Vivien Silvey from ASLC joins us again today to discuss unacceptable text matches in Turnitin.
What makes a text match unacceptable?
Checking through text matches in students’ work can help to identify where there may be issues with their use and attribution of sources. Common problems include:
- Broken text matches, where students may be misquoting or using poor paraphrasing
- A high proportion of one particular source, indicating a possible over-reliance on that source
Misquoting is often relatively simple to observe in students’ work. Misquotations usually are represented by broken text matches where some words in the student’s text are different to those in the original source, as in the example below.
It is nevertheless important to check potential misquotations carefully, because as we saw yesterday, Turnitin will not highlight words that are hyphenated in the original text but are not hyphenated in the student’s work. Similarly, if Turnitin is matching to a source that isn’t the source the student used, and the source that Turnitin matched contains a spelling mistake or American rather than Australian spelling, this may be represented as a broken text match. In such cases, you can click on the text matches to find out more about the source, or check out the Match Overview column to locate the correct source. Students can do the same actions, so it is useful to encourage them to look for and correct such issues in their drafts.
While misquotations are generally simple issues to detect, poor paraphrasing is a trickier affair, as we see next.
One of the most common types of problematic text matches occurs when students are aiming to paraphrase, but may have used too many of the same words. Paraphrasing is one of the most difficult skills that students learn when learning how to write with academic integrity. Since paraphrasing is so difficult and takes a long time to master, it is vital to provide guidance and support to teach students how to paraphrase appropriately.
In many cases poor paraphrasing is relatively simple and easy to spot, as in the example below.
In this case the student could be shown how to revise the idea using their own words, how to distinguish technical language like “sensation fiction” from the other non-technical language in the extract, and how to restructure the idea.
However, as we discussed yesterday, in other cases it is harder to decide whether the student has paraphrased sufficiently or not, which is why it’s useful to determine a set of standards with colleagues in your area.
For example, the broken text match below shows that the student has used similar words and concepts to the source. Some markers might interpret this as insufficient paraphrasing, since the words and structure of the idea are too close to the source. On the other hand, some might consider this match to be acceptable since it is using common language in the discipline. What do you think?
Since opinion is often divided on what exactly constitutes poor paraphrasing, it is useful to discuss with your colleagues the parameters you set for poor paraphrasing. Once you have agreed on those parameters, you can communicate your expectations with your students. This will help students to know what they should look for when they check their drafts.
Over-reliance on one or more sources
Whether through lack of understanding about how to use sources or for other reasons, you might sometimes find a case like the red text match below, where the student has relied heavily on just one source throughout their assignment. In the Match Overview column on the right hand side, the red text match is identified as comprising 18% of the work, compared to just 4% for the source beneath it. This could indicate a range of issues, such as basing the assignment on a limited range of resources, excessive quoting, recycling work or collusion.
Alternatively, large matches such as the one above could mean that the student has submitted a draft of this work to another Moodle site to check it before submitting the final version to your site, without realising that it would be stored on the Turnitin database. This is why it’s useful to have a Turnitin practice site on Moodle which is set to not store students’ work on the database. If you wish to set up practice spaces for students in your own sites, it is vital to change the default setting so that the students’ work is not stored on the repository.
Other common reasons why you might find that students’ work displays many text matches to the same source include the assignment has been set multiple times before in large courses, the class is doing a short assessment piece on similar sources, and/or that students are asked to use templates.
To sum up, it is vital to check text matches carefully to see whether they represent problems or not. Teaching students how to interpret their Turnitin originality reports can help them to avoid problems with using and referencing sources. Similarly, providing early low stakes tasks that assess academic integrity and referencing can assist students to identify their needs and access timely support. Such tasks often take the form of a 5% referencing exercise, a 10% annotated bibliography or critical review, or other short works in which referencing is required, usually due in the first few weeks of the course. Assessment design throughout semester can also have a significant impact on students’ development of academic integrity skills. One common reason that students may have issues with academic integrity is because they have not developed confidence in their writing and critical analysis. Supporting students to develop academic integrity skills in scaffolded tasks, constructively aligned course design and ongoing guidance can prevent and address poor academic practice.
However, what happens when you find serious issues that indicate academic misconduct? Tomorrow we will outline how academic misconduct can be understood and approached.
Share your thoughts
Now we’d like to hear from you. Feel free to respond to one of the prompts below, and we encourage you to respond to the posts of others as well. Please note: If you are participating in the course for professional development at the ANU, you will need to write a short response to each post to receive credit for this course on HORUS.
A few questions you can respond to
- How familiar with interpreting their matches do you think students are?
- Do you teach students how to interpret their text matches?
- How else do you support academic integrity in your teaching? What kinds of challenges and solutions have you found?
Leave a comment below with your thoughts.