Using Turnitin as a Writing Tool

Guest blog article by Jennifer Haber

Probably the most frustrating part of being a writing instructor is that although I give students feedback and feedback and more feedback, I sometimes wonder if they ever read it. In fact, I remember a few semesters ago when for the third time I wrote on a student’s paper, “Remember, you don’t begin a paragraph with a quote; you need to present an idea first and then support it with the evidence.” Maybe she didn’t understand what I meant, I thought.

Finally, after our next class, I asked to speak with her. “Tiffany,” I probed. “Do you know what I meant by that comment I placed on your paper?”

“What comment?” she asked. “Oh, I don’t really look at those.”

At that point, I knew that one of two things had to happen. One, I could stop writing comments altogether. But, I knew that wasn’t the answer. Or, two, I could make my students do something with the comments.

So, now, when I review their papers in Turnitin, I place the comments on their papers as usual, but next to the comment, I write the letters HOC (Higher-order concern) or LOC (Lower-order concern). The reason that I do this is because I want them to read the comments and do something with them. Some once they have reviewed their comments, they have to complete three tasks:

  1. Choose one higher-order concern that I marked, explain what it means, and explain how they could fix the problem.
  2. Choose two lower-order concerns that I marked, explain the problems, and explain how they could correct the problems.
  3. Find one credible writing website that focuses on one of their writing concerns and share it with the class.

Over the last few semesters, I have seen fewer repetitive mistakes, and students are improving overall. My success rates in my composition I classes have gone from an average of a 78% success rate in 2014 to an 85% success rate in 2016. Moreover, I know that my hard work is not going unnoticed.