The Turnitin.com service for detecting plagiarism in English prose has been used effectively at UCI for quite a few years; it checks submissions against Internet sources and against other submissions (so that if you use the service in successive quarters, students who "recycle" others' work from previous quarters will be identified).
This document describes how to use Turnitin.com in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UCI. Instructors from other units at UCI should contact their own units' coordinators; for help with this, contact Steve Franklin (firstname.lastname@example.org), the campus coordinator for Turnitin.com.
The campus has a contract with Turnitin that allows unlimited use by any class on campus. Instructors now interact with Turnitin.com themselves; back when there was money, we had a grad student who could help coordinate this.
There are four steps to using Turnitin.com:
Each step is described below.
Register yourself and your course with Turnitin.com
Give students notice that Turnitin.com will be used
UCI's agreement with Turnitin.com requires that students be notified about some aspects of the system's use.
The best way to achieve this is to ask students to sign the following statement. If you typically give students a questionnaire that collects demographic information, you could include this text at the bottom, perhaps introduced with some softening language (e.g., " We apologize for this fine print, but the University wants us to be perfectly clear about a couple of things. Please read this carefully and sign it.").
I understand and agree that to protect the value of the independent work that I do in this course, the work of all students in the course may be compared for textual analysis and evidence of plagiarism to the work of other students, both in this course and in others, and to other sources on the Internet and elsewhere. This may involve the storage of students' work on computer systems outside of the university, such as the Turnitin.com reference database; this storage is solely for purposes of detecting plagiarism. Use of the Turnitin.com service is subject to the usage policy agreement posted on the Turnitin.com site. Students who wish an offline alternative to Turnitin.com should check with their instructor; typical offline alternatives include providing a full annotated bibliography and copies of all cited works with each submitted assignment. I promise to follow all the university, departmental, and course policies about academic honesty.
Signature: _______________________________ Date: ____________
The requirement for providing an offline alternative probably comes from courses where students write about very personal and potentially embarrassing topics. In computer science classes, this presumably should not be an issue. The alternatives are meant to be burdensome enough to dissuade students from requesting them and thorough enough to demonstrate with confidence that a student who does use them will have done his or her own work.
It would be reasonable to allow students to return
this signed statement at the next class meeting, so those few who actually
wish to read the various policies have an opportunity to do so before signing.
Have a TA check the returned statements off against the class roster and
keep after straggling students. You could also reproduce this information
on your syllabus, so students continue to have access to it (see an enhanced sample
that supplements but does not replace the text above).
Have students submit their assignments electronically via Checkmate
Turnitin.com's original model is that individual students submit their own work to Turnitin.com. The problem with this, besides having to teach students how to use the system and dealing with their difficulties, is that a student could easily submit a plagiarized version to the instructor for grading and a different, non-plagiarized version to Turnitin.com. Some instructors may be willing to live with this, or to grade students' work directly from their Turnitin.com submissions; if so, that course of action is available.
But the better way to handle this is to have students
make a single electronic submission using the Checkmate system in ICS (checkmate.ics.uci.edu).
Those submissions can be downloaded and viewed or printed for grading;
they can also be collected and submitted in a batch to Turnitin.com.
Review the Turnitin.com similarity reports
Within a couple of days after the assignments are submitted to Turnitin.com, the instructor can log back in to Turnitin.com and view the similarity report. As always, these reports should serve as indications of papers that merit further (human) investigation; accusations shouldn't be made solely on the strength of any automated tool.