Making the case for multiple submissions to Turnitin

David Wright

Aurelie Owens

Nigel Donald


In 2006 Cranfield University adopted Turnitin as its primary coursework collection and plagiarism checking mechanism. One year later, the University Senate voted to ban the use of the multiple submissions facility it offered on the suspicion that it may provide students with opportunities to manipulate their work and “beat the system”. Students would instead receive just one demonstration of the originality reporting system to illustrate that aspect of the coursework assessment process, but would not gain access to any information it provided in relation to their submissions thereafter.

A policy change of this magnitude was worrying since there was no evidence to support the suggestion that Turnitin had been subverted in this way. Not only did it limit the value of Turnitin as a formative tool but it also appeared to contradict the university’s obligation to instill a sense of personal responsibility and academic integrity in its students.

This paper describes the case being constructed in an attempt to reverse this decision. It will discuss potential reasons for and the impact of such a policy change. It will present an analysis of the data collected from the Turnitin system in order to identify any significant trends in plagiarism at the university, as well as anecdotal evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation which indicates ways in which the system might be circumvented. Finally this paper will describe how the multiple submissions mechanism should form part of a coherent strategy for plagiarism prevention (rather than be excluded from it).

This paper was submitted to the International Integrity & Plagiarism Conference which ran between 2004-2014. The paper was peer reviewed by an independent editorial board and features in the conference proceedings.