McGill continues to examine turnitin.com
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
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
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
“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.”