Global Innovation Awards 2017: Honorable Mention

Category: Moving Forward with Integrity | Africa and Middle East

University of Nigeria

University of Nigeria, Nigeria

Nominated by: Scholastica Ukwoma, Librarian

“Despite the short time which the University has been using Turnitin, my team and I have been able to radically increase our university community’s awareness of academic integrity. Turnitin has helped to not only prevent plagiarism but to educate on original writing.”

The University of Nigeria in Nsukka (UNN), which opened more than 50 years ago, is one of the country’s first and most highly regarded universities. Scholastica Ukwoma, who works there as Principal Librarian, says it has a reputation of excellence to uphold. This is why she, with the support of the University librarian, do all they can to help students produce quality research.

“We had identified some cases of poor referencing, and ambiguities in research and statistics,” says Ukwoma, “and we knew that there were a lot more that couldn’t be detected by physical vetting.”

While looking for possible solutions she discovered that her university had paid for a Turnitin license, but wasn’t taking advantage of it. She started reading online tutorials, watching videos and webinars, and researching how other institutions were using it to build a culture of academic integrity.

After attending an open workshop sponsored by Turnitin, she asked if the library could become the custodian and manager of the software. Since then, with the support of the University Librarian, she has trained more than 400 UNN staff who have gone on to train the rest of their colleagues how to use Turnitin effectively. She and her library staff have also trained more than 10,000 students and developed workshops and a postgraduate course to ensure that, before theses reports are submitted, students should know how to cite references and paraphrase properly. More importantly, she says she wants students to understand why it’s important to do so.

Ukwoma tracks progress and says there have been lots of improvements over the past two years. There’s been a significant drop – from 46% to 25% – in papers receiving a similarity score of 50–100%. She says they’re working hard to reduce incidents to below 10% within the next two years. Ukwoma explains: “Despite the short time which the University has been using Turnitin, my team and I have been able to radically increase our university community’s awareness of academic integrity. Turnitin has helped to not only prevent plagiarism but to educate on original writing.”

Ukwoma says they’re currently working to improve their policies and Turnitin practices, such as using feedback to improve writing. As a founding member of the Nigerian Academic Integrity Forum (NAIF), she says the UNN has the opportunity to raise expectations and demonstrate best practices for academic integrity.

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