What Is Detected? Carl Straumsheim

What Is Detected? Carl Straumsheim

Plagiarism detection software from vendors such as Turnitin is often criticized for labeling clumsy student writing as plagiarism. Now a set of new tests suggests the software lets too many students get away with it.

The data come from Susan E. Schorn, a writing coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin. Schorn first ran a test to determine Turnitin’s efficacy back in 2007, when the university was considering paying for an institutionwide license. Her results initially dissuaded the university from paying a five-figure sum to license the software, she said. A follow-up test, conducted this March, produced similar results.

Moreover, the results — while not a comprehensive overview of Turnitin’s strengths and weaknesses — are likely to renew the debate among writing instructors about the value of plagiarism detection software in the classroom.

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