Here are my answers to some frequently asked questions about my requirement that students submit their work to Turnitin.
What is Turnitin.com?
Turnitin.com is a website that scans student work with antiplagiarism software.
Why are you making us use this? Don’t you trust us?
The purpose of this policy is not to create an atmosphere of suspicion and disrespect toward the sincere effort and hard work so characteristic of Stuyvesant students, but rather to protect the vast majority of earnest and dedicated students from having to compete unfairly with a plagiarist.
Because Stuyvesant students carry a high academic workload and tend to feel a high level of stress and competition with their classmates, it can be tempting, especially in a moment of overwhelming anxiety or desperation, to turn to plagiarism as a way out of a crisis situation.
As the Talmud says, “Do not place a stumbling block before a blind man.” By creating an extra deterrent to those who may find themselves attracted, for whatever reason, to making such a poor decision, Turnitin software helps to protect such panicked students from themselves.
So while the Turnitin is itself a kind of “stumbling block” to discourage plagiarism, it also seeks to remove the stumbling block of plagiarism as an option that might otherwise be difficult for a young person to resist.
How Does it Work?
Students upload their work to the Turnitin website, which compares the text of their writing to the entire internet, as well as other essays in the database and various other works (books, articles, etc.).
For each assignment, Turnitin generates a “Similarity Report,” which calculates the percentage of the assignment text that matches anything in the comparison, highlights the matches, and identifies the source of the matching material.
What if it the software generates a “false match”? Will I be falsely accused of plagiarism?
This is an understandable concern, but not one that reflects the way the software actually works. Ultimately, the determination of plagiarism (or the lack thereof) is for the instructor, not the software to decide. By examining carefully the information in the report, it is clear whether a match is simply the use of the same quote in another source or a commonly used sentence opening, versus a more idiosyncratic match that indicates poor paraphrasing or intentional appropriation of someone else’s words.
How do I sign up for Turnitin and submit my work?
Each class is assigned a unique “Class ID” and class password that allows students to join their class on the site. Students create their own private accounts on Turnitin using their own private email and password, and then use the Class ID and class password to join their specific class(es). The site includes clear instructions about how to create an account, join a class, and submit work.
For your Class ID and password, see Assignment Guidelines.