Pro: Should teachers use Turnitin.com?


Nov. 14, 2006, midnight | By Hareesh Ganesan | 13 years, 10 months ago


Haresh Ganesan says YES: Turnitin.com protects students and teaches important skills.

Copying essays, buying research papers online, improper citations - the increased availability of online information has brought even more ways for students to plagiarize. According to a 2005 study by the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University, over 60 percent of high school students admitted to committing some form of plagiarism.

With such a high incidence of academic dishonesty, it's clear that plagiarism is a serious problem in both high schools and colleges. Plagiarism detection tools like Turnitin.com provide teachers with a reliable, objective way to catch cheaters. By comparing turned-in essays to other material in their database, Turnitin.com can catch even minute citation errors. It also stores student papers for future comparisons. Errors in citations can be grounds for dismissal in the world of academia, and proper citation skills are indispensable. Though it is a for-profit company, Turnitin.com's value as a way to stop cheating and teach students how to cite properly cannot be ignored.

Far from violating intellectual property rights, Turnitin.com has the sole purpose of protecting the original work of authors. The essays of previous students are stored only for future comparisons. If a teacher saves student essays from past years and notices blatant similarities between a recent student submission and an older one, she would immediately suspect a student of plagiarism. That would not be a violation of intellectual property rights - rather it would be protecting the original author's rights. In the same way, Turnitin.com checks students' papers against each other to prevent the plagiarism of old papers. Protection of intellectual property, not violation, is the goal.

A teacher can easily spot plagiarism when a student who is normally a poor writer suddenly begins writing doctorate-level papers. But if an already high-performing student submits a plagiarized paper, it can be much harder for teachers to spot cheating. At best, teachers can implement random checks of citations and sources, but there is no guarantee of catching the cheaters. But Turnitin.com is unforgiving, catching plagiarism at all levels. Unbiased by prior student performance, it only compares the essays it receives with the sources it has. Justice, in Turnitin.com's case, is both blind and powerful.

Teachers are limited by a lack of resources and human error. Often, there is no time to painstakingly check every source in every paper submitted. Turnitin.com does away with these limitations. The system is analogous to poring over every book in a library versus searching an electronic patron's catalog. You could search the library inside and out, but the catalog is more accurate and efficient. Time spent checking through an entire class' papers for one instance of plagiarism could be better spent in class, teaching the students who were honest in the first place. By compounding its database with student's work, Turnitin.com is constantly increasing its arsenal against plagiarism.

Turnitin.com is not, however, only a plagiarism detector. True, it catches the blatant cheaters. But its main purpose is to teach students how to cite properly before they must apply their citation skills in real life. Turnitin.com easily catches minor citation problems, such as an incorrect attribution or a forgotten comma. Minor errors may not be outright or intentional plagiarism, but they still need to be addressed since the same minor errors can cause major problems in the real world. It is important that students learn proper citation techniques sooner rather than later. Though Turnitin.com is a way to catch plagiarizers, its primary purpose is as an effective teaching tool, not a cheating alarm.

Turnitin.com is a better way to protect intellectual property and teach students to cite properly. Infringement of intellectual property rights has never deterred the cheater, so it should not deter the examiner.




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