Faculty paticipates in plagiarism workshop

In order to prevent plagiarism, St. John’s University professors are learning to use the database, “Turnitin,” through various workshops and hands-on experience, according to an advisory posted on St. John’s Central.

Two workshops on how to use the database have already been held on August 27 and September 7.

Benjamin Turner, Associate Professor and Librarian, led the workshops to help professors better understand the use of the database. “We encourage faculty members to use it as an educational tool and not as a policing tool.”

Faculty at St. John’s started using the Turnitin database, which helps professors compare students’ papers with information posted on the Internet, during the summer of 2006.

Professors are able to create their own accounts on the database with a user ID and password. After uploading students’ papers electronically, the database will then give professors a percentage of how similar the content of the papers are to content that is posted on the internet.

In fact, according to the Turnitin Web site, the database “searches billions of pages from both current and archived instances of the Internet, millions of student papers previously submitted to Turnitin, and commercial databases of journal articles and periodicals.”

While “plagiarism is a major concern with faculty members,” according to Turner, he believes this database system will encourage faculty to talk to their students about the issue of plagiarism, making them aware of what plagiarism is and to take it seriously.

Turnitin was created by “iParadigms,” a company that was started in 1996. The company set up a series of computer programs at UC Berkeley as a trial run of their idea. The group of researchers founded plagiarism.org in 1998 to “monitor the recycling of research papers in their large undergraduate classes.”

Plagiarism.org became the world’s first Internet plagiarism detection Web site. Recognized by the New York Times, CNN, and Good Morning America, it evolved in to the current database, Turnitin.

According to turnitin.com, the database is used in more than 80 countries. “Turnitin’s comprehensive plagiarism prevention system lets you quickly and effectively check all of your students’ work in a fraction of the time necessary to scan a few suspect papers using a search engine,” states the Web site.

The future of the site is uncertain however. Having student papers on the database has recently raised a copyright infringement issue. Four students in California sued the plagiarism online service, under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, for using their papers on the database. But Turner defended the site, saying it only protects the student’s work from being plagiarized by other students.