Web tool secured to catch cheating
April 13, 2004 9:00 p.m.
With plagiarism a constant problem on campus, administrators
hope new Web sites are a creative way of attempting to stop the
plagiarism for which they have been looking.
The UCLA College has recently secured a site license to use
Turnitin.com, a Web site designed to help faculty detect plagiarism
as well as educate students on how to properly cite
Turnitin.com was previously used in the chemistry department,
and some administrators believed spring quarter was a good time to
open the program up to the rest of the College.
Since Turnitin.com was made available to faculty, over 40
professors have registered to use the program this quarter.
Turnitin.com was developed by UC Berkeley doctoral student John
Barrie, who believed the Internet could actually help faculty
members detect plagiarism in student papers.
After College administrators made a proposal to the Academic
Senate’s Faculty Executive Committee, the use of the site was
approved late last quarter. FEC is made up of faculty members who
act on behalf of the 800 faculty members in the College.
“Some faculty members were familiar with the tool, and
they had a positive experience with it. Many of the faculty members
thought that it could be a potentially useful tool that could make
a difficult part of our jobs a little easier,” FEC chairwoman
Robin Garrell said.
Professors who choose to use Turnitin.com have the option of
individually submitting student work that they suspect to be
plagiarized, or requiring the entire class to submit its papers to
the Web site.
Through the program, student papers will be compared to Internet
documents, a variety of journals and periodicals, as well as any
previously submitted student work.
The site will assign each paper an “originality
percentage,” which represents how original it is. If the site
detects a paper has been plagiarized, the instructor can view the
specific sections of the text in question.
The professor has the option of speaking with the students whose
papers have low originality scores, or high amounts of similar
sections. They can then send the case of possible plagiarism to the
Office of the Dean of Students, as they would have in the past.
“The site will not determine whether or not the student
plagiarized ““ that is completely up to the professor and
dean,” said John Sandbrook, special assistant to the
Dean of Students Robert Naples said he is curious as to how the
increased use of Turnitin.com will affect the number of possible
cases of plagiarism presented to the Office of the Dean of
“If the number of cases presented to the Dean of Students
office increases greatly we won’t be able to deal with them
as quickly as we have before. I am curious to see what
happens,” Naples said.
As a result of the FEC approving the College’s use of the
site, officials had to make changes to the plagiarism and student
copyright policy included on the UCLA Registrar’s Office Web
One of the revisions to the notice says if a student chooses to
not submit their paper to the Web site when the professor requires
it, the student will receive a zero on the assignment.
Some administrators believe the way to stop plagiarism before it
happens is to properly teach students about citing.
Pauline Swartz, a UCLA College librarian, recently designed a
tutorial site called Bruin Success, dedicated to educating students
on how to properly cite and document sources, as well as the
dangers of file sharing.
“We interviewed students to hear their perspectives on
plagiarism, and we learned that a majority of students cheat not to
get ahead ““ but just to stay with the pack. We wanted to
design a place where students could find tips on how to de-stress,
as well as proper citation rules,” Swartz said.
One section of the tutorial, titled “Avoiding
Disaster” teaches students how to better manage their time
and not feel like the only way to get a good grade is to cheat.
“Students really helped to shape this site ““ we
included situations in our games that students actually go through.
We also tried to make it fun so that students don’t get bored
learning about these important issues,” Swartz said.
Many students are unaware of the resources available to them.
The Bruin Success site is among many sites available to
“It’s a great thing that we have these resources. A
lot of students forget how to cite sources, and it seems like
they’re plagiarizing when they really aren’t. It
definitely doesn’t hurt to have extra resources at our
fingertips,” said Aisha Pascua, a second-year physical
To visit the Bruin Success Web site, go to