Editorials and Opinions

Breaking News! Your essays may be plagiarized: Turnitin not foolproof

By Jarrett Gorin
Published: April 2011
Plagiarism is the easiest way to fail. No ifs, ands, or buts.
There have been rumors going around—as there are each year—about so-and-so plagiarizing on his or her history paper and thus earning a zero.
Most students react in shock or disbelief. With our teachers’ numerous lectures, most onlookers are surprised that anyone would even think to try something so stupid.
Plagiarism can be unintentional, however. Scouring essays for copied work is tedious and annoying, and writers naturally assume that all their work is what it seems—entirely their own.
Accidents do happen. Certain phrases stick in our minds when we’re researching, and these turn up in our papers. We can rarely prevent this—it’s just the way our brains work.
And what if a coincidence happens? There are times when the phrasings of certain sentences can align with those of another source, even if a writer has never seen the source.
Our teachers try their best to prevent this sort of thing from happening, but using just their own intuition doesn’t seem to cut it. Now, Turnitin.com, a website that checks essays and papers against original sources for copied work, does it all for them.
Unfortunately, Turnitin has more than a few flaws.
First of all, the teachers’ settings for the site don’t include text sources. It only checks the internet and other submitted essays. Don’t many of the sources that we use for essays and such come from books? Sure, some books’ text is online, but most of the time this is not the case. This is clearly an enormous gap in the website’s ability to provide accurate assessments of work.
On top of that, Turnitin looks at everything in a paper. That means that there is not a single phrase that is omitted, even if it’s something simple, such as “The other day I went…”.
On my history paper, it said that my page numbers were plagiarized. Page numbers.
Turnitin is essentially useless. Of course, it catches some things; if you were to fob off an entire piece of work you would get caught.
However, Turnitin doesn’t catch the right things, but rather catches all the wrong things. Books are left out as sources, and citations, quotations, and even page numbers are counted. I don’t really see how anyone thought that this would help us.
Despite this, many teachers take Turnitin very seriously. My history teacher threatened to give a zero to anyone who didn’t submit their paper to the site by a certain time the night before it was due.
As for the actual issue of plagiarism, yes, it is a problem, and yes, it can be stopped.
Is Turnitin the answer to this problem? No, because it just doesn’t work.

Plagiarism is the easiest way to fail. No ifs, ands, or buts.There have been rumors going around—as there are each year—about so-and-so plagiarizing on his or her history paper and thus earning a zero. Most students react in shock or disbelief. With our teachers’ numerous lectures, most onlookers are surprised that anyone would even think to try something so stupid. Plagiarism can be unintentional, however. Scouring essays for copied work is tedious and annoying, and writers naturally assume that all their work is what it seems—entirely their own.Accidents do happen. Certain phrases stick in our minds when we’re researching, and these turn up in our papers. We can rarely prevent this—it’s just the way our brains work.And what if a coincidence happens? There are times when the phrasings of certain sentences can align with those of another source, even if a writer has never seen the source.Our teachers try their best to prevent this sort of thing from happening, but using just their own intuition doesn’t seem to cut it. Now, Turnitin.com, a website that checks essays and papers against original sources for copied work, does it all for them.Unfortunately, Turnitin has more than a few flaws.First of all, the teachers’ settings for the site don’t include text sources. It only checks the internet and other submitted essays. Don’t many of the sources that we use for essays and such come from books? Sure, some books’ text is online, but most of the time this is not the case. This is clearly an enormous gap in the website’s ability to provide accurate assessments of work.On top of that, Turnitin looks at everything in a paper. That means that there is not a single phrase that is omitted, even if it’s something simple, such as “The other day I went…”.On my history paper, it said that my page numbers were plagiarized. Page numbers. Turnitin is essentially useless. Of course, it catches some things; if you were to fob off an entire piece of work you would get caught. However, Turnitin doesn’t catch the right things, but rather catches all the wrong things. Books are left out as sources, and citations, quotations, and even page numbers are counted. I don’t really see how anyone thought that this would help us.Despite this, many teachers take Turnitin very seriously. My history teacher threatened to give a zero to anyone who didn’t submit their paper to the site by a certain time the night before it was due.As for the actual issue of plagiarism, yes, it is a problem, and yes, it can be stopped.Is Turnitin the answer to this problem? No, because it just doesn’t work.

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