MSU uses software to help professors detect plagiarism


MSU uses software to help professors detect plagiarism

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The software called Turnitin was introduced campus wide at MSU in the Fall of 2012. It helps professors detect plagiarism and get a better picture of where a students work is coming from.

Ritchie Boyd has been with MSU for 14 years. As the academic technology specialist, he holds workshops about the Turnitin software several times a semester to get faculty familiar with the program.

"It sort of frees up the instructor to focus on the quality of the students written work itself rather than always scanning a paper wondering if it is the students own work. Turnitin is great any time you have students submitting written work, " said Boyd.

Boyd showed us an example of a paper he turned in. The paper was a mix of different articles he copied and pasted from several sources. Once the professor gets the report it highlights the parts of the paper it finds on other sources, and gives a percentage. This can help professors see possible red flags in their students' written work.

"What I would do first is look at the context and say 'Is this a match against another student paper that is in the database?' That is fairly compelling," said Boyd.

Boyd says once a paper is submitted it can take up to an hour to actually process the paper, because it has to filter through the Internet and other papers in the database.

"It goes through 20-plus billion web pages, 200 million student pages and library databases," said Boyd.

Since the launch of Turnitin a year and a half ago, he has found professors are not coming to him because of an increase in plagiarism.

"I could count on less than one hand faculty who have said, 'I think I am starting to see more of a problem,' or 'I am seeing more of a problem,'" said Boyd.   

Rather they are using it as a teaching tool, to help students better understand academic honesty and plagiarism.

According to the University in the past 12 months, there have been 94 cases of plagiarism. That makes up less than 1 percent of the student body.

We are also told since Turnitin has become available to all professors, they have been much stricter with disciplinary action if someone is caught with plagiarized work. 

We checked with the University of Montana to find out if they use this system and we are told they do not.

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