March 30, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 94  

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NEWS

McGill continues to examine turnitin.com

By Megan O’Toole
Gazette Staff

McGill University’s senate voted unanimously last Wednesday to send its proposed policy on plagiarism-detection software and turnitin.com — a website that detects plagiarism in students’ papers — back to the Committee on Student Affairs for alternatives. But the process has faced resistance from upset students.

According to Students’ Society of McGill University VP-university affairs Vivian Choy, a group of student protesters showed up at the proceedings on Wednesday to express their frustration with the turnitin.com system, which has been used on a trial basis at McGill.

“First and foremost, this is about trust,” Choy said. “We’ve gone from a situation at McGill where students did not have to prove the authenticity of their work to one where they have to submit it [electronically].”

According to Choy, the proposed policy stipulates that the university reserves the right to use turnitin.com if a paper is under suspicion for plagiarism.

“Plagiarism-detection software, under the right conditions, can be beneficial to the university and to students,” said McGill’s dean of students, Bruce Shore. “Finding and agreeing on those conditions is the challenge.”

Shore added that the discussions at McGill are not specifically about turnitin.com, but rather about the software policy.

“[Presently] at McGill, there is no policy on the use of any plagiarism-detection software; it is entirely unregulated,” Shore said. “I would like to see that situation modified.

“The presence of such a policy is a deterrent [to plagiarism], in addition to the actual implementation of the policy,” he added.

According to Debra Dawson, director of educational development at Western, turnitin.com is used because Internet plagiarism does exist. “Using the Internet to stop it seems the prudent thing to do,” she said.

Turnitin.com is only one method used, Dawson said, noting that educational campaigns, including efforts to teach students about the proper rules for citing sources, are also utilized at Western.

Choy said that while students are “on board” with the move to decrease incidents of plagiarism, they are frustrated by the current state of the system.

“There definitely needs to be a policy on the use of plagiarism-detection software,” Choy said. “Right now, it’s a free-for-all in terms of how professors use it.”

“The special relationships of trust between professors and students seems to be the main concern raised,” Shore said. “These relationships are, however, two way, and their meaning needs to be explored in this specific context. That is what we have now undertaken to do in greater depth.”

 

 

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