Turnitin is a text-matching tool which can be effectively integrated into course activities to help students understand academic expectations and conventions in written assignments.

Turnitin is available only in Brightspace, from the Assignments tool. It is possible for students to upload Turnitin assignments to personal accounts outside of Brightspace, however, we have found that this creates many issues, and are unable to support private student use of Turnitin. Please advise your students to only use Turnitin within Brightspace.

Typical Workflow

  1. Instructor creates assignment and configures submission folder as described above.
  2. Student submits first draft.
  3. Student is able to see the similarity index and the similarity report immediately.
  4. Instructor reviews the similarity index and the similarity report and reviews the first draft and provides feedback to the student.
  5. Student reviews instructor feedback, makes changes, and submits final draft.
  6. Student is able to see the similarity index and similarity report for the final draft immediately
  7. Instructor reviews final draft and assigns final grade and may provide additional feedback.
  8. Student reviews grade and feedback.
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Setting up Turnitin

Once you have created an assignment submission folder in Brightspace, you need to set up your Turnitin options. Consistent with the principle of using Turnitin as a learning tool, we recommend configuring Brightspace assignments as follows.

Enable Multiple Submissions

For any given assignment, we want the student to have the opportunity to review the Turnitin similarity report and any comments from the instructor and to make changes and resubmit. At a minimum, we want the student to be able to submit at least twice and possibly more if you wish.  In the Properties panel, configure the Submission Options as shown below.

The most important setting is All submissions are kept. This allows the student to submit multiple times and review the similarity report and instructor feedback from each submission.

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Enable Turnitin

Go to the Turnitin panel and configure as shown below.

Enable GradeMark for this folder is required in order to enable the Originality Check below.

Enable Originality Check for this folder is required in order to be able to generate the similarity index and similarity reports.

Allow learners to see Turnitin similarity scores in the their submission folder is what allows students to see the similarity index for the submission as well as view a full report along with the instructor’s comments.

Automatic originality checking on all submissions allows students to view the similarity report instantly (or within a few minutes of submitting). This enables students to start work right away on dealing with any similarity issues, even before receiving additional feedback from the instructor.

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Accessing Similarity Reports

Pictured below is a sample submission page in Brightspace for an assignment configured as described above.

There is a new column, Turnitin Similarity, which shows the similarity index. In the example, the student has submitted twice. The first submission has a similarity index of 0%. This indicates that the first submission did not match any documents in the Turnitin document database. The second submission has a similarity index of 29%. This indicates that the second submission partially matches one or more documents in the Turnitin database. You can click on the similarity index which will open a new tab with the full similarity report for that submission.

This video shows how to work with the similarity report.

Turnitin maintains extensive documentation on working with the similarity report.

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Leaving Feedback

This brief video gives an overview of using QuickMarks, which you can use to save and re-use comments you find yourself leaving often. Click here for the QuickMarks support documentation.

For help with writing inline feedback on student papers, click here.

Turnitin maintains extensive documentation on leaving feedback for students.

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Student View

Visit the Turnitin page on the student help site for more information about the student interface with Turnitin, including Originality Reports.

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“AI Writing Detection” Feature

Note: This feature is not supported by EdTech.

Turnitin offers a tool that attempts to analyze student submissions for the presence of GenAI content. This feature is available as part of the Turnitin Similarity Report. To access this information, click on the Similarity Report icon in the list of submissions in an Assignment folder.

AI Writing Detection has an extensive list of criteria that must be met before the tool is even activated. Please refer to Turnitin’s documentation on the AI Writing Detection feature for more information.

Turnitin’s AI Detector: A Brief Overview

Learn more about Turnitin’s “AI Writing Detection” feature.

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Transferring Feedback Studio Grades into Brightspace

If you are entering grades directly into Feedback Studio, you may wish to transfer those grades back into Brightspace. To do so, complete your grading using Feedback Studio and then return to the list of submissions for an assignment inside Brightspace. Click on the “Evaluate” link for a student which will take you to the Brightspace grading form. On the left hand side, you will see the history list for the submissions for this student. For each entry, there are now two new sections, “Turnitin Similarity” and “Turniting GradeMark”. In the “Turnitin GradeMark” section, there is a link, “Use this score”. Click on this link to copy the grade from Feedback Studio to the grading form. Click on the “Publish” button to transfer the grade to the grade book. The revised grading page is shown below.

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Turnitin as a Teaching Tool

How does it work?

To use Turnitin, you must enable Turnitin for the submission folder for a Brightspace assignment. Please see instructions for setting up your assignments. Students submit electronic files to the submission folder for the assignment in Brightspace. Copies of the students’ submissions are sent to Turnitin for processing. The text in each student’s submission is compared to a large database of other students’ submissions that have been collected through Turnitin from many institutions and to textual material located on the web (for example, websites, electronic documents, and ejournals). Turnitin creates an “similarity report” for each submission. The assignment can be configured so that only the instructor views the analysis of the submission (the “similarity report”) or so that students can see the analysis of their own work. The similarity report highlights the phrases and series of words that match text already in the Turnitin database, or on the web, and generates an overall similarity index percentage that represents the number of words that the program finds in common with database content and divides that number by the total number of words in the file.

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What are the privacy implications?

Because data submitted to Turnitin is stored and accessed on U.S. servers, Langara must ensure all practices comply with B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation. Any instructor who uses Turnitin is required to comply with the following:

  1. State the intention to use Turnitin in the course outline and offer an alternative process to any student who has a serious and principled objection to using the service. Suggested text: Turnitin.com: Text matching software (Turnitin®) will be used to screen assignments in this course. This is being done to verify that students document all materials and sources in assignments. Student information and assignments may be stored in Turnitin’s database which is housed in the United States. Students who have serious and principled objections to using the service must give adequate notice in order to be offered an alternative.
  2. Inform students of Langara’s policies with respect to academic integrity.
  3. Use Turnitin only for work submitted by a student registered in that instructor’s Langara course.
  4. Instruct students not to include any personal information on their submissions to Turnitin.
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How can instructors use this tool most effectively in their course?

Based on the literature and results of a pilot at the School of Accounting and Finance at the University of Waterloo, here are some considerations for the use of Turnitin.

Using Turnitin as a learning activity

  • Turnitin can be used as a formative or low-stakes assessment for paraphrasing or citation that allows students to review their results and resubmit their assignment after they have addressed their own mistakes (Ledwith & Risquez, 2008).
  • If students are going to look at similarity reports of their own submissions as part of a learning activity, make sure that they are taught how to interpret the report; many students have reported that they didn’t understand the report that they received (Whittle & Murdoch-Eaton, 2008).

Using Turnitin as a plagiarism tool

  • To help avoid misconduct, clearly define plagiarism within the context of your discipline and how it relates to the assignment that is being submitted, and explain the extent to which students can work as a group (Goddard & Rudzki, 2005; Johnson & Clerehan, 2005).
  • Taking time in class at the beginning of the semester to discuss academic integrity and providing resources for students who may not fully understand plagiarism can reduce unintentional plagiarism (Ledwith & Risquez, 2008).
  • Scaffold assignments so that students hand in a series of documents that illustrate the construction and evolution of major papers. This approach can help document the development of the ideas in a paper and may deter students from plagiarism (Emerson, Rees, MacKay, 2005). Ask a Curriculum Development Consultant or EdTech Advisor for details about designing these sorts of assignments.
  • Recognize that the use of Turnitin may control plagiarism through the threat of detection rather than by instilling academic values in students (Ledwith & Risquez, 2008).
  • If Turnitin is being used to detect plagiarism, check each paper to judge whether the overall similarity index that has been calculated is due to chance matches, matches to common terms or phrases used for an assignment (e.g. the title of a key document, process, legislation etc.) or copying from a source that has not been cited. You may choose options to generate reports that exclude text in quotations marks and in bibliographies. Similarity reports need to be interpreted on a case-by-case basis and any determinations of plagiarism require human judgement. Depending on the number of students in a course and the length of their papers, this process can be time consuming.
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Preparing your students to use Turnitin

  • On the course outline, you must inform students that Turnitin will be used in your course. You should also identify alternatives to Turnitin for students. Alternatives could be one of:
    • an annotated bibliography
    • a draft bibliography identifying an documenting all sources and submitted on a specified date before the due date for the assignment
    • a scaffolded assignment where the student submits an outline of the paper in advance and then at least one draft of the paper with their list of resources before the submission of the final paper with a bibliography
    • a review of available research data on the subject
    • an oral presentation of the topic to demonstrate personal knowledge
    • options the instructor and student have agreed upon
  • Organize a trial submission to the Turnitin assignment in Brightspace so that students have an opportunity to practice accessing and submitting to the Assignment tool well in advance of the assignment due date.
  • Include in assignment instructions reminders to students not to include any personal information on their submissions to Turnitin
  • Provide a rationale for the use of the tool in both the course outline and the assignment instructions.
  • Make students aware of the citation conventions that exist in your discipline (Sutherland-Smith & Carr, 2005). Your subject librarian can help you incorporate resources which will help students learn to use citations appropriately.
  • Discuss the concept of original thought with your students, remembering that scholarly papers are built on the scholarship of others. If you are asking students to be highly original, then you may have higher incidents of plagiarism because students may be reluctant to cite their sources properly (Johnson & Clerehan, 2005).
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Practical considerations

  • In the Waterloo pilot study, faculty reported that Turnitin may not be helpful for the review of tables of numbers because it focuses on text. Turnitin will not flag any numbers in a document.
  • Using Turnitin may result in more time required to mark assignments, and you may want to factor the reading of the Turnitin report into the time allowed for marking by you or your teaching assistants (Sutherland-Smith & Carr, 2005; Waterloo Turnitin School of Accounting and Finance Pilot Results, 2008).
  • Expect that students will appeal the plagiarism charges and be prepared to go through the appeal process.
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University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) tip sheet Encouraging Academic Integrity in Your Course. York University’s Designing Assignments that Forster Academic Integrity.

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This work is a derivative of Using Turnitin in your courses, by the Centre for Teaching Excellence,  University of Waterloo used under CC BY-NC

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Turnitin FAQ

I was reviewing the first drafts of an assignment and two students clearly copied from each other, but the similarity reports did not identify this. Is this a bug in Turnitin?

No, this is not a bug, it is a feature. Before the assignment deadline, student submissions within the course are not compared against each other, only against all other documents in the Turnitin database. Once the assignment deadline passes, student submissions within the course are compared against each other and the similarity report is regenerated. For most students, this results in no change. For students that are copying from each other, it will be identified in the new similarity report.

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Turnitin Guidelines

Turnitin is a text matching tool that compares students’ written work with a database of student papers, web pages, and academic publications.  

When an assignment is submitted to Turnitin for a text matching report, the student’s work is saved as part of Turnitin’s database of more than 1 billion student papers. This raises privacy concerns because students cannot remove their work from the database, and it is stored indefinitely. In addition, saving a student’s work on Turnitin’s database without their consent may put an institution at risk for legal action based on Canadian copyright law (Strawczynski, 2004). 

Refer to General Guidelines for more information on instructor use of Turnitin. You can view the College Student Privacy Policy here.

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Accuracy Concerns

Turnitin claims that their AI detector has a 98% accuracy rate. While this claim is being widely questioned, even a low rate of false positives could result in a significant number of false accusations of cheating. 

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Transparency Concerns

Turnitin’s Similarity report is a good tool for determining how similar a student’s work is to other works. The report is transparent and clearly identifies source works. Turnitin’s AI detection, on the other hand, lacks transparency and flags commonly used phrasing as likely created by AI. 

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General Guidelines for Using Turnitin

  • Be clear and transparent that you will be using Turnitin. When used in a course, the course outline should clearly state that Turnitin will be used. Students should also be reminded about Turnitin’s use before assignment due dates. 
  • Decide whether or not students’ work needs to be saved on Turnitin’s database. The default setting is for all papers to be saved, but this can be adjusted so that a similarity report is generated, but the students’ papers are not saved. 
  • Coach students to remove identifying details. If you choose to save to Turnitin’s database, ensure students remove any personal or sensitive information.  
  • Do not use Turnitin without a student’s knowledge. Generating a report for a specific student’s work without their knowledge or consent raises ethical concerns relating to privacy and transparency. 
  • Consider if the assignment is appropriate for Turnitin. If the students need to include personal or sensitive information in the assignment, Turnitin should probably not be used.  
  • Use Turnitin to identify concerns. Langara’s Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Office recommends using Turnitin to flag concerns. If you identify plagiarism or cheating issue, arrange a meeting with the student to discuss the work further.  
  • If contacted by another institution, be cautious about revealing student information. If there is a match to one of your student’s papers in Turnitin’s database, Turnitin will provide the instructor at the other institution with your email. If contacted about a match, consider carefully before forwarding the paper or any identifying details about the student to the other institution. If you do want to forward the paper, you should obtain the student’s consent. 
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Alternatives to Confirm Authorship When Turnitin Is Not Used

If a student objects to having their paper submitted to Turnitin, or if the assignment is not appropriate for submission to Turnitin because it includes personal or sensitive content, you can increase confidence that the students are doing their own work in other ways. For example, an instructor can require any or all of the following: 

  • submission of multiple drafts 
  • annotation of reference lists 
  • oral defence of their work 

Asking students who opt out of Turnitin to complete additional requirements will increase their workload which would mean that they’re not at an advantage over students who opt in.  

Note: You may want to require students who opt out of Turnitin to inform you at the beginning of the course.  For more information, contact EdTech or Student Conduct and Academic Integrity.  Strawczynski, J. (2004). When students won’t Turnitin: An examination of the use of plagiarism prevention services in Canada. Education & Law Journal 14(2), 167-190. 

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Turnitin accessibility information

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