About Turnitin at Pitt

Turnitin is an internet-based anti-plagiarism technology that enables faculty members to level the academic playing field for honest students.

The past few years has seen a boom in websites offering term papers and essays from Japanese Art in the 1800’s to Neurobiology.  The demand for academic papers has significantly increased traffic for these “cheat” websites. Turnitin’s web-based program ferrets out matching and even partly altered phrases from web content and databases.  The software notifies the teacher if it finds similarities in submitted text.

The comprehensive software will discover similarities from content justified with proper footnotes to instances of outright dishonestly.

Use of Turnitin is a potent deterrent against plagiarism, stopping potential violators from undercutting their own education and letting honest students compete in a fair arena, thus helping strengthen the academic codes of honor.

Turnitin accomplishes this through “Document Source Analysis”, a process that uses algorithms to create a “digital fingerprint” of text documents submitted to its database and comparing it to the fingerprint of documents in its local database and automated web crawlers.  The Turnitin service then creates a color-coded “originality report” that shows any source links that have been discovered for the submitted paper.

The University has subscribed to the Turnitin.com.  Faculty are encouraged to use the service and comment on its value, performance, and effectiveness.

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Request a Turnitin Account

To use Turnitin at Pitt, you will need to request that an account be created for you, using this Turnitin Instructor Account Creation form.

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Getting Started with Turnitin

Turnitin.com has great Instructor resources that will help guide you through getting started with Turnitin.  Those tutorials can be accessed here.

We also have articles concerning Turnitin’s integration with Blackboard here.

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Turnitin FAQ

Q. What is Plagiarism?
A. Plagiarism is the improper use, or failure to attribute, another person’s writing or ideas (intellectual property). It can be as subtle as the inadvertent neglect to include quotes or references when citing another source or as blatantly unethical as knowingly copying an entire paper verbatim and claiming it as your own work.

Q. How significant is the problem?
A. Very significant. According to a 1998 survey by Who’s Who Among American High School Students,four out of five college-bound high school students admit to cheating on schoolwork, and a recent Center for Academic Integrity study reports that 80 percent of college students admit to cheating at least once. Additionally, the latest polls from the Gallup organization indicate respondents consider a crisis in education and a decline in ethics to be the top two problems facing America today.

Q. What are “term paper mills”? What are “digital paper mills”?
Paper mills are organizations that either sell or give away pre-written term papers for use by students looking for a way to avoid doing the assignments themselves. Digital term paper mills are sites that exist on the Internet for the same purpose. These online groups are not constrained by the need to generate revenue by selling their manuscripts; the “free” sites typically receive their money from advertising. Examples of such sites include Evil House of Cheat (CheatHouse.com) and Free Essay Network (freeessay.com).

Q. How does Turnitin work?
A. A new technology called document source analysis, which uses a set of powerful algorithms to make a digital “fingerprint” of any text document and then compare it against millions of other sources on the Internet. Turnitin has compiled a massive database of digital material by continually cataloging and indexing online academic works with automated web robots. Online paper mills are a major focus of the searches. A complement to the Internet data-mining capabilities is our archiving function: papers from participating courses and other academic web sites are also indexed and stored in Turnitin’s secure, in-house database.

Q. Are uploaded papers from individuals or from courses confidential?
A. Yes. The paper will not be released without author or instructor permission.

Q. How long does a check take?
A. Once uploaded, test papers are mathematically fingerprinted for content and analyzed against Turnitin’s massive database of hundreds of thousands of previously archived papers, as well as against millions of other sources on the Web. Originality reports are usually issued within 48 hours.

Q. Is there a size/length limitation to uploads?
A. Turnitin has the capacity to accept approximately 10 MB of text (that’s a book length size of digital material).

Q. Can a manuscript written over ten years ago be checked for plagiarized material?
A. Since it was written 10 years ago, there is certainly a chance the material it could be copied from is not online. However, as the Internet’s content increases exponentially, the likelihood of not detecting a copied source becomes less and less.

Q. Does Turnitin check against newspaper articles and books to ensure that students have not cut-and-pasted from them?
A. Yes. The majority of the world’s newspapers and periodicals DO reside on the Internet. Manuscripts are checked against these digital sources along with the billions of pages on the Web.Unfortunately, not all literature resides on the Internet. However, if a book was to be placed somewhere on the Internet, we would be able to detect future instances of its use.

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(3) Comments

  1. Who is the administrator for Turnitin at the University of Pittsburgh. Can you please send me their name and coordinates? Thank you,

    Leanne Bowler
    Associate Professor
    School of Information Sciences

Comments are closed.