The chances of getting away with plagiarism are now slim due to Turnitin. The computer database was developed in the ‘90s and is used to detect plagiarism in college papers, and more recently, on college application essays as well.
When a paper is submitted into Turnitin, all work that came from a source other than the student is highlighted. Next to the paper submission, a percentage and one of either three colors — blue, yellow, or red — will appear.
“Blue; you’re OK, but red; an alarm is going off,” said American River College English professor Michael Angelone, who has been using the database for three years.
Students caught plagiarizing could receive a failing grade on the assignment, fail the course, or be reported to Academic Affairs, depending on the seriousness of the infraction.
The database also shows Angelone how much of students’ work are their own ideas and how much of the paper is the voice of another source. It may not be plagiarism but Angelone feels that if the work contains mostly the ideas of someone else, “it is not quality work.”
ARC English professor Denise Engler has a different take on the matter. She feels that Turnitin is a waste of time. “Generally speaking, I trust my students. The tone change in a paper is so clear, I can just tell. When that happens I put it into Google,” said Engler.
“Bottom line: I’m not a cop, I’m a teacher. I’m not going to go through hours of stress and accusing. That’s not my biggest goal as a teacher,” Engler explained.
ARC business student Joey Lorenzen said, “I understand why (teachers use Turnitin). You cannot copy someone else’s work. There is no way a professor could check every essay for authenticity.”
Sarah Monson, a student at ARC, had a different opinion, “I would be paranoid because I don’t copy the words; I copy the ideas. I would be afraid my ideas would be too close to the sources.”
Colleges are also starting to utilize the database for application essays. According to The Los Angeles Times, “More than 100 colleges and universities have adopted it, mainly in graduate divisions, although Stanford University is among the dozen schools starting to use it for freshman applicants this year.”
With technology like Turnitin, it is now easier than ever to detect stolen work. Angelone said, “Turnitin taught me how to have purpose with sources and not just use them … it changed the way I teach.”