Turnitin: Is It a Sin?

Jenna Madison, Staff Writer

Turnitin.com has become a popular website at Ward Melville in which students can hand in assignments, and teachers can check for originality, grade online, and allow for stricter due dates. This website has its advantages, as well as its disadvantages. Usually, teachers set the time for hand in for midnight the day it is due, and excuses usually don’t roll well with them-especially now that the age old “my printer wasn’t working” is out of the question. Turnitin.com highlights phrases that have been taken from online or trace back to other papers that have been turned into the same website to ensure that students are not cheating.  They also can comment on material and post grades online for students to check at a later date. Evidently, teachers seem to LOVE this site! But the students? Not so much.

Senior and long-time turnitin.com hater, Allison Coleman, says, “The Turnitin experience hasn’t been great for me. I haven’t been caught plagiarizing or anything, but the 12 AM deadline is really stressful for me. I work the best late at night and it’s hard for me to concentrate during the day, so usually my time to work on projects is limited. I feel pressured into doing it by a certain time so it’s not genuine or polished the way I want it to be. It’s kind of nice that we get to save paper and ink, but in the end, it’s just annoying.”

English teacher, Ms. Cowan feels that this program is actually a very beneficial website for the school community. “I was originally against spending so much money on a program like this, but it turns out that I was wrong! I found it to be helpful to my students and to me.” When asked whether or not she finds students plagiarizing often, she said, “I’m surprised when I find that my students have plagiarized especially when they submit it to turnitin, because I think they know they’re going to get caught, but it’s also shown me that there is still confusion about what plagiarism really is. So it’s turned out to be a great learning tool for my students!” Other teachers even outside of the English department love this new tool as well. Science teachers use it for lab write-ups, history teachers use it for DBQ’S, you name it!

Some students seem to feel that the installation of turnitin at Ward Melville has added more stress than they previously had when handing in hard copies. Some students become so stressed, they’ll go to extremes to get around it, like Jessica McNulty does. “Honestly I’ve only used turnitin like three times because I always make up very elaborate excuses about why it ‘wasn’t working.’ It just really stresses me out.” says Jessica.

One flaw of the site is that sometimes the plagiarism percentage isn’t always accurate. For example, if an assignment is a list definitions, or maybe a list of lab procedures and materials, it is likely many students will have the same thing written, yet the high percentage make the student’s hard work look suspicious. “In history we have these assignments where we have to read these briefing papers, and answer a long list of questions. I work very hard on them and actually spend a long time, but it always says I “plagiarize” the briefing paper and my percentages are so high! It’s so frustrating!” says senior, Brian Rodriguez.

Whether or not everyone is happy with turnitin.com, it seems to be here to stay and we all might as well just learn to embrace it. Good luck and get to work- that essay is due by midnight!