Plagiarism and the responsibilities and rights of Turnitin users
The use of Turnitin similarity check (or originality check) is regulated by the document Aalto University Code of Academic Integrity. It describes the rights and responsibilities of both students and teachers, typical forms of plagiarism, and how suspicion of plagiarism is handled along with the possible consequences of plagiarism. Here is a summary of the guidelines concerning the use of Turnitin. The details are in the document.
Responsibilities and rights
- You are expected to familiarise yourself with the principles of good scientific writing.
- You are always responsible for the work you produce, even if the Turnitin originality check report shows no similarities.
- Ignorance is not an excuse since information about the code of academic integrity is available to you.
- You may not refuse to submit your work in a Turnitin assignment submission box if you wish to receive a grade.
- Upon request, you must submit your work in an appropriate electronic format.
- All students receive equal treatment within the same course.
- Your consent is required to save your submission in the Turnitin student papers comparison database. Submissions saved in the comparison database are protected against plagiarism.
- You may request your paper to be removed from the comparison database after it has been graded.
- You may independently check any of your work.
- You have the right to hear the teacher’s interpretation of the similarity report.
- You have the right to request the similarity report.
- You will be heard if you are suspected of plagiarism.
- Inform students when using the Turnitin similarity check.
- All students are treated equally during the same course (all students submit work in the Turnitin submission box).
- Always interpret the similarities in the similarity report. Do not just look at the overall similarity percentage.
- Allow students to see the similarity report, at least when requested.
- If you check a student’s work on their behalf, do not save the paper in the Turnitin student papers comparison database without the student’s consent.
- You cannot lower the grade because of plagiarism, but always either
* report the suspicion of plagiarism to the investigator or
* let the student correct minor violations due to carelessness or misunderstandings and resubmit the assignment to be assessed.
- Give students the possibility to practice using Turnitin before grading (this is strongly recommended!).
- When grading you may submit students' papers in Turnitin on their behalf, but you cannot save the submissions in the comparison database without their consent. Ensure this in the Turnitin submission box settings. You may submit a single paper on the student's behalf if plagiarism is suspected, but this is not recommended. Instead, request the student to submit the paper in Turnitin, in which case the principle "all students receive equal treatment" is fulfilled.
- You may consult the investigator in any case of suspicion of plagiarism.
Typical forms of plagiarism
Here are some common forms of plagiarism in a nutshell (read the complete description in section 3 of the Aalto University Code of Academic Integrity):
- Autoplagiarism or self-plagiarism
- Quotations or borrowing text word-for-word without a clear indication of this being done
- Minor changes to the source text, like using synonyms for few words or changing word order
- Inadequate citing or referencing
- Copy-pasting text from a source
- A direct translation of a source without indicating quotation and proper citation
- Collusion – co-workers are not mentioned, or peers’ work is included in an assignment that should have been produced independently
Sometimes the distinction between plagiarism and bad academic writing is not black-and-white, but grey. What can be considered minor changes? How long can quotations be? What if a reference is found in the reference list, but the citation is missing or vice versa? The premise is that the text must be written in one's own words, but naturally, definitions, concepts and terms in the field must be used. The page Writing is a skill gives some writing tips.
Process for handling suspicion of plagiarism and its possible consequences
The process in case of suspicion of plagiarism and its possible consequences are described in full in section 4 of the Aalto University Code of Academic Integrity. The description below is a summary of the most important parts.
Plagiarism suspected during the writing process
If plagiarism is suspected during the instruction (draft) phase of the writing process, for example when writing the thesis, the teacher can instruct the student to make the necessary changes without consequences.
However, if the student repeatedly ignores instructions involving academic integrity during the thesis writing process or in coursework, the teacher may contact the investigator [of violations] already before the grading phase.
Plagiarism suspected during grading
The process of handling suspicion of plagiarism is summarised in the flow chart in Figure 1.
The same process is also presented in more detail here in this pdf file.
If plagiarism is suspected during grading, the situation is one of two:
In an unclear case of plagiarism, the student is asked for an explanation either in writing or orally. If the explanation
- reinforces the notion of the case being one of minor negligence or misunderstanding, the teacher guides the student on correct working practices and asks the student to resubmit their work after correcting the deficiencies found.
is not convincing, the teacher passes the case of plagiarism suspicion to be handled by the investigator of violations. The teacher provides the investigator with the Turnitin similarity report (see item 4 of the overview figure of the report for instructions to get a pdf) and their interpretation of the report to support their suspicion.
Note: Suspicion of plagiarism must be resolved by lowering the grade. Nor can the teacher fail the work before the investigator has handled the case and the investigation concludes that misconduct has occurred. The goal is to educate students to avoid plagiarism.
In this case, the following procedure is followed:
- The teacher informs the student about the suspicion. A good and recommended practice is that the teacher goes through the similarity report together with the student before contacting the investigator.
- The teacher then passes the case on to the respective school's investigator. The teacher provides the investigator with the Turnitin similarity report (see item 4 of the overview figure of the report for instructions to get a pdf) and their interpretation of the report to support their suspicion.
- The student is interviewed during the handling process.
The teacher receives the result of the investigation, which is one of the following:
a. The case is not considered to be misconduct, or it is considered a minor one. The teacher is advised on how to evaluate the assignment/thesis.
b. The case is considered to be misconduct, and the student is cautioned and/or punished with a fixed-term suspension. The teacher is advised to fail the assignment/thesis based on the occurred misconduct.
The teacher can always consult the investigator when deciding the kind of action to take in case of suspected plagiarism.
Investigators and decision-makers
The Manager of Academic Affairs of the corresponding Aalto University school is the investigator in cases of suspected plagiarism. The names and contact details of the managers of all the schools are here. Cases at the Mikkeli campus are handled by the Manager of Academic Operations. These details are repeated here for your convenience.
Turnitin an originality checking and feedback software
Turnitin is a tool to help you not only identify plagiarism, but also teach students good scientific writing practices. Turnitin compares submitted text to a massive database of text, highlights all similar text found and creates a similarity report.