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Turnitin is an anti-plagiarism service integrated into Canvas that checks student papers against public web sites, academic databases, and previously submitted student papers to Turnitin. It also claims that it can detect writing that has been generated by artificial intelligence (AI) sites like ChatGPT.
Turnitin is used to not only determine if students are copying someone else’s work, but it is also used as a deterrent to cheating. Instructors can choose to use Turnitin when creating writing assignments in Canvas.
If they so choose, each student’s submission will be checked before returning a similarity report and an AI report. These reports shows what has and has not been copied and what has and has not been purportedly detected as written by generative AI, respectively. It is then up to the instructor to determine if there is a problem. Instructors also have the ability to copy and paste any student text in Canvas, such as discussion board postings, and manually submit it to Turnitin.
When writing assignment instructions, instructors should tell students that their submissions will be checked for plagiarism and AI. You can include a link to Turnitin's user guide for students. You should also include a link to the LPC Academic Honesty Statement, and somewhere in your course, include a link to a student video on plagiarism.
To determine if a student plagiarized, and how much, a similarity report will be available in the SpeedGrader. To learn about similarity reports, along with learning how to set up assignments for Turnitin, visit the Turnitin user guide for instructors.
Las Positas College has resources on the web that help faculty with preventing plagiarism in their classes and educate students on plagiarism.
- Reading and Writing Center's Preventing Plagiarism page
- LPC Library's Citation Help page on plagiarism
The college's Academic Integrity site has a variety of resources about plagiarism and cheating in general.
Setting up an assignment in Canvas to detect AI is no different than setting up an assignment with Turnitin enabled. After students submit their assignments, just click the Turnitin results icon in the SpeedGrader, and you'll see the AI writing detection indicator (a blue box with a percentage). Click that to see what Turnitin has detected as being generated by AI.
Limitations of the AI detector are many, and key ones are listed below. Because of these limitations—and the fact that generative AI is so new—student results that show a high percentage of AI writing should be used to have a conversation with that student. Do not assume that the student is cheating.
- Turnitin claims to be 98% confident that what it detects (by highlighted text in the report) has been generated by AI. If it's not 98% confident, the text passages won't be highlighted.
- Only papers written in English can be detected for AI by Turnitin.
- Only papers written in long-form can be detected by AI. This includes essays with actual sentences, not writing such as bullet points or numbered lists. It also won't detect poetry, scripts, or code.
- Students are not yet able to see the AI writing detection indicator that shows you the percentage that might have been AI generated, nor can they see the report.
- Turnitin does not reliably detect writing generated by online, AI paraphrasing tools. Also, when a student submission has a mixture of AI-generated writing and human writing, Turnitin struggles.
- Turnitin does not reliably detect AI content generated by Grammarly.
- Its AI detector has a <1% false positive rate (incorrectly flagging human-written text as AI-generated).
- In order for a submission to generate an AI writing report and percentage, the submission
needs to meet the following requirements:
- File size must be less than 100 MB
- File must have at least 300 words of prose text in a long-form writing format
- Files must not exceed 15,000 words
- Accepted file types: .docx, .pdf, .txt, .rtf
If you want to see Turnitin's AI detection process in action, view this video.
Other AI-Detection Resources
- FAQs for Turnitin’s AI writing detection capabilities
- AI Writing Detection Landing Page
- Presentation: Turnitin AI Updates
- How to guide
- Video: Turnitin’s AI Writing Detection: An introduction for educators and administrators
This section will be updated as Turnitin updates its AI detector.
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