Display similarity reports to students? Default = YES

As of Session 2 2021, the Turnitin Display Similarity Reports to Students feature which controls whether students are allowed to view the similarity reports created for their assignments in all iLearn units will be set to ‘yes’ as the default. This is to encourage the use of Turnitin similarity reports as a learning tool for student academic writing.

How is Turnitin used at Macquarie?

Turnitin is a system that looks for matching text in an assignment from its massive database of academic publications, websites and other submitted papers. Any matches and their sources are highlighted in different colours in the Feedback Studio Similarity Report, along with the similarity score percentage. 

At Macquarie, Turnitin can be used as a tool for ensuring the academic integrity of electronically submitted assessment as required by the Assessment Policy and Procedure. There are  Staff quick guides available to show you how to set up and use Turnitin for originality checking, as well as how to use Feedback Studio for providing online feedback to students.

The student quick guides are also useful in helping students navigate Turnitin to submit their assignments and access feedback. 

How can I use Turnitin to foster academic integrity in my students’ work?

Allowing students to see their similarity report and resubmit drafts, especially at first year level can be helpful in highlighting to students where they might need to improve in their writing. This ‘tweaking’ can help students improve paraphrasing practice as they can see that chunks of copying and pasting are where high similarity percentages occur. Poor paraphrasing practices may also be identified. For example, students can see that changing 50% of a sentence is inadequate paraphrasing and that simply substituting a synonym every few words is also inadequate.

To set up an activity in Turnitin where students can see their similarity report and resubmit drafts:

  1. Click Turn editing on 
  2. Click Add an activity or resource and select Turnitin 
  3. For Report Generation Speed, select Generate reports immediately (students can resubmit until due date). This will allow students to resubmit and access their similarity report immediately for the first assignment submission and up to three resubmissions (total of 4 submissions). Following this it will take 24 hours for the similarity report to generate, meaning that students must prepare well in advance to use this feature multiple times.  
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If you do not want students to see their similarity report for an assignment, you can turn this off in the settings for a Turnitin assignment by selecting ‘No’ for Display similarity report to students.

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How can I help my students interpret the Turnitin similarity report?

The similarity score percentage represents the proportion of the paper found to be matched elsewhere. It is not a rating or judgement of how much of the paper is plagiarised. There are many examples where a high percentage is fine. An assessment that calls for research using several sources, direct quotes and a large bibliography (if not excluded by the instructor) will naturally find several matches in the database. As will simple short answer questions where most students’ answers will be alike.

A report can reach a high similarity percentage but be comprised of the sum of a multitude of similarity percentages of 1-2% ,often from other student papers – this is usually not a problem.

Text matches of less than 5-10% from any one source are often not problematic; rather they should alert students to check that referencing and paraphrasing have been done correctly.

See Turnitin for more information on interpreting the similarity report and similarity score ranges

You might also find helpful Three ways to enhance academic integrity in your unit.

How do I tell if there is plagiarism?

The only way to really tell if plagiarism has occurred is to look at the similarity report and use your own academic judgement. If there are several different coloured matches but each is written and cited correctly then that is fine. However, if there are large blocks of text highlighted in the same colour, it is worth checking for the different types of plagiarism that commonly occur.

Things that can artificially increase the similarity percentage are templates that all students have to use, cover sheets and references.

If you are concerned about a particular similarity report or score, please contact your Associate Dean, Learning & Teaching.

Using Turnitin to provide individual and meaningful feedback can help students to pinpoint for themselves the areas in which their writing needs improvement and foster academic literacy and integrity.

All staff are encouraged to complete the Staff Academic Integrity Module, designed to support teaching staff in fostering academic integrity in the classroom.

Posted by Amanda Parker

Learning Enhancement Manager, PVC L&T

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