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Frequently Asked Questions About Turnitin by Students

  1. If a student submits an assignment to a professor or instructor, who owns the IP rights, such as copyright, of the work?

    While students are required to submit assignments to a professor/instructor as part of the normal course requirements, the student remains the owner of the copyright of such works.

  2. If a student submits an assignment to Turnitin for a professor or instructor, who own the IP rights implicit in the assignment?

    Once again, the student retains the ownership of the IP rights. 

  3. Can professors use a student’s assignment as they see fit?

    In evaluating a student’s assignment, a professor must not reproduce the students written work for any use outside of the evaluation process, unless the student provides written agreement in advance.

  4. How do students know their confidentiality is maintained if they submit an assignment to Turnitin?

    Turnitin warrants that confidentiality of student personal data, such as ID etc., will be maintained, so the student is not directly identifiable from the submission in the data base.

  5. What if a student doesn’t own a computer or have an email address to effectively submit an assignment directly to Turnitin?

    Each student at York University is provided with an email address on the York system, and the university has many computers available for student use across the campus. Learning to use email and using computers is considered a critical skill valuable to students and their subsequent career path.

  6. How does Turnitin work?

    Turnitin uses a matching algorithm that can detect an identical string of words as short as eight words that exist in the Turnitin data-base. Detection of such an identical string of words does not mean the work is plagiarized. It may be that the string of words has been correctly referenced or cited. On the other hand a string of words or sections of an assignment identical to a document in the data-base that is not referenced or cited correctly may be examined further by the professor/instructor for evidence of plagiarism.

  7. Does Turnitin determine that plagiarism has occurred?

    The professor/instructor determines whether there is sufficient evidence of plagiarism to proceed under the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty.

  8. What happens if a student submits an assignment to Turnitin and then decides to make changes to their assignment?

    The comparison algorithms are usually run in a batch each day, such that only the last submitted paper of a student in any day is checked. If a revised paper is submitted on another day, a second report is issued.

  9. How does a student know an assignment has been successfully submitted to Turnitin?

    The system returns a digital receipt to the students email. A record of the receipt should be retained by the student, either as a print of the page or by saving the message in their email files, just in case proof of submission is required.

  10. It has been suggested that Turnitin can actually protect a student’s IP rights. How so?

    One of the distinct advantages of students using Turnitin is that their submission is entered into the data-base and that any future submission by another student who may have used, without authorization, some portion of the original submission will be identified. In this way, Turnitin can protect the IP rights of students.

  11. If a student has used part of another student’s previous submission with the knowledge of the initial author, what would happen?

    The system can detect the similarity. Subsequent investigation by the course director, following the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty, in discovering that a student may have assisted with a breach of academic honesty could lead to both students being charged.   

  12. What report does Turnitin provide to the professor?

    The professor/instructor receives an originality report that identifies, in colour, instances of strings of words, sentences, paragraphs, etc., in a submission with identical words in a document in the Turnitin data-base. The sources of the materials, such as a book, journal article, assignments submitted by students at York or elsewhere, are also provided. 

  13. Does the time taken for reporting delay the return of assignments from professors?

    Reports are provided quickly to professors, usually within 24 hours of an assignment being submitted to Turnitin. 

  14. If the report to the professor indicates an identical portion in an essay to a section of text in the Turnitin data-base, won’t the professor think the student plagiarized the material?

    In instances where some portion of a submission is identical to material in the data-base, the professor may find that the work has been properly cited, such as a statement provided in quotes with the appropriate citation. The professor/instructor will see from reading the section highlighted by Turnitin that the submitted work has not been plagiarized.  

  15. What is the reaction of students in other institutions to professors using Turnitin?

    There are many reports on the reactions of students using the service. Students are generally pleased to use the service to show they have prepared assignments correctly, and are confident their work is honest. They also feel using the service helps to ensure a level playing field, and to catch students who cheat.

  16. If Turnitin identifies some identical text in my assignment with material in their data-base, which the student did not correctly cite, does this mean the student would automatically be charged with breach of academic honesty?

    While some students may be concerned that they may have inadvertently committed plagiarism, in such a case the instructor/professor would be require to follow due process, and the student would be able to defend their actions. Only the professor/instructor determines if a charge of breach of academic honesty is warranted; if a charge is made, a committee will determine whether or not plagiarism occurred or was intentional. Turnitin is only one of the mechanisms that a professor/instructor may use to detect plagiarism.

  17. Does Turnitin do anything other than check similarities in submitted assignments?

    Yes, Turnitin can provide a variety of services to students. It offers a site where instructors can post lecture notes and the due dates for assignments. 

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