NPR Interviews Dr. Jennifer Schroder on Turnitin Debate

Emily Chudzik, News Editor

One of the largest ongoing debates in academia and writing is whether anti-plagiarism software, such as Turnitin, is helpful or harmful for students.

There is some disparity among faculty and students alike due to the lack of familiarity of how to work the program.

“I didn’t really know how to use [Turnitin] when I first started,” Dr. Jennifer Schroeder, associate professor of physiology at Millikin University, said.

Recently, Schroeder was interviewed by the NPR for a radio broadcast about her opinion on the anti-plagiarism site. She was interviewed about a week and a half before the show aired in mid-August. They used an audio clip from her for the show.

Schroeder has done a lot of work with Turnitin.

“I’ve given presentations, and I also have a plagiarism blog series for faculty,” Schroeder said.

This past summer, she also presented in New Castle, England at the sixth International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference.

“It’s initially presented as a way to check for plagiarism,” Schroeder said. “There are better ways to use it in the classroom, but it’s a good starting point to check for originality and for me to see how students do with citing and paraphrasing.”

She said one of the biggest benefits is being able to grade online.

“I can give feedback on individual lines, audio comments and even apply a rubric,” Schroeder said. She believes that students should receive more training on how to use Turnitin.

Schroeder said she sees the biggest issues with paraphrasing.

“Sometimes Turnitin doesn’t catch it. I asked my EDGE students if they have paraphrased before, and almost all have, but only five percent believed that they were good at it,” Schroeder said.

“I think for students confident in their writing, it’s a tool that confirms where they’re at, but it can be intimidating to students who haven’t had a whole lot of experience in research papers,” Schroeder said.

Furthermore, most students do not intentionally plagiarize. Common issues are incorrectly paraphrasing or not citing a source, which is why it may be beneficial to begin Turnitin at the high school level.

“It just depends on how it is used and how often. Students are less comfortable with their writing skills than they used to be, which can depend on where they went to high school,” Schroeder said.

“It should be used as a learning tool. It should show them how to do things better rather than pointing out all the mistakes they made. We need to be cautious of how we use it. It is not the be all, end all, it is just one part,” said Schroeder.