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Curious about the difference between similarity and plagiarism? In Part 1 of our series, learn more about how...
It’s easy to see how academic integrity and plagiarism are interchangeable, but it’s also important to understand...
Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing how we experience teaching, grading, and feedback....
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In our first post in this series, we attempted to truly tease out the distinctions between plagiarism and similarity while squarely placing Turnitin in the similarity arena. If you didn’t read that post, it’s worth a visit, but here is the TL;DR - Similarity is not the same as plagiarism, and Turnitin does not detect plagiarism.
With that being said, millions of users around the world are interacting with Turnitin’s Similarity Report, so it’s important to understand what it is and how to leverage its power to meet instructional goals. We know that there are many questions about exactly how similarity and the Similarity Report impact classroom practice; in this post, we’ll get into the “nuts and bolts” of that by going through some of the most frequently asked questions from educators.
This is the ONE question that every person working at or with Turnitin has been asked repeatedly and about which there is still a great deal of debate. From our perspective, though, the answer is quite simple: there is no good or bad similarity score, no magic number. The score absolutely must be interpreted in context. 0% similarity is inherently neither good nor bad, nor is 30%, or even 80%. There are contextual details that an EDUCATOR (not the software) must apply to that number in order to make an informed decision about exactly what is happening in the work submitted by the student and what the appropriate next steps should be.
Some of the contextual details:
It’s complicated, but the very first step should be to consider the factors outlined above. Each of those elements impacts the determination.
Once educators have considered those elements, there are a few additional important tips:
Here, again, there is not one, single answer, but there are some steps that should be taken, though not necessarily in any specific order:
This is not a decision we would ever attempt to make for educators. As with so many elements of teaching and learning, there are far too many variables and far too much information we just don’t have for us to ever attempt to replace the expert judgment of an educator in the moment.
There are, however, a few factors to consider here that may be helpful:
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Many of the previous discussions have touched on this subject, and like a variety aspects of academic integrity, it involves quite a few nuances. However, we have a FULL set of materials to help educators tackle this challenge. Our Disrupting Plagiarism pack includes a webinar, an educator guide, lessons, slide decks, activities, posters, student-facing resources, and more. These resources can help institutions or individual educators establish a culture of academic integrity in their classrooms and provide direct instruction that will ensure that students truly understand what they can and cannot do.
The single most important idea to remember from this series about the Similarity Report and all of Turnitin’s products is that they are not meant to be used in isolation, without context. Instead, the score returned is a data point, one that is PART of a bigger picture, full of nuances and variables that can only be truly understood by applying educators’ expertise and experience. The Similarity Report, while helpful and robust, has its limitations. And because we know that similarity is NOT plagiarism, we also know that educators can and should use the Similarity Report and other Turnitin tools wisely to augment, not replace, their own judgment to help students on their learning journeys.