Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: originality report

Keeping everyone happy – tricky but not impossible

Anonymous or blind marking is an important part of the assessment and feedback process. For a student it ensures work is marked fairly without bias. However, there is an equally valuable requirement for academics and support staff to be able to identify students who have yet to submit their assignment and may be in need of additional support.

In the paper-based past, this was a relatively easy task. Students submitted assignments with cover sheets which could be easily removed my administrators. Assignments were tracked and handed to academics for blind marking.

Online assessment technology such as Turnitin and the Moodle assignment match-up quite closely to the workflow of paper-based assessment but with a few extra tools to help academics. There is no longer a need for students to identify themselves within their assignments as we know who they are when they log into Moodle. In fact, by the letter of the law, a student can be penalised for adding their name to an assignment. In reality, though, some departments still require students to provide a cover sheet in their assignment which invalidates the the blind marking setting in their Moodle or Turnitin assignment. My guess at the motivation for identifying students would be one of trying to help students and make ensure they don’t miss their deadlines. I’d be genuinely interested to hear the reasons for the need for cover sheets in the comments below.

What if there was a way for all the assessment stakeholders to get what they need and still preserve anonymity? Well luckily there now is a way to do this in Moodle.

On each UoP Moodle unit you will find a new report under Course Administration > Reports > Course Submissions.

When an assignment is live, course administrators and Online Course Developers can see a submission status, Turnitin paper id (or Moodle participant number), provisional grade and identifying information for each student in a cohort or group. This is all the information they will need to keep an eye on the process and transfer grading information to student records later on. With a bit of extra magic lecturers get to see a subset of this information including the identifying student information and a submission status even when an assignment is anonymised. For academics there is no link between the submission status and a specific submission, this is released to the academic after the post date. Coupled with a release threshold, which prevents anyone guessing who’s who, the report attempts to keep everyone happy.

Here’s an idea of what the report looks like in practice.

Click image for full size version

In the near future we plan to allow staff to download the data from the course submissions report to a spreadsheet making it easier to transfer to student records.

I’d be interested to hear if this makes online assessment a little easier. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box at the bottom of this page. If you find the report useful you may find the new assessment course format helps you out too. A short introduction video is available here:

“Anonymous” image courtesy of Luciano Castello CC:

Turnitin – What’s in a number?

The University of Portsmouth uses the Turnitin service to provide facilities for plagiarism detection, online marking and as a development tool for academic writing, although most users are interesting in one thing – a number.

Contained within the Originality Report is a Similarity Score out of 100, which many users wrongly believe to a be plagiarism score with a magic number, at which in can be conclusively determined whether plagiarism has or has not occurred. The problem is, this figure can be manipulated, there will also be mitigating circumstances and lastly let us not forget the system is not perfect either – there will be some margin for error.

Crudely speaking the Similarity Score number is a percentage of the words in your document which matched text from other documents that Turnitin searched against. For shorter assignments with a direct question and consequently a more concise correct answer may well therefore see higher score when compared to a longer assignment with more scope to include to include diverse material.

The number of students in your class and whether the assignment has been set in previous years (or at different institutions) may limit the scope for truly original material, that’s not to say a very high score is necessarily acceptable however it does mean that the latest content may not be unique for genuine reasons. An assignment based upon group work is also a recipe for a higher than usual Similarity Score since students are likely to be working from the same research, data and figures so will in all likelihood draw the same conclusions.

What does Turnitin check an assignment against? There are stored student papers in both a global central repository and the University of Portsmouth own repository (where we might store more sensitive documents). Turnitin also searches against material found on the internet and can check journals, periodicals and publications. Personally I would check against everything, if the service is available, use it.

Turnitin offers several filters which may be toggled, for example whether to include or exclude bibliographic references. Personally I cannot think of a reason why you want to include bibliographic references in the Similarity Score as citing sources is a requirement of good academic writing. That said if the assignment were a lab report and references were not expected then it might be safer to include bibliographic references just in case the Turnitin software incorrectly identified a bibliography and consequently excluded all of the text that followed. You can also toggle quoted material, quotes would not normally be considered within a plagiarism report although the volume of them may indicate a lack of original content from the author. Where quoted material is excluded from the Originality Report, Turnitin helpfully points out when more than 15% of the paper is quoted material. The final filter is for small matches, usually matches of 3-4 words are rather inconsequential, you may also have longer phrases that appear repeatedly throughout the assignment – you can exclude this from being repeatedly matched and skewing the Similarity Score using the ‘exclude small matches’ filter. Personally I use all the filters, excluding bibliographic references, quoted material and small matches – I can always turn them back on later when reviewing a paper if I am suspicious.

So after searching against all of the available material, excluding bibliographic references, quoted material and small matches, what is the magic number? Well, the magic number is… the number at which you become suspicious of course!

Finally, to wrap up this post, and just in case a concerned student has stumbled across this blog post, I would like to emphasise that if they know they have not deliberately plagiarised then they have nothing to worry about. If they are concerned that they have used another source and may not have referenced it properly, then guidance is available from the Academic Skills Unit (



Telephone: +44 (0)23 9284 3462

Or, visit the Academic Skills Unit in person during our opening hours:

Third floor Reception, The Nuffield Centre

St Michael’s Road



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