Tag Archives: turnitin

It was original I tell you, it was…

laptop user
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

A story of a personal perspective and recollection.

With the imminent release of AI detection tools within Turnitin, I am reminded of an incident over ten years ago after we introduced a plagiarism checker tool into the college I worked at. I was responsible for a lot of the initial training in the tool. For each training session I would create three pieces of content to be put into the tool to check for originality. One was a straight copy of something from the web, usually a blog post of mine, or wikipedia. The second was an original piece would contain (and correctly) quote third party content. For the third piece I would always create a new original piece of content.

So, there I was delivering the training and I put the first piece into the plagiarism checker tool. It straight away identified that this was copied from the web, and showed the original source.

The second piece went in, again it identified there was non-original content in the submission. However I used this piece to demonstrate the limitations of the tool, as the academic would need to check the submission themselves. They would then see that no plagiarism had taken place.

I always had to create a new piece of content for the third (original) submission so that it would be identified as original.

However one time I did this, the plagiarism checker tool, identified the third original submission has having been copied. I was astounded, as I knew I had only written it that morning.

Upon further investigation I found out what had happened. The originality report indicated that my original piece of work had been “copied” from a university website. Well I hadn’t done that I had written it that morning.


Doing some more Google searching, what I found out, was that the university did indeed have some content on their website. They had in fact “lifted” it from an article I had written a few years previously.

So what had happened was that. Back in the 2000s I had written an original piece of content. The university had taken and used that content.

I in the 2010s had then written an original piece of content, well so original that it was very similar the content I had written years earlier. Obviously I based my new original writing on something I had forgotten I had written about before. 

Putting this “new” content into the plagiarism checker tool resulted in the “new” work been seen as a copy of the earlier work. The plagiarism checker tool only checked originality, so didn’t know (or realise) that the university had copied me. The plagiarism checker tool doesn’t tell you the source.

The key lesson here though was that the plagiarism checker tool was insufficient on its own. It only told part of the narrative. Further investigation was needed and further checking was required to get to the actual truth, and not the perceived truth of the plagiarism checker tool.

What does this mean? Well if your plagiarism checker tool has AI detection in, then you will need to recognise that whatever the plagiarism checker tool tells you, this isn’t the end of the story, it is only the beginning.

The other thing I learnt was that I needed to be more creative in my writing going forward…

Turnitin is quite good, it once showed me that I had plagiarised myself

Gloucestershire College
Gloucestershire College by James Clay

Was reminded of this tweet this week.

Turnitin is quite good, it once showed me that JISC RSC London had plagiarised me. This was back in July 2012.

What happened was that for a Turnitin training session at Gloucestershire College I took three pieces of work.

  • A piece of work which was a straight copy of something from the internet.
  • A second piece which contained quotes of content from other sources.
  • A third and final piece of original content.

Each time I did the training I would have to create a new piece of original content, as once submitted it would flag another submission of the same content as plagiarised or with an originality warning.

So with confidence I went through the three pieces of work, so you can imagine the shock and surprise that the Turnitin system flagged my original content as being copied!

Time for a little detective work. The original piece of work (in theory) was authored by JISC RSC London. Though digging deeper, what had happened was that before then I had written a piece of work, which JISC RSC London then copied and used on their website.

When I wrote my original piece of writing, though it was written completely fresh, it bore a huge similarity to my writing that JISC RSC London had copied.

So what I thought was an original piece of work, was so similar to a piece I had written a fair few years ago, it was picked up by Turnitin. Though Turnitin didn’t pick up the original piece of work, it picked up the work by JISC RSC London that had copied my work.

That took some explaining to the academic staff in the training session.

100 ways to use a VLE – #11 Integrating Turnitin

A decent VLE will allow you to integrate different tools and services into it.

Turnitin is a service that allows both learners and staff to check the originality of their work and then some…

Turnitin is far more than just a plagiarism prevention and originality checking tool. Turnitin is an integrated set of tools that helps educators manage the process of delivering meaningful feedback during the entire writing process – from drafts through reviews, revisions and even reflections.

Now you could simply link to Turnitin from your VLE, however what you can do with a VLE such as Moodle, is to integrate it into the assignment submission process.

What this means is that both practitioners and learners don’t need to create new accounts to use Turnitin, the process is automated. The feedback, grading and originality reports follow the same kind of format that Moodle uses for its own built-in assignments. That familiarity makes it relatively easy for both practitioners and learners to start using Turnitin if they are use to the assignment module already.

The process for a Turnitin assignment is pretty much a similar experience to adding a “normal” assignment to Moodle. You can either write up the brief or you can upload a document (you know write up the brief, better for the learners).

You can choose whether your learners cut and paste in their assignments or upload their assignment as a file. The originality process can then be adjusted according to your needs.

The key really with Turnitin is to use it as a learning tool with learners. Integrating it with the VLE allows this for many to be an easier route into using it effectively.

Of course you do need a subscription to Turnitin and it’s not a free (or what I would call a cheap) service. However experience from my own and other institutions in using Turnitin to support learners on what originality actually means and avoid palgarisim, Turnitin is a very good tool and effective.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #026: We’re waiting for a train…


David, Lilian and Dave discuss what they did at the Gloucestershire College Staff Development Day whilst waiting for a train at Gloucester Station.

This is the twenty-sixth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, We’re waiting for a train…

Download the podcast in mp3 format:We’re waiting for a train…

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

With Dave Foord, David Sugden, Lilian Soon and the introduction by James Clay.



Photo sources, Gloucester Station and Gloucestershire College.

So do your students cheat?

So do your students cheat?


They don’t hand in plagiarised work?

How do you know?

Did you know that essays by the bundle are sold on eBay?

Dave Foord (an external educational consultant) has written an interesting blog post on Turnitin which is a piece of software that can be used to detect plagiarised work. He believes that the software also has a value in acting as a deterrent to plagarism.

What are you thoughts?

Internet cheating, harder to catch!

BBC News reports on how students are using new ways to cheat which are more difficult to detect:

Universities warn that students who cheat by commissioning essays from other students are proving harder to catch than other types of plagiarism.

Students are using websites to outsource their essays – inviting other students to put forward their most competitive bids for the work.

What this means is that this work is original and new and can not be easily identified by staff or specialist plagarism software such as Turnitin.

Robert Clarke, a lecturer at Birmingham City University, has identified 4,000 sales on a small number of websites.

Unlike other copied work, he says it is hard for plagiarism software to detect.

“The difficulty is that it is original work – it’s just not the original work of the student handing in the assignment,” says Mr Clarke, principal lecturer in the Department of Computing.

There are no easy solutions to this, though we may need to start re-thinking how we assess students, if traditional models of assessment can be easily circumvented using these auction sites.

“internet plagiarism is a serious problem” says 58% of teachers

According to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, 58% of sixth form teachers believe that “internet plagiarism is a serious problem”.

The BBC reports that:

More than half of teachers believe internet plagiarism is a serious problem among sixth-form students, a teaching union survey suggests.

The 58% of 278 teachers who identified it as a problem said they thought 25% of work returned by pupils included material copied from internet sites.

If as reported by the BBC:

One teacher said a piece of work they saw still contained website adverts.

You have to ask who is at fault here?

Did the learner understand what was required of them?

Did they know they were plagiarising, or did the learner think that it was “okay”?

What internet research skills (if any) had the institution taught the students?

If an institution has a problem with internet plagiarism what policies and tools do they have and use in order to not just detect plagiarism, but also prevent it from happening in the first place.

It’s not as though you can use the excuse I don’t have the time, not when there are such excellent resources such as Intute’s Virtual Training Suite (VTS) available.

People talk of digial natives , but as was borne out in a recent JISC survey, though we may have learners who are digital natives, they may not have the research skills to use the internet effectively to support their learning.

Plagiarism is of course not a new thing, I was told about plagarism when I was at sixth form (and University) and that was a fair few years ago now.

I remember when I was teaching (in the pre-internet days) and a student submitted an assignment which in the main consisted of pages photocopied from a book.

Yes I know you might laugh, but the reality was that the student had no concept of how to research and analyse a topic – they had missed that study skills lesson.

The moral of this whole sorry story of plagarism from the internet, is that use tools such as the VTS to allow learners how to learn to use the internet effectively to support their learning and use tools such as Turnitin to detect plagiarism.