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Text-Matching to Teach Students What Constitutes Plagiarism and How to Avoid It

As of January 2021, McGill University instructors can enable Urkund/Ouriginal in myCourses (McGill’s LMS). Urkund/Ouriginal is a text-matching tool integrated with the myCourses Assignments tool. It is designed to support academic integrity by checking students’ Assignments submissions against multiple sources (i.e., Internet, scholarly journals and publications, and student submissions) to see if any text matches.*

Not all text matches are necessarily plagiarism. For example, quotations will appear as matched text; however, if quotation marks and citations are present, these matches do not constitute plagiarism. An article in The Teaching Professor entitled How to Read Plagiarism Detection Reports is relevant to McGill instructors who are interested in fostering students’ ability to respect academic integrity. The article offers tips for identifying the difference between intentional and unintentional plagiarism, and addresses what to do with the results.

Unintentional plagiarism can be capitalized on as a teachable moment. In my academic writing courses, I have asked students to submit drafts of their writing to a text-matching program so that they can see what an analysis report looks like. Then, we interpret the report together. For example, less seasoned writers in my classes have received analysis reports that indicate high percentages of text matches; however, these matches captured verbatim text within quotation marks, yet without citations. This situation is not plagiarism; rather, it suggests students understand that others’ words need to be identified as such, yet they do not necessarily understand that in-text citations are required. Thus, a teachable moment exists—a moment when students are likely to be receptive to learning how to do in-text citations.

With Urkund/Ouriginal, you can help students understand what is and is not plagiarism, and thus foster academic integrity by: 

  • Enabling “Unlimited” submissions so that students can submit multiple drafts.
  • Enabling “All submissions are kept” so that you and students can review and discuss their work. 
  • Analyzing text-matching reports with your students and teaching students to interpret the results.
  • Allowing students to see the analysis report when they submit their work so that they can interpret it on their own.
  • Showing students example texts that could appear as plagiarized text along with examples of proper citations. 

Are you a McGill instructor interested in enabling text-matching in your courses? See these instructions for setting up the tool in myCourses and viewing analysis reports. Need guidance with implementing the teaching strategies? Contact TLS for a consultation.

* Urkund/Ouriginal is fully compliant with McGill policies for privacy/IP/security. All McGill submissions remain on private McGill databases. 

McGill community members can access articles in The Teaching Professor by logging in through the McGill Library.

Image credits:
Quotes : Signs and Symbols Collection
Paper Review:  Callum Egan

Senior Academic Associate at McGill's Teaching and Learning Services.; former Senior Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre; area of specialization: Second Language Education; loves teaching and learning; will work for chocolate (Photo credit: Owen Egan)

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