Improving Academic Practice with Turnitin

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A Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme funded group of academics and developers have created a tool for students to improve their academic writing using Turnitin.

Turnitin can be effectively employed as a powerful means of helping students with their paraphrasing, summarising, synthesising, quoting, citing, and referencing. In many parts of the University, Turnitin is solely used as an academic administrative tool for plagiarism detection rather than also making use of the rich facility within the originality reports to aid students with their academic writing. In Schools where student access is permitted, only limited additional support for developing good academic practice is provided.

We believe that training students on how to interpret originality reports for their own work can help them to identify areas of their academic writing that need attention in order to improve the quality of their written work. Our intention is to create a tailored and supplementary tool that can complement work already being done in Schools with Turnitin and academic conduct.

With the benefit of funding from the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme, the tool we have developed addresses accidental plagiarism by allowing students to clearly see what they need to do in order to effectively and responsibly use sources. The tool is accessed via the University’s virtual learning environment, Learn. This digital platform was chosen for its familiarity and ease of access for staff and students.

Our approach to academic misconduct and to the development of this particular tool is based upon several years of thinking about academic misconduct, reading research and reflecting upon how best to approach this topic with both students and staff.

Improving Academic Practice with Turnitin contains five units that include an introduction to the tool, information on good academic practice, citing and referencing (with School specific guidance), tips on how to use sources while avoiding paraphrasing, and guidance on how to synthesise and summarise material in your own ‘academic voice’.

This tool is intended to enhance students’ ability to:

  • search for, evaluate and use information to develop knowledge and understanding;
  • and make effective use of oral, written and visual means to critique, negotiate, create and communicate understanding.

On completion of the activities, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • independence and responsibility for their own learning, as well as a commitment to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement;
  • flexibility in transferring knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another;
  • and an ability to critically assess existing understanding and the limitations of their own knowledge, and recognise the need to regularly challenge all knowledge.

The tool that we have developed will be of benefit students at all levels of higher education, and we encourage colleagues from across the University to try using the tool with their own students.

Academic Practice with Turnitin will be holding a launch event on Friday 28th April from 12-2pm in Teviot Row House, Dining Room. Do come along to find out more over lunch. For more information about the tool or the event contact Amy Burge (

Simon Beames

Simon Beames is a senior lecturer in the Outdoor Education Section of the Moray House School of Education. For nearly 25 years, Simon has taught outdoors in North America, Asia, and Europe. He is former co-editor of the Journal of Experiential Education and former Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Simon developed the Outdoor Journeys programme – a cross-curricular, local outdoor learning initiative.

Sharon Boyd

Sharon is a Lecturer in Distance Student Learning at the R(D)SVS, with a focus on enhancing online distance learning student support. She is director of the postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice, programme coordinator for the MVetSci in Advanced Clinical Practice, and course leader for Professional & Clinical Skills online postgraduate course. Her research areas are in sustainable and digital education, and she is currently working on a part-time PhD at the Moray House School of Education. She completed an IAD secondment in 2015 looking at sustainable veterinary medical education.

Amy Burge

Dr Amy Burge is an Academic Developer working within the support team for tutors and demonstrators within the Institute for Academic Development. She provides training and resources for tutors and demonstrators from across the University, in particular those working in the humanities and social sciences.

Jessie Paterson

Dr Jessie Paterson, Lecturer in Student Learning, R(S)SVS. Jessie is involved in the Professional Skills teaching as well as student support. Her main focus is around academic support and leads the School’s Study Skills Team but she also has a strong interest in student wellbeing. She also leads on the Schools VetPALs scheme and other student-led activities.

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