A study of Turnitin as an educational tool in student dissertations

John Biggam (Department of Management, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)
Margaret McCann (Department of Management, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Publication date: 13 April 2010



This paper explores the use of Turnitin as a learning tool (particularly in relation to citing sources and paraphrasing) and as a vehicle for reducing incidences of plagiarism.


The research was implemented using a case study of 49 final‐year “honours” undergraduate students undertaking their year‐long core dissertation module. Over the course of the academic year student submissions to Turnitin were analysed in terms of improvements to their Turnitin scores and academic writing.


The majority of students submitted the first three chapters of their dissertation to Turnitin (Introduction, Literature Review and Methodology); less than half the students submitted their Findings and Conclusion to Turnitin. Over the course of the academic year, students submitted their dissertation work on average five times. Student Turnitin “similarity scores” were reduced but student use of Turnitin did not significantly enhance the quality of their writing.

Research limitations/implications

It is clear that mechanisms need to be explored to convince students of the potential educational benefits of Turnitin and to encourage staff to engage more in the process.

Practical implications

Theoretically, using Turnitin for the dual purpose of preventing plagiarism and enhancing student academic writing skills has an obvious appeal; however, this study illustrates that one cannot take for granted both student and staff buy‐in.


This paper is of value to academic staff who wish to explore the benefits, and pitfalls, of using Turnitin as an educational tool.



Biggam, J. and McCann, M. (2010), "A study of Turnitin as an educational tool in student dissertations", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 44-54. https://doi.org/10.1108/17415651011031644

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