RSC-MP3: HE Update Mar 09 – Interview with Carol Bailey

rsc-mp3-144pxThis month Kevin interviewed Carol Bailey, senior lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton. Carol discusses her use of the text matching tool Turnitin, and how the system helps her detect and deter plagiarism and collusion. Carol also describes how her students learn about correct referencing and paraphrasing from the originality reports and the digital feedback she gives them.

Related paper
Bailey, C. (2006) Supporting international students in UK Higher Education: key issues, and recommendations for further research. CELT-funded literature review for publication within the University. Available at

Interview with Carol Bailey
Duration: 19 minutes
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01:10 – Text matching tools seem to have split in the marketplace some use it as policing tool others use it as a teaching tool to educate students. How do you feel about these approaches?

Two ways of looking at. Detection is very important and indicates that institutions taking seriously. Using Turnitin as a policing tool can also be  educational. It also saves a lot of staff time which they can dedicated to supporting students.

As an educational tool (allowing students to submit essays early to get an originality report)  is resisted for a number of reasons. Some believe it  won’t help because all it will do is make students better cheats by uploading essay multiple times to remove plagiarised text (also called ‘churning’). There is no evidence of this in the research actually happening. Also there is a worry that logistical problems where class sizes are large and teaching time has been reduced means that even when they want to use Turnitin as a formative tool they worry it will take up too much time. There is also fears that it takes to long  to show students how to use Turnitin.

05:00 – Involved in research activities are you aware of any trend or recommendations to make to institutions?

My work with Turnitin is limited to a specific type of student teaching English as a foreign language. So all my students are international students. Wanted to find out if Turnitin could be a tool to cut down marking time and also be used to show students how to use sources appropriately. Between 60-80% of students on the course have never used academic referencing before, or have used referencing in a different way, or it is acceptable in their culture to copy and paste, or they have never written an essay longer than 250 words. So a very distinct cohort of students so I’m not sure how this translates to other disciplines. On 2 modules do an essay 1st draft submitted, mark it feedback given in a one-to-one tutorial befire they submit 2nd draft. Used Turninit as a visual stimulus uploading first draft into Turnitin and showing students the originality report as part of the feedback tutorial. In some cases it was fine and in others a lot of reds, greens and yellows.

The students were so impressed that they begged to be allowed to upload their 2nd draft before final submission, which after consultation was allowed. In subsequent semesters it was easier to allow students to upload their work by themselves 1st and 2nd draft.

09:00 We’ve found their was no increase in plagiarism from previous years using traditional methods, but there has been an increase in collusion which would not have been previously detectable [Turnitin keeps a database of all uploaded work making it possible to make comparisons against other students work]. Didn’t find evidence of ‘churning’, we think because they hadn’t plagiarised in the first place. The ones that upload more than once appear to insecure about their sources, hadn’t used quotation marks correctly.

90% said they would be more careful about their academic writing now that they knew their work would be checked using Turnitin. 89% said that all students should be able to access Turnitin to check their own work before submission.

It [Turnitin] is not a magic bullet, it still can’t detect all plagiarism although it is getting better. It doesn’t also teach students how to paraphrase or how to reference. You still need a writing teacher. Haven’t been able to track students as they continue their writing career at the University.

11:54 – My recommendation was that all students should be able to access Turnitin as a learning aid in at least one module early on in their programme to raise awareness of academic writing conventions.

13:40 – How has your teaching practices have evolved and benefited from the use of these tools?

One of the first effect was to save a lot of time in terms of marking. It takes twice as long to mark a plagiarised essay because the sources of plagiarism have to be identified then the sources located before then giving feedback on the essay as a whole. Using Turnitin does the detection freeing up time to give feedback on the essay. This year I’ve been experimenting with another function of Turnitin called GradeMark – the online marking feature. Students submit portfolio of assignments via Turnitin and I give feedback on it online so I don’t have to worry about downloading and uploading. A nice feature of GradeMark is there is a clipboard that you can use for frequent comments, sets of ready made QuickMarks which cover language and punctuation. I’m not using the ready made QuickMarks because the language isn’t appropriate for my students but I’ve developed some of my own with links to grammar websites and pages in textbooks. The feedback from students is encouraging because students are using the links. So with GradeMark I can give a lot more feedback. Get pleasure from students actually using the feedback. Not spending less time on feedback but using the time to give more feedback. There are also benefits in terms of administration as everything is online.