Digital Life

Schools turning to anti-plagiarism software to catch cheating students

Victorian schools are increasingly using plagiarism detection software to help mark students' work and ensure assignments are not copied from the internet.

Fairfax Media has confirmed that at least 21 Victorian schools are now using the program Turnitin to detect plagiarism. Australian Educator  magazine also recently reported that teachers at a South Australian school were using the software.

No more copy and paste: more schools are using anti-plagiarism software to catch students.
No more copy and paste: more schools are using anti-plagiarism software to catch students. 

According to the Turnitin website, the program compares students' work with more than 45 billion web pages – both current and archived. It also compares the assignments with a database of more than 337 million student papers.

The program then provides a report on the percentage of "matched content" included in the students' work.

Mac.Robertson Girls' High School has been using Turnitin for at least two years.

Principal Toni Meath said the program encouraged students to consider the originality of their work, and that it was rare for them to be caught plagiarising.


Turnitin is widely used by Australian universities.

Dr Meath said the software helped prepare students for the rigours of university education.

"In this cut and paste age it's really important when girls are researching they understand those works belong to someone else," she said.

Dr Meath said Turnitin helped teachers to provide honest and accurate feedback to students.

"We have high ethical standards," she said. "Our young girls here have the potential to be brilliant writers. If we don't give them honest, accurate feedback they may not reach their potential."

In Australia the software is sold by Aldis Associates. The company's customer relations manager, Alana Firth, said independent schools were the biggest Turnitin users in the Victorian school sector.

She said almost 350 schools across Australia had bought a licence for the software, and she expected more Victorian schools to take up the program.

"The trend is definitely growing," she said.

Ms Firth said schools could use the program to teach students how to reference their sources properly, while universities predominantly used it as a plagiarism detection tool.

She said the program included an online grading function that allowed teachers to make detailed comments in writing and voice, which could be attached to students' papers. It also has a "peer review" component, in which students can mark their classmates' work anonymously.

Ms Firth said teachers had reported that the software saved them hours of work because they no longer had to find the source of copied material when they suspected a student had plagiarised.

"[Teachers] would spend hours trawling the internet themselves looking for the source of that sentence or paragraph," she said.

American broadcaster NPR has reported more than half of all higher education institutes in the US and about a quarter of all high schools use Turnitin.

Ms Firth said many TAFE institutes were also using the program.

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