Thursday, 28 June 2012

Turnitin and e-assessment - a quick guide

Image courtesy of University of Sheffield Asset Bank
I initially produced this Turnitin guide for part of our regular Learning Technologists' Team meeting last week. However, I think that it's worth sharing this information (essentially a quick reference guide) with the wider world... hope you find it useful!

Quick Facts...
  • First released in 2002
  • 60% of Institutions use it through a VLE*
  • In 2012 14% of matching text sources found by Turnitin had come from social media sites*
  • In 2010 The number one site for matching text sources found by Turnitin was...Wikipedia*
  • Turnitin is not a plagiarism detector. An academic is. (It is a text matching service)
  • Turnitin does not support second marking at present
  • Turnitin does support anonymous marking

The three e’s


What does this mean?
It means students submit their work online into Turnitin which then means:

  • Students do not need to print out copies of their assignment,they are all held in the “Paper Repository”, which is Turnitin's huge database of student submissions
  • The student's work is given added plagiarism protection by being held in this resource as all future submissions are checked against the current Paper Repository.


What does this mean?
This means marking student submissions on-line through the Turnitin interface. Marking online is completed using a particular function in Turnitin called “GradeMark”. GradeMark enables the marker to use the following:

  • Quickmark sets: A set of commonly used marking terms as well as creation of custom terms
  • Feedback area: Allows the instructor to provide free text and more in-depth feedback as required
  • Score: Instructors can return a mark on the piece of work submitted
  • Rubrics: Interactive grading forms or criteria can be assigned to any assessments, these can also be made available to students
  • Anonymous marking: Parameters of an assessment can be set to prevent markers from seeing student names when marking


What does this mean? 
The ability to give feedback to students on a piece of work online. In this case “GradeMark” is again used as a mechanism to give student feedback. This then means that:

  • Feedback is more legible
  • Feedback is more personal: GradeMark has an audio feedback feature
  • Create feedback is easy: If using audio you just need a mic and you can record up to 3 minutes of audio.
  • Students know when feedback is given - via notification on their assignment inbox

Peer review

What does this mean?
Peer Review is the evaluation of students work by other students. This is a formative exercise designed to improve the students critical thinking, reflection and self reflective skills. In Turnitin a peer review exercise can be undertaken using “PeerMark” as the method of reviewing and marking the exercise. This means that:

  • The administrative side of the peer marking process is easy to set up and control
  • Staff can control the number of papers to be reviewed by students and the type of criteria to be used by students when reviewing
  • Staff can also comment on and grade the peer reviews
  • Peer review information is clear and easy to read

Designing plagiarism out

What does this mean?
It means designing assessment in such a way that it minimises any perceived need for students to resort to unfair means to complete an assessment. Turnitin’s “Originality check” functionality can be used in a formative way to assist in designing out plagiarism. For example:

  • Students can practice submission to see what their Originality Score might be. The Originality report will highlight any matching sources found.
  • Interrogation of Originality Reports can highlight areas of unintentional plagiarism: Paraphrasing, summarising, incorrect referencing/citation


*Rowell, Gill (June 2012),“What I did with Turnitin on my holidays. Ten years of policy and practice in Turnitin use in UK Institutions”, presentation given to the ASKe Plagiarism conference 14 June 2012


  1. Hi James,

    A useful and easy to read post, thanks. A couple of questions:
    - are there any plans to support second marking in turnitin?
    - do you have any resources on 'designing plagiarism out'? I think this is something a lot of people would be interested in.
    - I imagine people use Turnitin as a way to raise students' awareness of plagiarism, what's the best way to go about this?

    1. Hi Paul, Thanks for the comments.....and here is my answers!

      - Unfortunately it seems unclear at the moment as to whether Turnitin will incorporate second marking. The issue crops up time and again at conferences and within the Turnitin UK users community. I will keep you updated if anything changes!

      - Designing plagiarism out will indeed be incorporated into the Turnitin central support that I am designing. So will be part of training, screencasts, and text on the site (when its all finished!)

      - Turnitin can indeed be used to raise plagiarism awareness. One way might be to get students to submit a formative assessment to it, with students then being required to interrogate the resulting Orginality report and any sources found matching. Alternatively you could get students to submit a pre-prepared paper which contains known matches from a variety of sources. Again students could interrogate the report to see where the matches came from, and to judge whether plagiarism was uninentional or not... It might be interesting to see if this would work using PeerMark...although I dont think they would be able to view another students orignality report

    2. Thanks James. Sorry for the late reply here, it seems notifications on blog replies are not enabled or something... Anyway...

      Good to hear that the second marker issue is being raised, let's hope it gets sorted soon.

      Do you have any feedback from academics on marking in Turnitin by the way? I like the interface myself, but I've never had to scroll through dozens of 3000 word essays in it!

      Thanks for the tips on plagiarism awareness, it's something we're keen to address in our distance learning courses, so will look at writing them into the formative assessment submissions. Looking forward to seeing your Turnitin resource, particularly on plagiarism.



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