Promoting a Student-Centered Approach to Academic Integrity

by Steven Williams, Academic Integrity Service Lead, ETS and Rita-Marie Conrad, Senor Consultant, Digital Learning, CTL

Turnitin, a tool for verifying the originality of student writing, is now available in all bCourses course sites.  By using this tool in conjunction with bCourses Assignments, instructors can access an Originality Check report that highlights any matches between a student’s work and Turnitin’s database of web and print sources. This report can help instructors focus on the substance of a student’s written work by being available if any questions emerge about the authenticity of a student’s paper, or if an Originality Check report shows an unusually high amount of unoriginal content. 

Turnitin is often seen as a punitive tool but it can also be used proactively to advance a student-centered approach to advocate academic integrity.  Consider the following ways to use Turnitin as a learning tool:

1 – Provide an opportunity for students to self-assess their work.

Plagiarism is not always intentional.  Making Turnitin’s Originality Check reports available to students for review prior to submitting their work to be graded helps learners better understand expectations around citation and attribution, and policies around academic integrity.

One of UC Berkeley’s first users of Turnitin was Martha Olney in Economics. “I used Turnitin for an upper-division elective, enrollment 100,” said Olney, “and it worked well.” “Because students and instructors alike were all new to Turnitin, I prepared a handout about the Turnitin software that I posted on the course website. And more importantly, I created a bCourses assignment worth 0 points where students could upload papers, and could submit more than once. I think it was useful for everyone.”

When using Turnitin to let students check their own writing, make sure to unselect the “Include in Repostory” option in the bCourses Turnitin Advanced Settings. This helps prevent future drafts of a student’s essay from being compared to their own earlier submissions, reducing the number of “false” matches to the Turnitin database.

2 – Use Turnitin to teach the fundamentals of academic writing.

Using the tool in activities where students are learning the fundamentals of academic writing allows them to receive immediate feedback about their ability to effectively paraphrase and cite the work of others, while synthesizing those ideas into their own original work.  Simply provide student access to the Originality Check reports in Turnitin in bCourses and this feedback is available to them.

3 – Use Turnitin to discuss academic integrity.

Exposing students to Turnitin as early as possible in their academic career provides enhanced opportunities for instructors to discuss UC Berkeley’s Honor Code and other policies surrounding academic integrity. Instructors can review all versions of a student’s Originality Check report, allowing them to see how students used the feedback from Turnitin to review their writing.  This can be used to quickly highlight important aspects of academic integrity for the class.

4 – Share how you use plagiarism detection software before submitting work for publication.

Plagiarism can be an issue for researchers and instructors as well.  ETS also offers access to iThenticate, a product from Turnitin aimed at instructors and researchers. Similar to Turnitin, iThenticate is intended for instructors and graduate students to review their own work for similarity to previously published material prior to submission for publication.  Discussing how you use this tool in your work will help students understand that Turnitin is not about punishment but rather to improve the quality of their work.

For more information about Turnitin and iThenticate, visit

If you would like to discuss how to use Turnitin from a technical or pedagogical perspective, please email Steven Williams at sends e-mail) for a consultation.