Computerized plagiarism detection as a teaching tool: helping
novice NNS health science writers avoid plagiarism

METM 06, Barcelona
27-28 October 2006

Christine Parkhurst
Saturday 28, 10:20-11:30, Room 3

Undergraduate or graduate students in the health sciences must learn the conventions of correct and accurate paraphrasing and citation. This task is doubly difficult for novice writers whose first language is not English. Using, a computerized plagiarism detection system, gives novice writers instant feedback on whether their paraphrasing is too close to the original. Matching text can be displayed on a split screen, with identical strings highlighted in red, and the source identified. The total percent of matching text from all sources can also be displayed.

However, users must learn to interpret the Turnitin reports. Not all source texts are in the system’s data base, so some plagiarism is missed. Some matches are not actually plagiarism, but rather long noun phrases, for example. Novice writers may become so focused on avoiding unacceptable similarity that their version is too dissimilar: paraphrases become distorted and inaccurate. The system can be a useful teaching tool when users are aware of its limitations.

Christine Parkhurst, Associate Professor, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.