UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 15 | October
Web service aimed at rewarding honesty
Initiative focused on reinforcing academic integrity as a core
value to students
by Don Wells staff writer
UBC students who are tempted to plagiarize by copying text from
Internet sources without citations may soon be required to change
UBC has joined a growing list of universities who subscribe to
TurnItIn.com, a U.S.-based Web site that maintains massive databases
to check submitted papers for originality. The Faculty of Commerce
and Business Administration's MBA program uses the service, which
may soon be used by other faculties.
UBC's subscription is in response to growing concerns expressed
by faculty and students about the ease with which students can directly
copy sources, or obtain essays on the Internet, says Neil Guppy,
associate vice-president, Academic Programs.
Guppy also sees the service as a tool to reinforce academic integrity
as a core value of the university.
"There must be more to our approach to dealing with the issue of
plagiarism than merely using technology to detect, catch and punish,"
"We also need to work with faculty and students to sensitize them
to what plagiarism is and find ways of reducing it."
Guppy advocates a university-wide approach to providing students
with the tools to become better writers and researchers, including
the enforcement of acceptable standards for citing sources, and
designing other forms of assessment to minimize the temptation to
After wide consultation with deans and AMS representatives, he
is now fine-tuning the steps towards broader implementation.
"I don't think it would be acceptable to evaluate students by this
service without first informing them that TurnItIn will be used,
most properly through a course outline," he says. "We should also
respond consistently across faculties and departments to incidents
of academic misconduct."
Currently, there is a wide range of penalties for academic misconduct.
Like many universities, UBC has traditionally allowed faculty members
discretion in the conduct of their courses and in addressing the
When the misconduct consists of plagiarism, the faculty member
may assign a zero credit to the student.
Designed by a Berkeley professor, TurnItIn scans papers submitted
for material copied from public Web sites, papers purchased from
"paper mills," essays and assignments previously submitted to TurnItIn,
and works published in academic journals.
Students up-load their paper to a password-protected Web site or
electronically submit it to instructors. Software scans it and reports
on originality. Instances of copying are flagged in a report, which
faculty can review.
UBC, the University of Western Ontario, Berkeley, UCLA, Duke and
Rutgers are among the universities using the service.