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Concerns Expressed About the Use of Turnitin

Three principle concerns have been expressed about the use of Turnitin:

  1. that it promotes the view that students cannot be trusted
  2. that it breaches the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of students
  3. that confidentiality of the students may be violated

There are advantages and disadvantages to using a system like Turnitin. Some have objected that Turnitin promotes an atmosphere of distrust that suspects all students of plagiarizing. However, professors have always used their experience and knowledge to detect sections that may not have been referenced correctly or that may have been plagiarized and often check for courses either in books and journals or using web-based search engines. Therefore, Turnitin may be seen as assisting in the normal processes of reviewing and grading assignments.

Like other institutions, we are concerned about the IP rights of students, and confidentiality in the use of this service. This has been a significant concern for several institutions, which has led them to decline to use Turnitin. However, York has looked very carefully at the ethical and legal implications in the use of the service, including seeking out a legal opinion, and has concluded on the basis of the evidence that the advantages of the service for our professors and the reputation of the University system outweigh residual concerns. Moreover, following our thorough examination of concerns in the use of the service, the Council of Ontario Universities has decided to support the service. As we grow more familiar with Turnitin and how it works, we can also develop specific processes that ensure the IP rights of students are preserved.

The privacy pledge of Turnitin We are confident that confidentiality for students is retained. The processes used by Turnitin are in keeping with the traditional process whereby a professor/instructor examines and grades assignments.

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