UniversityLooking into the pros and cons of using Turnitin
Looking into the pros and cons of using Turnitin

To promote originality and to counter plagiarism among its students’ outputs, DLSU professors utilize various countermeasures, one of which is an online cloud-based tool called Turnitin. The software offers complete web-based services to manage the process of submitting and tracking papers electronically. In the University, Turnitin is available for any professor to use.


Policy on academic honesty

The University places several provisions on academic honesty in the Student Handbook. As cited under Section 4.13, the students’ assignments, term papers, computer projects, and theses should be their own, original work. The students must also cite references, direct quotes, and other sources, following the prescribed format of their respective disciplines.

In cases that the students want to submit a similar work from a previously taken class, a written permission has to be secured from the faculty members concerned. If, however, there was only one student who wish to submit the work, he or she must first seek approval from their previous group members. Otherwise, the student may only cite the content that he or she personally created in the work, provided that it is clearly attributable to him or her.

Lastly, students taking up programming courses may copy codes from open source references, provided that the source is cited and that the faculty member allows the usage of such open source reference in the class.


Plagiarism Detection Software

Plagiarism Detection Software (PDS) applications are utilized by instructors to countercheck student’s works with a database or repository of published articles. Before PDS existed, instructors often relied on note cards prepared by students in advance for manual cross-checking – arguably this process became quite tedious. PDS were invented to remedy this as an effective, cost-efficient solution for cross-checking.

The developers of Turnitin claim the software to be the “leading academic plagiarism detector used by teachers and students to avoid plagiarism and ensure academic integrity.” The software is being used by over 15,000 institutions and 30 million students worldwide. Among its features include similarity checking, online feedback, rubric grading, and a revision assistant.

Students can simply submit their work directly via Turnitin. The system’s similarity checkers provide a rating based on the submission’s similarity to a database of published works, articles, and journals. For every similarity that the system detects, it highlights the part that it considers plagiarized, then provides links to the journals or articles that matches the part. The system also allows teachers and instructors to deliver online feedback to students after submissions.


Turnitin - Thea

Is Turnitin reliable? Turnitin, a cloud-based solution for checking plagiarism in research papers, is being used in certain classes in DLSU.


Pros and cons

Studies in PDS recognize Turnitin as a tool that saves time, deters plagiarism, and promotes ethical writing. Moreover, these studies have also concluded that teachers can save time by cross-referencing students’ submissions with cited and uncited portions of their works. For students, the system helps them in being more careful about citations rather than just copying and pasting any information they find.

However, Turnitin lacks available databases of works, articles, and journals. Some parts that may be plagiarized by students may not be cross-referenced by the system, because the sources have not been added to the databases yet.

Turnitin is also very expensive. For educational institutions, the software would usually cost around $2000. In 2011, only ten high schools and five universities in the Philippines avail of Turnitin. DLSU has been availing of the service since 2010 in its effort to promote academic honesty.

Department of English and Applied Linguistics Professor Neslie Tan claims that the software is constructive. “Overall, it’s helpful. But It’s been awhile since I last used it in my class. Maybe 2011-2012? My colleagues and I actually did a paper on this software,” she asserts.

Based on the study by Tan and her colleagues Edna Miraflores and Edwina Bensal, the software improved the awareness of the educators and students. However, it fails to uncover improperly cited text and “countercheck sources mentioned in the in-text citation with the reference list.” Furthermore, the software is unsuccessful at emphasizing data that need citations.

“Its very nature of ‘detecting plagiarism’ by reporting the level of similarity of a text with its vast database often creates some form of confusion on concepts of similarity or originality versus plagiarism,” the study states. This may result to students focusing less on the unique novelty of their paper and therefore losing the bona fide nature of academic writing.

Marianne Promentilla, (III, ISJ-MKT) claims that she had experienced a similar case. “I used it for a subject once and even though I didn’t plagiarize any of it and I cited my references, my work still came up as plagiarized,” she comments.

In the study, Tan and her colleagues recommend that “these limitations should not be neglected, because Turnitin has all the potentials to perfectly aid the teachers to tap the confidence and competence of every student writer.”

Promentilla adds that the software is inefficient and can be inaccurate at times. She also thinks that the system should not be used as a standard of checking plagiarism. In the meantime, while complaints on using the software continue to arise – ultimately – students and professors must be able to find better solutions and practices to avoid plagiarism.