Thousands of Turnitin users can’t be wrong, can they? Colleges and high schools worldwide regularly submit students’ papers to the popular online tool, which scours them for evidence of plagiarism. The service has identified plenty of purloined prose, and at many of the institutions that subscribe, it has been fairly uncontroversial.
But professors who haven’t yet used Turnitin should think long and hard about it, writes Charlie Lowe, an assistant professor of writing at Grand Valley State University, on his blog, Cyberdash.
After Grand Valley State bought a license to use Turnitin, Mr. Lowe and two other writing professors drafted a statement expressing several concerns about the software. The professors argue, for example, that Turnitin’s database of student essays -- against which all newly submitted papers are checked -- represents a “problematic” use of students’ intellectual property.
And, echoing other campus officials who have criticized Turnitin (The Chronicle, March 9), the professors worry that the service “emphasizes the policing of student behavior and texts over good-faith assumptions about students’ integrity, and can shift attention away from teaching students how to avoid plagiarism in the first place.”
In a response at Kairosnews, Michael Bruton, a senior account manager at Turnitin, stands up for the plagiarism-detection service. Mr. Bruton says Turnitin’s promotional campaign may have caused “misconceptions regarding the most effective ways to use our service,” but he argues that Turnitin has “tremendous value” when used properly.
A number of Australian and British institutions -- including some that encourage students to test their own papers on Turnitin -- have already used the software to teach students about plagiarism, he says. --Brock Read