Turitin.com should be discontinued

Gilana Levavi ('14)/Eastside Staff

A vast world, the Internet is full of virtues and vices alike. One website, turnitin.com, is deemed by the Cherry Hill School District as virtuous; so virtuous, that a teacher can give a student a “zero” on an assignment based on what this website says.

“When teachers make students use turnit.com, it shows that they obviously do not trust them, which is not fair,” said Dan Peterson (‘13).

Primarily, turnitin.com checks for plagiarism. Papers submitted through this website are scanned through a database of journals, periodicals, books, web pages and previously submitted papers. The website highlights any parts of the paper that match sources in its database, tell the source that was matched, and produce an “originality report” showing the percentage of the paper that matches other texts. 

While the website has some positive aspects, its negative aspects far outrun its positive ones, making it a website that should not be utilized by the Cherry Hill School district.

Turnitin.com violates students’ intellectual property rights. With only a teacher’s permission, and not necessarily the student’s permission, other website users can see students’ papers. When the website deems that a scanned paper is identical to another students’ paper, which is already a part of turnitin’s database, a teacher may request permission from the original teacher, to whom the copied paper was originally submitted to, to see the copied paper. As the academic owner of this paper, it should be the student’s right to determine who reads it, not the teacher’s. Turnitin.com violates this right.

Students sign an agreement before creating a turnitin account that notifies them of how their paper can and will be used. However, even if students do not fully agree with the terms of this agreement, it is usually mandatory for them to sign this agreement to use the service. Their teacher will most likely penalize the student if he/she does not subject his/her writing to this website.  Hence, unless turnitin.com installs a feature that allows others to read papers only with the author’s permission, use of the website should be discontinued.

Our school district pays to use turnitin.com, and is supporting iParadigms, the for-profit owner of the website. Each time a student paper is submitted through this website, it becomes a part of turnitin’s database. The more papers turnitin.com has in its database, the more successful and effective this service can claim to be, and the more money it can charge subscribers. 

When asked how much the Cherry Hill School district pays to use Turnitin.com, a representative of the district wrote in an e-mail that the rates can be found on the product’s website. However, turnitin.com does not openly provide a listing of its prices; it instead offers free customized price quotes.

“It’s pointless to use turnit.com., because not only do [students] have to turn in their papers twice, to the website and then to the teacher, but also because it’s not hard to check for plagiarism, [a student or a teacher] can check for his or her self,” Bill Potts (‘12) said.

The price of turnitin.com must be revealed to the public, since the public has a right to know how much the district spends on each service it offers. 

It cannot be denied that plagiarism is wrong and must be prevented. Academic integrity must be enforced, but it must be enforced in an ethical, judicious way, which Turnitin.com does not provide. 

Turnitin.com violates students’ intellectual property rights. Unless the website is revised in a way that no longer violates students’ rights, and unless the price is revealed to the public, turnitin.com’s vices will continue to outrun its virtues. Until these things are done, use of turnitin.com should be discontinued in the Cherry Hill School District.

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