website through the account provided by the school. The economist Alex Tabarrok has complained that the company "are warlords who are arming both sides in this plagiarism war".
In one well-publicized dispute over mandatory Turnitin submissions, Jesse Rosenfeld, a student at McGill University declined, in 2004, to submit his academic work to Turnitin. The University Senate eventually ruled that Rosenfeld's assignments were to be graded without using the service. The following year, another McGill student, Denise Brunsdon, refused to submit her assignment to Turnitin.com and won a similar ruling from the Senate Committee on Student Grievances.
A few other Canadian universities are currently[when?] in the process of either total or partial ban of this service. On March 6, 2006, the Senate at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia prohibited the submission of students' academic work to Turnitin.com and any software that requires students' work to become part of an external database where other parties might have access to it. This decision was granted after the students' union alerted the university community of their legal and privacy concerns associated with the use of Turnitin.com and other anti-plagiarism devices that profit from students' academic work. This was the first campus-wide ban of its kind in Canada, following decisions by Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford not to use Turnitin.
At Ryerson University in Toronto, students may decide whether to submit their work to Turnitin.com or make alternate arrangements with an instructor. Similar policies are in place at Brock University in Saint Catharines.
On March 27, 2007, with the help of an intellectual property attorney, two students from McLean High School in Virginia (with assistance from the Committee For Students' Rights) and two students attending Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona, filed suit in United States Circuit Court (Eastern District, Alexandria Division) alleging copyright infringement by iParadigms, Turnitin's parent company. Nearly a year later, Judge Claude M. Hilton granted summary judgment on the students' complaint in favor of iParadigms/Turnitin, because they had accepted the click-wrap agreement on the Turnitin website. The students appealed the ruling, and on April 16, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed Judge Hilton's judgment in favor of iParadigms/Turnitin.
- Christopher Ireland; John English (October 2011). "Let Them Plagiarise: Developing Academic Writing in a Safe Environment (PDF Download Available)". ResearchGate. doi:10.18552/joaw.v1i1.10.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2010-07-07.
- "Turnitin Integrations". iParadigms, LLC. 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
- McDiarmid, Jess (2006-03-16). "DSU takes on Turnitin.com". Gazette. Dalhousie University. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- Halfnight, Drew; Kristina Jarvis; Josh Visser (2006-11-15). "Turnitin risks privacy". Excalibur Online. York University. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- Foley & Lardner, Id., pp. 3-5
- Foster, Andrea L.; May 17, 2002; Plagiarism-Detection Tool Creates Legal Quandary; The Chronicle of Higher Education; retrieved September 29, 2006
- A.V. et al. v. iParadigms, LLC, 562 F.3d 630 (4th Cir. 2009)
- Carbone, Nick (2001). "Turnitin.com, a Pedagogic Placebo for Plagiarism". Archived from the original on October 4, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-28.
- Murphy, Elizabeth (2011-09-09). "Plagiarism software WriteCheck troubles some educators". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
- "McGill student wins fight over anti-cheating website". CBC News. 2004-01-16. Archived from the original on March 6, 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Churchill, Liam (2005-12-02). "Students: 2, Turnitin: 0". McGill Daily. Archived from the original on 2007-05-17. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- "Minutes of Meeting" (PDF). Mount Saint Vincent University Senate. 2006-03-06. Retrieved 2009-03-20.[dead link]
- Amarnath, Ravi (2006-03-15). "Mount St. Vincent bans Turnitin.com". The Gazette. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2011-11-28.
- Osellame, Julia (2006-04-04). "University opts not to 'Turnitin'". The Daily Princetonian. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- "Turnitin.com Information for Students". Ryerson University. 2006-12-05. Archived from the original on 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- "Brock Academic Integrity Policy". Brock University. 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
- Vanderhye, R. (2007-04-16). "A.V., et. al. v. iParadigms, LLC: Amended Complaint for Copyright Infringement" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-20. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- Hilton, Claude (2008). "Memorandum Opinion" (PDF). United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-05.
- Barakat, Matthew (2008-04-28). "Students appeal ruling favoring plagiarism detection service". Boston.com. Archived from the original on 2008-12-06. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- Wilkinson, Motz, Traxler (2009-04-16). "Appellate Decision" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-04-19.
- Official website
- CCCC-IP Caucus Recommendations Regarding Academic Integrity and the Use of Plagiarism Detection Services - recommendations authored by the Caucus on Intellectual Property and Composition/Communication Studies
- Fair Use, Turnitin, And... Why Google Never Should Have Caved On Book Scanning
- Fourth Circuit's Turnitin.com Ruling Brings More Trouble for Plaintiffs