What is Turnitin?

Turnitin is an online service used to check the originality of papers submitted by students. SFU licenses use of Turnitin from a third party called iParadigms.

Turn-it-In’s AI detector feature is currently not enabled at SFU. This is because there has not yet been an independent evaluation of the tool’s accuracy and reliability. Unlike the plagiarism detection feature of the tool, there is no source material provided for the instructor to compare the student submission to. Instructors who suspect that a student has not submitted their own work can follow the disciplinary process outlined in the student academic integrity procedure:

Because data submitted to Turnitin is stored and accessed on U.S. servers, SFU updated its protocols for using the product effective January 2012, to ensure all practices continue to comply with B.C.’s Protection of Privacy (FIPPA) legislation.  Please see the SFU Turnitin Protocols section below.

SFU Turnitin Protocols

To comply with SFU policy, informed by protection of privacy rules, instructors who use Turnitin are required to:

  • State the intent to use Turnitin in their course outline, thereby making it a course requirement, and explain that the consequence of declining to use Turnitin could be an inability to complete the course.
  • Inform students of SFU’s policies with respect to academic integrity, in general, and Turnitin, in particular. See the SFU Calendar Turnitin listing for details.
  • Use Turnitin only for a course and not personal use (e.g., submitting an article that you are peer reviewing). The latter use contravenes SFU’s agreement with Turnitin.Refrain from uploading student data directly to the Turnitin system. This applies equally to class rosters and to student work. Instructors may only submit student work directly to Turnitin that is first anonymized by removing all personal information that would serve to identify the student (i.e., name, student ID number, etc.). B.C. privacy law prohibits instructors from directly entering student information on a system that stores and provides access to personal information outside Canada.
  • Limit dissemination of the code and password used by a student to join a course on the Turnitin site. Only students enrolled in the course are permitted access to the code and password (e.g., it is acceptable to share this information via a login-restricted site like Canvas but not on a public website.)
  • Instructors are further advised that if a student has a serious, principled objection to using Turnitin, the instructor has the discretion to offer an alternative process to the student. Students must, however, give adequate notice and reason for their objection. Students may choose to use an anonymous identity to register with Turnitin, provided they inform the instructor of their decision and provide sufficient information for the instructor to reconnect the anonymous, pseudo identity with the student’s actual identity, outside Turnitin. Details for doing this are given in the instructions to students for using Turnitin. See Turnitin: Overview for Students.

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Recommended Boiler Plate Notice for Course Outlines

The written work submitted via Turnitin is collected by SFU under the authority of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (RSBC 1996, c.165), the University Act (RSBC 1996, c.468), and the University’s Academic Honesty and Student Conduct Policies . It is related directly to and needed by the University to determine originality, possible use of AI, and detect plagiarism in submitted written work.

Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of your submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e., false name and temporary email address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student.

For more information, see the Protection of Privacy section of the SFU calendar.

Instructors are encouraged to contact the Centre for Educational Excellence for more information and consultation.


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