Teachers Use TurnItIn to Prevent Plagiarism and Fix Grammar

For a frazzled student nervously eyeing the morning deadline after failing to complete an essay assignment on schedule, it can be sorely tempting to just copy and paste large chunks of pre-existing text and simply hope the professor does not notice. Luckily, most students swallow this temptation and buckle down to charge through with writing their essays. But unfortunately, some students do end up giving in to intellectual property theft, only to find their falsified work immediately spurned.

Thanks to TurnItIn, an online tool that checks submitted essays against a Web-based database for plagiarism, professors and students alike can easily check their work to ensure that all of the content in their assignment is original. This type of automated tool is much-needed in academics, as 36% of undergraduates admitted to having plagiarized written material at least once, according to the University of Florida’s Online Plagiarism webpage. Approximately 92% of respondents in a survey of instructors using TurnItIn said that it helped to prevent incidences of plagiarism, which is a great starting point in the fight against falsified work.

But iParadigm, the makers of TurnItIn, were not satisfied with only catching assignments guilty of intellectual property theft – the company now seeks to help students improve their written grammar as well.

iParadigm recently announced the launch of the Educational Testing Center’s e-rater, grammar-checking technology, a feature of TurnItIn’s online grading tool GradeMark, according to an article published in The Wall Street Journal. The new grammar tool proposes to help teachers with providing specific writing feedback, the article reported. This will allow instructors to spend less time making technical fixes – such as mulling over subject-verb agreements and punctuation – and instead spend their time and efforts focused on the actual content of the writing assignments.

"Instructors who use Grademark reduce the time spent grading by 30 to 50%," Chris Caren, the president of iParadigms, said in a press release.

The new tool provides each submitted article with feedback on some of the most common grammar issues plaguing college-level writing today, such as comma splices, apostrophe usage, and coordinated and subordinated conjunctions. The feedback occurs almost instantaneously. Used with live, human graders, the tool has the potential to speed up the entire grading process and provide students with more meaningful feedback on their essay quality. Already, the tool is being used to assess the writing on standardized tests like the TOEFL and GRE.

However, teachers should remember to not completely rely on this type of technology to help students with their writing assignments. Writing skills are an absolute essential in the job market, so instructors should take care to teach their classes proper sentence mechanics as well as the pitfalls of plagiarism beyond simply receiving a poor grade.

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