What is Turnitin? Modi government’s ‘Brahmastra’ against plagiarism in PhD – how the software works

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New Delhi | Updated: June 26, 2018 12:51:10 PM

Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Central government wants to stop plagiarism in thesis by PhD scholars with the help of some modern softwares.

turnitinTurnitin software helps prevent plagiarism. (Source: https://turnitin.com)

Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government wants to put an end to plagiarism in theses submitted by PhD scholars to earn a doctorate. At the central government’s disposal is a modern software that will be put to use to end this menace. “The Central government has taken strong steps to keep a check on such practices of plagiarism in Ph.D research. One person’s Ph.D. thesis has been wrongly used by some others to complete their theses. As such cases are on the rise, we have decided to use software such as ‘Turnitin’ and others to keep a check on such theses,” Javadekar was quoted as telling reporters in Shirdi by PTI.

The Union minister also said that PhD scholars caught with plagiarised content in their dissertations will not be awarded the doctorate degree in coming days.

Amid the government’s steps to check plagiarism by PhD scholars, here’s a look at the Turnitin software – what it is, and how it works:

Turnitin is a plagiarism prevention software to ensure originality and integrity in scholarly works. The US-based company calls itself, “the global leader in plagiarism prevention and online grading”. It also tracks students’ progress and provides paperless mark-up, grading and peer review.

ALSO READ | PhD students alert: Beware! Modi government to use ‘Turnitin’ software to detect plagiarism – details here

As per the official website of Turnitin, the software checks papers against over 20 billion web pages, over 220 million student papers and over 90,000 publications. It saves “instructors’ time by providing rich feedback on a student’s written work and and also helps improve writing of students by “engaging them in the peer review process.”

Turnitin is useful for students, publishers and researchers, admissions professionals and for educational resources.

Not a plagiarism detector

The company says that Turnitin is not exactly a software that detects plagiarism. It provides matches of a work with original works and leaves on people to compare and determine plagiarism. “Turnitin just finds text that matches other sources in the vast Turnitin databases and shows those matches. It is up to a human being to determine whether those text matches are a problem or not.”

It further says that Turnitin’s “Similarity Index” is not a “plagiarism index” and also there is a score that can be said to be “good” or “bad” without human examination. That means, the percentage of the “Similarity Index” of your work detected by the software doesn’t mean it is certainly plagiarised.

The company itself says that even “0% does not necessarily mean that everything is OK with the student’s paper and 75% does not necessarily mean that the student should flunk. You have to look at the report and decide: what is going on here?”

Plagiarism is a complex subject and needs human interpretation and examination. Turnitin says its software is “just a tool helps educators (and their students) make informed evaluations.”

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