To improve academic papers, research:

CatSU okays policy on use of plagiarism detection service

THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS at the Catanduanes State University will soon have their papers and essays checked by an online anti-plagiarism software following the university’s subscription to the service. The system will be managed by the Research and Development Services, whose director, Dr. Jose Tria, held a meeting last week with Turnitin training and implementation consultant Niña Victorio-Buenabajo (top photo). Also last week, engineering students attended a research colloquium aimed at giving student researchers an opportunity to share important information and findings from their studies with the academic community.

In a bid to improve academic papers and the quality of research, the Catanduanes State University has subscribed to Turnitin, an online plagiarism detection software where faculty and students would upload their work for checking on similarity with its database and existing sources.

Dr. Jose Z. Tria, director of the Research and Development Services, told the Tribune last week that the one-year subscription for 1,000 user accounts cost the university about P400,000.00 or P4,000 per account.

Initially, access to the online software will be given to faculty and student researchers but eventually it will be opened to all, he said.

“This will be very beneficial to our faculty and students, especially researchers, faculty teaching research and student researchers,” he stated, adding that it can be used to sustain academic integrity in higher education.

Academic research, reaction papers, term papers, essays and other student activities submitted to faculty members will be uploaded individually or in bulk to the Turnitin Feedback Studio, with the works to be checked against its database and the content of other websites with the aim of identifying plagiarism.

The software will generate a similarity index indicating the percentage of the submitted work’s text that is similar to that of papers in the Turnitin database and online.

Dr. Tria stated that a similarity index of 10% is required for theses and research papers but a 20% level would be acceptable.

“Students can improve their work until the similarity index decreases to acceptable levels,” he added, stressing that the submitted paper carries with it the assurance that it is the student or researcher’s intellectual property.

The university’s goals are to improve academic papers towards eventual publication and to preserve academic integrity, the RDS director disclosed.

Last week, Tria submitted the policy on Turnitin use to Dr. Ramon Felipe A. Sarmiento, Vice President for Research, Extension & Production Affairs (REPA).

As a detection tool, the online software will provide detail on the nature and extent of plagiarism and, upon uploading to the software, will generate an originality report together with the similarity index and links to various detected sources.

As an instructional and educational tool, it will also provide valuable information on academic integrity to faculty and students, who can use it to check the integrity of their own works, editing and resubmitting  their works to minimize the risk of plagiarism.

The policy clarifies that the similarity index alone does not detect plagiarism, as one of Turnitin’s weaknesses is that it detects common phrases and could not detect works not available on the Web.

He admitted to the Tribune that among these unavailable works on-line are the research papers and theses submitted in hard copy to CatSU graduate school for decades now.

Tria bared that the problem is the student’s citation of sources and the paraphrasing of original works, with literature review as the battlefield.

Ten percent of academic papers are usually common phrases and are not considered plagiarism, he said.

“Faculty and students need to further assess the quality of their works to make an informed judgment,” the policy states.

Under the policy, it will be the RDS director as the institution’s Turnitin administrator who can add instructors and access usage statistics.

The instructors, who may include non-teaching staff who are active in research activities, can add students and can also submit papers for similarity check.

On the other hand, officially enrolled students in CatSU can do the same and can self-join Turnitin classes.

The copyright and intellectual property of the paper remain with the faculty and student users, who can opt for anonymous options, such as blind or double blind submission, when using Turnitin.

Training on the use of the service will be given by the service provider in collaboration with RDS, with faculty and student researchers to get first priority.

The Research and Development Services requested the university administration for the Turnitin subscription from way back but it is only now that funding was allocated for it, Dr. Tria bared.

He is also familiar with the online software, having used it for free courtesy of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The challenge now for faculty, he said, is how to ensure that the work submitted is actually done by the students.

He described the increasing use worldwide of the ChatGPT Open AI application, which can crank out essays and research papers with ease, as worrisome.

Dr. Tria said that the next step now for the university is to subscribe to statistical software that can handle higher statistical processes and big amounts of data used in research papers.

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