Turnitin is a great tool to help identify plagiarism by students. In fact, examination of originality reports is my first action when marking student work in order to eliminate those few students who have not followed my advice to avoid cut and paste except when it is relevant, in quotes and references.
However, the claim by iParadigms, as reported in “Cheaters’ helper or learning tool?” (News, 24 April), that Turnitin “allows students to develop their academic writing skills by…analysing the originality report to identify areas for improvement” can be of use only to students who have forgotten where they copied it from so that they can then provide the reference. That is, unless they are using it to try to identify those parts of their work that still have a “fingerprint” indicating its source so that they can disguise it further in the hope of avoiding detection. Enabling students to submit their work for an originality report certainly contributes to student satisfaction, but I am not convinced that it is worthwhile academically.
Much more important is educating students about the purpose of referencing and setting assessments that are hard to plagiarise.
Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Humanities
University of Greenwich