Students seem to have taken literally what Tom Lehrer urged in his skit about the
great Russian mathematician Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky. (Although his advice can
be found at numerous sites on the Web, directly quoting it here, ironically, would
constitute plagiarism or at least violation of copyright.) The problem of plagiarism
in written work by students has grown immensely in recent years because of the vast
amount of information that is available in electronic form and easily “copied and
pasted” into papers. (For a comprehensive listing of online literature about the problem,
see the section on plagiarism in Maurice Crouse’s document about literature and writing.)
The University of Memphis has secured a site license for faculty to use Turnitin to
maintain a high level of academic integrity in written work by students. It is not
required that you use it, but the experience of instructors who have used it is generally
good. While it can detect plagiarism and furnish strong evidence against those students
who plagiarize, its chief value lies in the encouragement it gives students to avoid
plagiarism because of the guarantee that their written work will be checked for unoriginality.
Turnitin has made the claim in its earlier documentation that its program is “the #1 web-based
solution that lets educators and their students check written work for improper citation
or misappropriated content” and that it “helps educators check students’ work for
proper citation or possible plagiarism by comparing it against three continually updated
content bases: billions of pages of web content, plus hundreds of millions of pages
of proprietary content from subscription-based publications, and over 100 million
student papers previously submitted to Turnitin” and identifies any matches that it
finds between those pages and work submitted by students. You will recognize an unstated
weakness: Turnitin searches a selected portion (though certainly very large) of online
materials and does not search any materials, such as books, that are in print-only
format. Turnitin does not “grade” papers, as some students believe; it merely reports
the matches it finds, and it is up to instructors to deal with the reports as they
Gaining access to Turnitin
Before you can use Turnitin, you must request access to it through umTech at The University
of Memphis. The starting point is its document on Turnitin Training.
You will be asked to become familiar with the Student Handbook, the Faculty Handbook, and the Faculty Legal Advisory Statement provided by the Office of Legal Counsel
regarding Turnitin use by your students (this statement is reproduced below).
There are short videos on creating an instructor account with Turnitin and how the OriginalityCheck feature of Turnitin works that you should view before attempting to create your account. Then go to the document
that gives you the account information you need to create your account. This document is restricted to the university community, so you will have to give
your university UUID and password to access it.
Log in to Turnitin, using the account information you have been given.
Help with Turnitin
There are various training aids available on Turnitin’s Instructor Training page to acquaint you with the program. The Instructor Quickstart Guide is a good place to start. For complete information you will need to consult the Instructor User Manual. (There are similar resources for students.)
If you are in charge of several instructors or have teaching assistants working under
your guidance, you will need to become familiar with the documentation on Managing Multiple Class Sections.
If you have any questions or problems, you may consult Turnitin’s Instructor Training page or its Help Center or send a request to the Center for Teaching and Learning through the University of Memphis Helpdesk.
You may also want to consult with experienced users of Turnitin, who can give you
valuable guidance both on the mechanics of the program and on the interpretation of
the reports it generates.
When you log in to Turnitin to set up classes and the assignments for those classes,
you will have various options, such as whether to allow late submissions or re-submissions
and whether to let students see the originality reports for their papers.
When you set up classes, you will assign each one a name and an enrollment password.
The name can be anything you choose, but it should be uniquely descriptive of the
class (such as "2020_002_14f" or "US since 1877, sec. 2, Fall 2014"). The enrollment
password can also be anything you choose, and you can even use the same enrollment
password for more than one class. Turnitin will furnish a unique course-identification
number for each class you create. You have the option of enrolling the students yourself,
but you can save yourself a lot of work if you have your students enroll themselves.
To enable them to enroll themselves, you must give them the course-identification
number and the enrollment password (they won't need the class name—the course-identification
number will locate the proper class).
The classes on Turnitin are not necessarily linked in any way with your classes here
at The University of Memphis, although if you wish, there is a way to integrate Turnitin
with eCourseware—see the Quick Guide to Dropbox (pdf) and the detailed User Guide to Dropbox (pdf). If you have several classes that have identical assignments, you could even
create a single Turnitin class for all of them. If the assignments are different or
have different due dates, you should of course create separate classes to avoid confusion.
Here is a sample of the information you might give your students (replace the sample
course name, class ID, and enrollment password with the appropriate information for
History 9999 — Instructions for Turnitin
As noted in the syllabus for this course, all major written work must be submitted
in paper form directly to the instructor and in electronic form to Turnitin.com
Your assignment is not complete until both copies have been delivered, and no grade
will be given until both a paper copy and an electronic copy have been submitted.
Papers may be submitted in the following formats: Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect,
Rich Text Format, Portable Document Format, PostScript, HTML, plain text (.txt), PowerPoint,
To submit your paper electronically, you must go to http://www.turnitin.com/. There is a log-in box at the top of the page. If you have not done so previously
for another course, you will need to click on New Users and create a user profile, following the instructions that will be given. If you
need help, there is a guide for setting up a new profile at http://www.turnitin.com/en_us/training/student-training/creating-a-new-user-profile. If you already have a profile, you may log in directly and enroll in a class.
You must enroll in the class, using the following information:
- The class ID is 99999999
- The enrollment password is nevercheat
If you need help with enrollment, view the documentation at http://www.turnitin.com/en_us/training/student-training/enrolling-in-a-class.
There is a guide for students at http://www.turnitin.com/en_us/training/student-training/submitting-a-paper which will guide you through all the steps involved in submitting your paper when
it is due.
Shortly after a student submits an assignment, Turnitin will conduct its search and
make available a report on what it has found. Using that report, you will be able
to see what passages, if any, in the paper match passages in documents in the database.
The documents in which the matches were found will be identified, and you generally
will be able to link to those documents to view them in full, if you wish to do so.
(If the matches are in papers submitted to Turnitin by other students, however, because
of legal issues about privacy you may view those papers in full only if you first
secure permission from the instructors of the students who submitted them.)
The Office of Legal Counsel has provided the following statement that you should
include in your course syllabus if you use Turnitin:
“Your written work may be submitted to Turnitin.com, or a similar electronic detection
method, for an evaluation of the originality of your ideas and proper use and attribution
of sources. As part of this process, you may be required to submit electronic as well
as hard copies of your written work, or be given other instructions to follow. By
taking this course, you agree that all assignments may undergo this review process
and that the assignment may be included as a source document in Turnitin.com’s restricted
access database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism in such documents.
Any assignment not submitted according to the procedures given by the instructor may
be penalized or may not be accepted at all.” (Office of Legal Counsel, October 17,