Original by Dr Cathal O’Siochru
Q: Do we have to submit on TurnItIn?
A: Yes. All assignment submissions are made using TurnItIn. Even if they weren’t we would still encourage students to use it to protect themselves against accidental plagiarism.
Q: I can't see an originality report after I've submitted, what's wrong?
A: The originality report can take anything from 5 minutes to 24 hours to appear. First submissions get priority so if it’s the first time you are submitting an assignment it should generate an originality report within 20 minutes. For resubmissions of the same assignment, later drafts, it depends on how busy the site is and how many people are submitting at that time. Be patient and check back after a few hours or the next day.
Q: I have submitted the essay already on TurnItIn. Can I change it and submit it on TurnItIn again?
A: Yes, as long as it is before the deadline. Before the deadline you can submit and re-submit the essay as often as you like and make any changes you want to. Once the deadline expires you cannot submit any new versions of your assignment on TurnItIn.
Q: I have heard that if I submit the same essay twice it will compare the new version to the old one and it will come up as plagiarism. Is this true?
A: No. As long as you submit any revisions of the essay using the same TurnItIn link as you did when you submitted the first time draft then you won't have this problem. If both drafts are submitted in the same place the system knows that it's the same person both times and so the new submission should overwrite the old one. That way you won't end up comparing the essay to itself. Make sure you don't submit the essay to any other TurnItIn on any other moodle, this can cause problems. I'm not sure why you would do this (why would you be submitting the Psychology essay on another moodle?) but some students do strange things sometimes.
Q: What percentage am I aiming for on the originality report? Am I ok if the system shows it to be green?
A: The overall percentage number isn't reliable. Imagine you got an originality score of 10% overall. You have no way of knowing if that score comes from lots of little pieces of similar text adding up to that number (which isn't a problem) or one or two big blocks of similar text (which is a problem). We recommend that everyone look at the report itself to see what it is identifying as being similar.
Q: The report is showing a few words here and there that are the same; is that ok or do I need to change them?
A: The report shows your essay in coloured and black text. The bits that are the same as other sources in coloured text, the bits that are yours are in black text. If it's just a few words in a sentence that are the coloured then that's not a problem. That kind of similarity is just random chance and nothing to worry about. You only need to be concerned if its entire sentences that are coming up the same, like this. Even if there is one or two words that are not the same as the original source, having entire sentences that are the same or almost the same as another source is dangerous and could be seen as plagiarism. If you see that kind of thing you need to change it.
Q: How should I go about changing text that TurnItIn says is too similar?
A: We suggest that you try to avoid just swapping words around as a method of trying to "fool" the system. That's risky, you might not change enough. Instead try and think about the main point the block of text is making. Usually you can condense several sentences of text down to one key point. Try writing that key point in your own instead of the text you are replacing.
Another way to try is explain what the paragraph means to someone who knows nothing about your subject. Try reading the text you want to change, putting it down and then explaining it to someone else. Get them to write down what you have said (or as close to it as they can). You may find that this has successfully translated the text you wanted to change into your own words.
Q: I'm not sure if some of the things TurnItIn has identified as being similar to other sources are really plagiarism. What should I do?
A: Talk to your tutor. They should be able to help you tell the difference between what does and what doesn't qualify as plagiarism. As long as this all happens before the assignment deadline then they won’t have a problem. It’s only if it is still similar after the deadline that problems start.
Q: The originality report on TurnItIn is saying that I have copied from a website I have not visited or from a student in another University that I have never met. Is this a mistake?
A: No, not really. All TurnItIn knows is that your work and this other student or website is the same, it doesn't know why. Most likely both you and the person/website you've never seen have unintentionally used materials from the same source (e.g. a textbook you both read) and this is why the system is showing you as being the same. You still need to change that section.
Q: The originality report is showing things like the title of the essay, the references section and quotes as being copied. Is this plagiarism and do I need to be worried?
A: No. Your tutor will understand that things like quotes and references sections are supposed to be the same as other sources so you won't get in trouble. The system may be dumb but your tutor is not so there is no need to worry. If you are still unsure about a particular similarity it's found and if it's ok then talk to your tutor about it.
Q: What if I have an assignment in another subject or in the future and I can't get access to TurnItIn. How can I check for plagiarism then?
A: TurnItIn is just a tool to help you learn about plagiarism and to help you avoid it when you are starting out. After a while you won't need it any more. Once you get more practiced at finding your own way of explaining things you will find that you don't end up being similar to anyone else by accident any more.
You want to be careful not be too dependent on TurnItIn to spot plagiarism for you. It can be like becoming too dependent on the spell checker in Microsoft Word; your spelling can suffer when you don't have it. Get into good habits of never writing down exactly what someone else has written when making notes for an essay. Always use your own words in your notes. Never work directly from a text straight to an essay or report. Get into good habits like this and you will find you need TurnItIn less and less until you won't need it at all.