Original writing ensures academic quality
The University of Pretoria (UP), is one of South Africa’s largest research universities. The University boasts 1357 study programmes, an 82% undergraduate pass rate and 85% of graduates employed within a few months of graduation.
To maintain their reputation and standards, the University must ensure students deliver high quality academic writing that is original. “There is an international trend of plagiarism due to easy access and consequent ‘copying and pasting’ from academic writing on the internet.” Contract cheating is the newest form of plagiarism, where students pay a service provider to write papers on their behalf. While the motivations for students to commit plagiarism vary – some are not even aware that they are committing plagiarism. Students need to understand the seriousness of plagiarism.
That is why UP has opted to adopt an institutional policy that encourages original writing and avoidance of plagiarism. Their policy is enforced with a robust and effective online programme, namely TurnitIn. For them the proof has been in the submissions.
Since implementation at the University of Pretoria (UP) in 2008, 4 354 papers were submitted to TurnitIn. Nearly half those papers had similarity scores of 25% and higher. This means these papers resembled material published on the web or assignments submitted by other students. As high similarity scores might indicate the presence of plagiarism, UP started with a drive to increase the originality of assessment papers, inter alia through adopting an academic integrity and plagiarism policy that created channels for severe punishment in cases of proven plagiarism. The policy was shared on the Library website and to academic departments, and subsequently widely noted and incorporated in assessment instructions across the university. In 2017, the use of TurnitIn confirmed an upward curve in the growth, with 150 563 submissions and a staggering 243 445 similarity reports.
More UP lecturers are using TurnitIn to screen student assignments before marking in order to verify that the work is the student’s own. The number of papers submitted to TurnitIn also increases annually. In UP’s experience, TurnitIn has helped students improve the originality of their papers, and therefore their papers’ academic quality.
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