Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Turnitin

Introduction

Yale will conduct a pilot evaluation of the software system Turnitin for use in courses across the University this academic year. Turnitin is a tool to help faculty and students develop and evaluate written scholarship. It estimates the originality of written work so students can properly reference source material. The tool generates a “similarity report” by comparing an uploaded paper to a database of web pages, articles, books, and other uploaded files. When similarities exist, the tool highlights sections of the uploaded paper and displays the original source. The report provides an opportunity for constructive conversations about properly referencing sources.

Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Divinity School and the Law School have chosen to employ a restricted access pilot this year. Beginning the week of October 21, students and faculty can access Turnitin in consultation with the Center for Teaching and Learning. Turnitin will not be broadly available in Canvas courses for faculty or students in these schools. Turnitin will only be available during a visit to the CTL. Students who wish to use Turnitin can make an appointment with a trained writing consultant in the Center. Faculty are invited to meet with a CTL staff member for a demonstration of Turnitin that simulates the experience an instructor would have if the software is adopted. This process will enable the community to access and evaluate the software’s strengths and weaknesses and offer feedback. Please click here for frequently asked questions about the restricted access pilot including how faculty and students can schedule consultations with the CTL.

The School of Architecture, School of Drama, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, School of Management, School of Music, and School of Public Health have chosen to implement the pilot through Canvas. This arrangement allows faculty to enable Turnitin for assignments submitted through their active Canvas course sites. The feature is turned off by default, so each faculty member can decide whether or when to use Turnitin. Please click here for frequently asked questions about the pilot through Canvas

The School of Art and the School of Medicine will not take part in the pilot due to their limited use of Canvas. The School of Nursing will implement the pilot through Canvas for the spring semester.

Academic integrity is a critical topic that affects the relationship between faculty and students. Yale strives to provide an environment that encourages students’ learning and their development as writers and leaders. We each have a responsibility to acknowledge how previous scholarship has influenced our own work, and faculty have an obligation to help students achieve the standard of proper academic credit. This software system is a tool that can be used to stimulate conversations about the writing process, but it does have limitations. First, Turnitin reports sometimes highlight sections of text in block quotations. These quotations can be properly cited. It can also mark as “unoriginal” blocks of text that have become common usage in a given discipline, especially definitions of terms or discussions of methods. For these reasons, the reports require additional interpretation. A second limitation is that the most common use of Turnitin occurs after the paper has already been written. There are many techniques faculty can use to reduce students’ likelihood of using sources improperly in the first place, including:

  • Discussing a discipline’s approach to source use
  • Looking closely at professional writing samples
  • Providing feedback on proposals or early drafts
  • Focusing assignments on less common topics
  • Revising assignment prompts to restrict source use

Beyond our support for the Turnitin pilot, the CTL has staff members who can help faculty think about assignments, source use, and other strategies for helping students to become better writers and scholars.

Timeline

The pilots will begin the week of October 21, 2018. Faculty and students from participating schools will have the following opportunities available:

Faculty (FAS, GSAS, Divinity, and Law) and Yale College students will have the ability to schedule an appointment at the CTL. Faculty should use the instructional consultation form. Yale College students should use the Writing Center’s appointment system. Please note, Yale College students cannot access the software during drop-in hours.

Faculty in Architecture, Drama, Forestry, Management, Music, and Public Health will have the ability to enable Turnitin within their course site on Canvas. The feature is turned off by default. Faculty from these schools can also schedule a consultation with a CTL staff member.

Graduate and professional school students will have the ability to schedule an appointment at the Center for Teaching and Learning with Graduate Writing Lab (GWL) Consultants to utilize Turnitin and have a consultation about proper citations. Students should use the GWL scheduling system.

Evaluation

The CTL Faculty Advisory Committee will play a critical role in evaluating the use of the software and its integration with Canvas. The Advisory Committee will conduct a university-wide, anonymous survey to collect information and opinions about Turnitin during the pilot. Click here to access the university-wide, anonymous survey.

FAQ

Faculty in Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Divinity School and the Law School will have the ability to use Turnitin at the CTL as part of a restricted access pilot. Access Frequently Asked Questions on the following CTL site for the restricted access pilot.

Faculty in the following Schools will have the ability to use Turnitin for the full pilot: Architecture, Drama, Forestry, Management, Music, Nursing, and Public Health. Access Frequently Asked Questions on the following CTL site for the full access pilot.