Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Categories of Source Misuse, and How to Address Them

Turnitin flags potential instances of source misuse in a paper by highlighting them. This highlighting can have the effect of lumping all source-use errors into a single category. Since using sources well requires a constellation of skills working in tandem, identifying the specific ways your students are misusing sources is the first step in teaching them the skills they need to become better writers and scholars in your discipline.

The pages linked below describe seven different kinds of source misuse you might encounter in a student’s Turnitin report. They are intended to help you identify each type of source misuse, to address them in class, and to respond to the specific learning needs of each student.

Some, if not many, misuses of sources have an ethical component, where students are at least somewhat aware that they are taking a shortcut. Still, we urge you to think of each category of source misuse as a teaching opportunity. While no amount of teaching can stop every student from misusing sources in their paper, many teaching strategies have proven effective in both reducing the misuse of sources in student papers and, more importantly, in helping students acquire the skills they need to become successful writers and scholars.

Published Sources Highlighted by Turnitin

Source Used without Attribution
Too-Close Paraphrase
Large Sections Copied Directly

Student Sources Highlighted by Turnitin

From Two Students in the Same Course
From a Student in a Different Yale Course
From a Student Paper from Another University
From a Paper this Student Has Submitted Before