Site aims to deter cheating

By Jess Scanlon

On its Web site, turnitin.com refers to itself as “the No. 1 Web-based solution that lets educators and their students check written work for improper citation or misappropriated content.” Several professors at Rider commonly use this site, ranging from the English to the Biology Department.

The process is simple: Students register usernames and then register for a class on the site where they submit their work. Their assignment is then compared to an extensive database that includes scholarly, professional and student works. Possible plagiarism is detected  when the system finds similar phrases of a certain length without proper citation.

Dr. Seiwoong Oh, professor and chair of the English Department, was a major force in the university’s decision to purchase the program for Rider.

“A student was suspended from school for plagiarizing in three different courses and that’s when I asked the university to buy turnitin.com,” he said.

According to Oh, the site acts as a sufficient prevention for student plagiarism.

“It’s a deterrent. It makes my job a lot easier and removes the cloud of suspicion,” he said.

Some students don’t have a problem submitting their work to turnitin.com.

“I believe it is a useful and fair site,” said Jessica Schiowitz, a 2009 graduate. “I have had no problems with it.”

However, not all students agree with the use of the Internet-based service. Students at McLean High School in Virginia collected over 1,100 signatures on a petition opposing mandatory use of the site, according to a Washington Post article. Several students in universities in Canada have challenged use of the site and several claims have been made that it violates the intellectual property rights of students because it retains their work indefinitely for future use.

Princeton University, along with Yale, Harvard and Stanford, refuses to use the software. An article in the student-run Daily Princetonian from last spring cites the university’s honor code as making it unnecessary. However, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) does use the site.

Princeton assumes that its students adhere to the honor code. Rider and TCNJ utilize this software to make sure that they do. Rider’s policy on academic integrity is in The Source. If a Rider student is caught cheating or plagiarizing work, possible consequences include failure of the course or even expulsion.

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