The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 3rd

Plagiarism software still up in the air

After a pilot of the Turnitin plagiarism detection software, students and faculty are still not sure what the future will hold for the program at UNC.

After discussing a report on Turnitin on Aug. 27, the faculty executive committee has not reached a decision either on whether to implement the program campuswide.

Members of the committee said they would send their discussion notes to Chancellor Holden Thorp for further consideration.

The report, which was prepared by the Center for Faculty Excellence, found that both students and faculty members thought the program was “moderately effective.”

“Like any other tool, some faculty might find it useful, some faculty would not find it useful,” said Melinda Manning, a member of the Turnitin pilot oversight committee.

The Turnitin pilot oversight committee was charged with executing the study.

“It just goes to show, when we’re talking about academic dishonesty, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer,” Manning said.

Eric Muller, director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, said the oversight committee sought to find professors with a variety of perspectives.

“We sought to obtain a balanced selection of professors, representing as many schools and departments as possible,” Muller wrote in an email.

“We also worked to find professors with a range of initial views about the software, from supportive to skeptical.”

According to the report, both faculty and students involved were “on the fence” about implementing the program prior to the trial period’s completion.

But after the trial period ended, more faculty members are convinced the program should be implemented. Students’ opinions did not change.

Jeff Spinner-Halev, a political science professor who participated in the study, said he thought the program should be used.

Spinner-Halev said there were no instances of plagiarism when he used the program, and he thought it was an effective deterrent.

Sophomore Noam Argov said she thought the program’s implementation should be left up to professors.

“I think it depends on the individual professor and their preference on using it in class,” Argov said.

Argov, whose high school used the program, didn’t find it to be inconvenient.

Manning said one of the main concerns among students and professors were false positives, where properly cited quotes could be classified by the program as unoriginal content.

Some involved with the study, including Manning, still have concerns about its implementation.

“Personally, I’m not convinced that it’s worth the money,” she said.

A copy of the faculty report can be viewed here.

Staff writer Neal Smith contributed to reporting.

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