How Turnitin works

August 17, 2007

While being entertained by your neo-oxymoronic "self-plagiarising" ("Self plagiarising lecturer exposes software failings", July ), I was disappointed to see your description of Turnitin as "plagiarism-detection software". What Turnitin does is to identify material that is unoriginal - whether the lack of originality so detected is a case of plagiarism remains a matter of academic judgment. For instance, I was recently asked to give my opinion of a piece of work for which Turnitin had identified 124 published sources. Of those, 122 sources each contributed less than 1 per cent of the unoriginal work submitted, and some of those were the references. I have also seen material where the whole of work submitted by a student was identical to a single published source.

Turnitin is a helpful aid not only in deterring plagiarism but also in identifying poor writing and reference skills.

Understanding what the software does is essential in making that judgment.

David C. Sanders

Associate dean, psychology

Sunderland University

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