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20 Years of Proven Results, 20 Years of Turnitin Research

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager






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Over the years, Turnitin has grown from its sole purpose as a plagiarism checker in the 1990s into an end-to-end solution that supports best pedagogical practices today. Illustrating Turnitin’s long-standing role in academic integrity and pedagogical support, Turnitin has been the subject of numerous research articles, which detail the efficacy of our software’s impact on academic integrity, student authorship identity, and student learning outcomes. This research is a testament to Turnitin’s presence as an innovator and pioneer in helping institutions promote and uphold academic integrity while enabling student success.

What are researchers saying about Turnitin’ s efficacy in reducing plagiarism and supporting student learning? Let’s take a look.

Turnitin is a Conduit for Formative Feedback and Improving Student Learning Outcomes:

As educators, we have always believed that feedback is critical to student learning; however, studies investigating the actual impact of feedback in education were lacking until the last few decades. In an effort to explore which form of feedback is most likely to enhance student essays, four veteran educators at Turnitin partnered with Dr. John Hattie (Professor of Education and Director of the Visible Learning Labs, University of Auckland, New Zealand) in a 2021 study titled, "Feedback That Leads to Improvement in Student Essays: Testing the Hypothesis that ‘Where to Next’ Feedback is Most Powerful."

Hattie, along with Dr. Kristin Van Gompel, Jill Crivelli, Patti West-Smith, and Katie Wike, harnessed data from 3,204 anonymized high school and university assignments submitted to Turnitin Feedback Studio. The study illustrates that “Where to next?” feedback leads to the greatest impact on student improvement between drafts, especially when scaffolded and coupled with feedback focused on “Where am I going?” (the goal) and “How am I going?” (progress towards the goal). Additionally, while the students received feedback from a teacher via a computer-based tool (Turnitin Feedback Studio), across the board students were able to successfully decode and apply the feedback.

Additionally, Plagiarism Detection Services for Formative Feedback and Assessment: Example of Turnitin by Ela Akgün Özbek (2016) investigates Turnitin beyond its function as a plagiarism checker and into its potential to provide formative feedback and assessment. Özbek states, “It is believed that when Turnitin is used as a means of formative assessment, it will not only deter plagiarism but will also enhance student learning which will lead to more quality student work.” The article underscores that Turnitin helps instructors to create revision assignments and provide feedback, noting that Turnitin’s online grading report is a tool with multiple functions, one that enables both students and teachers to monitor progress.

Turnitin Helps Second Language Learners Understand Academic Integrity via Formative Feedback:

Ilka Kostka and Veronika Maliborska, in their 2016 article Using Turnitin to Provide Feedback on L2 Writers’ Texts, investigate ways in which Turnitin supports second language (L2) writing instructors to enable students’ understanding of academic integrity. They conclude, “We believe that instructors can make use of two features of the program (GradeMark tools and originality checker) to provide formative and summative feedback on students’ drafts,” adding, “We encourage instructors who have access to Turnitin to explore the different features of this tool and its potential to create opportunities for learning.”

In their research entitled Turnitin and peer review in ESL academic writing classrooms, Jinrongi Li and Mimi Li utilized Turnitin to enable peer review and "found that Turnitin could help shift students’ attention from local to global issues in writing, scaffold students in their effort to provide more helpful comments and to make connections between specific suggestions and holistic advice for writing, and facilitate classroom management during peer review" (2018).

Turnitin Helps Develop Student Authorial Voices Because It Upholds Formative Feedback:

Tess Snowball, Vivien Silvey, and Thuy Do wrote research papers in 2015 (Beyond Plagiarism: Utilising Turnitin as a Tool to Develop Students’ Academic Voice) and 2016 (Bridge Over Troubled Water: A Literacy Approach to Using Turnitin) examining Turnitin’s efficacy in developing student authorial voice.

In their research articles, Snowball, Silvey, and Do state that while Turnitin is “predominantly viewed by both educators and students as a plagiarism detection tool” and “ viewing Turnitin in this way, we miss the opportunity to use this rapidly progressing technology as an invaluable tool to help students to write with academic integrity and, in turn, develop their authorial voice” (2015). Their research examined fully embedded and integrated support around Turnitin use, resulting in increased student learning outcomes. They conclude, “We argue that with continued practice and support over time, using a combined digital and literacy approach to Turnitin can act as the bridge to move students from anxiety and inexperience, towards producing work with academic integrity and strong authorial voice” (2016).

Amanda Mphalele and Sioux McKenna echoed the above sentiments in their 2018 research, stating, "...Turnitin is the most favored text-matching tool. However, the software is misunderstood to be predominantly a plagiarism detection tool for policing purposes, ignoring its educational potential for student development." (2018).

Turnitin Enables Effective Instruction in E-Learning:

In their 2020 research entitled Challenges and Relationships of e-Learning Tools to Teaching and Learning, Don Anton Robles Balida & Riah Encarnacion observed Turnitin within the context of online learning environments. They found that "Turnitin mitigated student's deliberate habit of plagiarising, and teachers were afforded some respite from ensuring the originality of every submission," and concluded, "E-Learning tools are incredibly relevant in enhancing self-confidence by allowing learners to perform the tasks independently."

The above are just a few snapshots of the comprehensive research surrounding the use of Turnitin not just for plagiarism detection and deterrence, but for enabling student learning over the last 20 years.

And here’s a more comprehensive list of research articles focusing on Turnitin efficacy to start you on your research journey: