Sunday, 6 May 2012

Turnitin plagiarisation checker

Turnitin is a commercial plagiarisation checker used by Curtin University.  I've used it for the first time today, and it was a very interesting experience. 

Our tutor, Elizabeth, arranged for our class to have student access for the essay we are preparing for our History of Art module.  I had worked very, very hard on my essay, but I find writing essays to be intensive work, and particularly find getting detail correct to be very difficult.  Elizabeth is very hot on us using our own words to paraphrase the research we have done, while correctly (!) referencing our sources.  I had written my essay, and in our most recent tutorial, Elizabeth stressed we needed to use single and double inverted commas correctly and not to confuse the two - for stress/inflection, and for quotation.

Elizabeth sent us the Turnitin access tonight, and I immediately submitted my essay for checking.  I had to create a second version of my essay, by taking out the Reference List, Bibliography, illustrations and any reference to authors of work I had used.  Then the remaining script is cut and pasted into the Turnitin website, press go, and wait for the system to process your work.  The outcome is a percentage score for how much of your script can be found in published work.  This is a massively powerful programme.  My essay scored 2% for plagiarisation. This is acceptable, if correctly credited. The system then highlights the plagiarised words, and colour codes them and links them to the documentation from which they have been sourced!!  How powerful is that!!  My highlighted words were for an attributed definition of Stereotype Threat Theory, which I felt I could not paraphrase more precisely or concisely. It identified the source I had used, and lots of student papers where the same phrase had been quoted. However, I had the double inverted commas slightly out of alignment.  So I moved them.  The other highlighted words were for a common equality phrase - equal pay for work of equal value - and I am not sure how to alter this, as I was not lifting words from the Financial Services Act (which was the document identified as source).  I will ask Elizabeth. 

However, for a first attempt at writing an essay where I did not plagiarise without correct crediting of originating author, I was very pleased.  I suspect Turnitin is a very expensive commercial computer package, which is mostly used by affluent universities.  I cannot imagine it is anything other than a very expensive package.  It was a very good learning experience. 

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