How to Use Turnitin.com

Basic Information
Georgetown subscribes to Turnitin.com, a web-based service that, among other things, is able to sniff out possible plagiarism in student work. Once faculty members have set up their accounts, students and faculty can electronically submit essays to a digital dropbox. Turnitin then automatically searches the essay for passages found on the Internet (including pages no longer online), in the ProQuest Research Library, and in all papers previously submitted by users at any member school.

The Honor Council highly recommends that faculty members make regular use of this service. We believe that when applied to all essays submitted in a class, this technology can be a powerful tool to educate and to deter.

How to Get Started
Getting started is easy! Simply follow these steps:

  • Go to http://www.turnitin.com.
  • Click "New Users" in the upper-right-hand corner.
  • Select "instructor" from the drop-down list and click "next."
  • Here, you need a specific account/class ID and join password for Georgetown faculty. To get this information, e-mail Sonia Jacobson or the Honor Council Assistant.
  • Now you can set up your own account with a personal user name and password.
  • If you'd like more guidance, Turnitin has an extensive, training section. You may be especially interested in their Instructor QuickStart guide or their ultra-fancy Instructor Videos.

Suggestions for Using Turnitin.com

1. For fairness reasons, the Honor Council recommends that faculty using Turnitin.com should submit all students' papers in a course instead of only problematic papers.

2. An important part of Georgetown University's agreement with iParadigm (Turnitin.com's parent company) is that the course syllabus for each course intending to utilize Turnitin.com must carry a notice to students substantially similar to the following:

Students agree that by taking this course all required papers may be subject to submission for a Textual Similarity Review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be added as source documents in the Turnitin.com reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers in the future. Use of the Turnitin.com service is subject to the terms of use agreement posted on the Turnitin.com site.

3. If use of Turnitin.com is instituted after distribution of the syllabus, then the faculty and Georgetown shall use reasonable efforts to ensure that equivalent written notice is provided by the instructor to the students; and students should also be aware that if they object to participating in Turnitin.com, faculty may use an "off-line option" requirement, such as: (i) a short reflection paper on research methodology; (ii) a draft bibliography prior to submission of the final paper; and/or (iii) the cover page and first cited page of each reference source to be photocopied and submitted with the final paper.

4. Turnitin.com's Originality reports are only the means for detecting textual similarities between compared works and do not determine conclusively the existence of plagiarism. When similarities are found in a paper, faculty must check the student's paper to ascertain whether such textual similarities are properly referenced.

5. An Originality Report is a confidential document, and any disclosure by the faculty member or the Honor Council to any third party is at the Institution's own risk.

6. All papers submitted to Turnitin.com by Georgetown University and/or its instructors and students shall be retained in the Turnitin.com source database solely for the purpose of using such papers as source material to prevent plagiarism of such papers, except as expressly authorized by students and/or instructors. There is a provision in the agreement that will let the University "take down" any paper from the Turnitin.com database if so requested by a student or faculty member. However, removal of papers could decrease the usefulness of the database in the future. 

Georgetown Faculty Testimonials

"When I get a first-rate paper in my Shakespeare class (and I shudder to think at how many Shakespeare essays are available to students), my happiness is undiluted by suspicion. I can concentrate on the paper itself and on my comments instead of wasting energy obsessing about the provenance of its form and content. In the very rare instance of plagiarism, turnitin.com did all the work, in one case revealing not only the plagiarist but the supplier, a student from that class in a previous year."
-Jason Rosenblatt, English Department

"Turnitin.com is a professional operation, and it helped my students to avoid deliberate AND accidental plagiarism. Many students take notes without distinguishing between verbatim notes and their own words. Often students "massage" extended notes into prose, without realizing how close they are to the original sources. Turnitin helps to detect this problem during midterm papers, which made it possible to correct the student's approach for all future written products."
-Kai-Henrik Barth, Security Studies Program

"I use it for the larger classes where plagiarism or losing a paper is more of a concern. [...] I have a paperless grading process where I download papers, use Microsoft Word's reviewing tools to mark up the paper, and email back the paper in Word and PDF format. [...] If they [faculty] want the deterrent effect, they need to tell the students about what turnitin.com does."
-Alexander Pruss, Philosophy Department

News Articles

  • Aditi Banga, "Fighting Plagiarism, Schools Go High-Tech." The Harvard Crimson 4 May 2006. The Georgetown Honor Council gives their opinions on the website.
  • Jennifer Nycz-Conner, "Put the Pinch on Plagiarism." Washington Business Journal 20 January 2006. Nice overview of the program, featuring Honor Council Executive Director, Sonia Jacobson.
  • Robb Murray, "Those Pesky Plagiarists." The Free Press 8 May, 2006. Includes a long conversation with a professor at Minnesota State University.
  • Want more? Try heading to news.google.com and searching the news for turnitin. You might be surprised at how hot a topic this is.