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Addressing Concerns and Avoiding Misconceptions

TurnItIn can be perceived as a system, rather than a person, judging work
and used as evidence to punish students.

The assessment process can be an anxious and stressful time for students.TurnItIn could worsen perceptions of the assessment process if it is perceived as a system, rather than a person, judging work, and providing grounds for punishment. 

The role of the percentage score, for example, could encourage students to cut out important pieces of work in the hope of reducing percentages, instead of understanding how to reference cited text or paraphrase it. 

Staff need to be particularly aware of how they refer to TurnItIn. Investing full confidence and belief that TurnItIn will identify all forms of plagiarism is misguided and risky. This approach risks either accusing students who have mistakenly neglected referencing conventions of one citation, or legitimises the creativity of a student who paraphases someone else's idea/argument/perspective, etc. 

Therefore, teaching staff have a vital role to play in describing the role of TurnItIn. Staff should articulate that its agenda is to identify matching text, and to the aid students in proofreading/editing.

Here are some concerns/misconceptions that students may have about TurnItIn:

  • The sole aim of using TurnItIn is to identify ‘cheats’.
  • That lecturers solely rely on the similarity score, thus biasing their understanding of the submitted work.
  • That there is an acceptable level of plagiarism, represented by a percentage score:
    1. That a low score indicates that students have not plagiarised.
    2. A high score means that students have plagiarised.


Staff may also have misconceptions on the role of TurnItIn: that is a plagiarism checker, rather than a text match service.