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The Northerner

University tests plagiarism Web site

Jennifer Corbett and Jennifer Corbett

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Northern Kentucky University is taking steps toward detecting student plagiarism one classroom at a time by allowing professors to use turnitin.com, an online plagiarism detection software.

Jan. 19 marked the first turnitin.com workshop for faculty members. Professors will be able to use the Web site to detect unoriginal material by submitting student papers into a new section on Blackboard.

Turnitin.com then highlights the unoriginal material in a student’s paper and displays the source the student took the information from, with red highlights for high amounts of plagiarism and blue highlights for low amounts of plagiarism. However, the site does not take citations into account.

“Sometimes highlighted material can be incidental,” said Sarah Mann, coordinator of Professional Development Programs.

“No matter what the site says, you still got to use your judgment,” said workshop speaker Leslie Turner, NKU accountancy professor.

According to Turner, a trial run of the software was used in his graduate class in the spring of ’06. He told students about previous accounts of plagiarism and ways to stop it, but three students were found to have plagiarized up to 80 percent and, in turn, failed the class.

Turner said some papers were up to 30 to 40 percent alike. One was taken from a Web site that sells term papers and another was identical to one from a different university.

“I find it kind of irritating because you don’t know if students are being genuine,” said faculty attendee Rebecca Evans, professor of biological sciences.

Gail Wells, vice president of Academic Affairs and provost, agreed to use turnitin.com for a one-year trial to determine if teachers would use the program.

Mann said thus far she has not heard any complaints about turnitin.com.

“The only thing I have heard (from teachers) is that their server went down when they wanted to access a report. However, those faculty members have notified me of the issues and they told me that they waited an hour and everything was OK.”

According to Mann, 70 percent of papers submitted into turnitin.com had minimal plagiarism, 30 percent had a significant amount of plagiarism and less than 1 percent had copied an entire paper.

“I think the Web site is useful since plagiarism is such a big problem because it’s so easy to copy and paste from the Internet,” Turner said.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
University tests plagiarism Web site