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Using Plagiarism Detection Software: Guidelines for Faculty

The UW has transitioned to SimCheck as its new plagiarism-detection tool. VeriCite is not available for new assignments, but you may still access VeriCite reports.

The following guidelines were developed by the Office of the University Registrar and UW-IT in consultation with the Faculty Council on Academic Standards and the Faculty Council on Teaching and Learning. Following these guidelines ensures that faculty practice is in compliance with university policy and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requirements to protect student privacy. To learn about pedagogical strategies and resources for preventing plagiarism, see the UW Libraries Plagiarism Prevention pages.

Notice to Students

Faculty must notify their students in advance that they may be using a plagiarism detection service. The notice below would serve this purpose when placed in the syllabus. Faculty must also verbally inform students of the service during the first class meeting.

Notice: The University has a license agreement with SimCheck, an educational tool that helps prevent or identify plagiarism from Internet resources. Your instructor may use the service in this class by requiring that assignments are submitted electronically to be checked by SimCheck. The SimCheck Report will indicate the amount of original text in your work and whether all material that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source is appropriately referenced.

 

Student agreement

When SimCheck is turned on for an assignment, students will be required to check a box confirming that their work is original before they can submit.

SimCheck consent in assignment submission interface

Retention or Removal of Student Work

If students or instructors submit all or part of an assignment to the SimCheck service, the assignment will be checked to see if there is any match between the work and other material stored in the SimCheck database.  If a student objects to long-term storage of his or her work in the SimCheck database, that student must let the instructor know no later than the first week after the start of the class.

Students have two options regarding their assignments being stored in the SimCheck database:

  1. If students do nothing, then the assignment will be stored in the database for the duration of UW’s contract with SimCheck.
  2. If the student requests, SimCheck will store the assignment only for the duration of the quarter. Once the class is over, the assignment will be deleted from the database. Students should email a request to help@uw.edu. The request must include the paper specifics, such as class name, assignment title, student name, and the URL for the paper. The campus administrator will forward the request to SimCheck support.

Student Privacy

Student papers are protected by FERPA, as they are educational records that contain personally identifiable information.  SimCheck stores and protects confidential and personally identifiable information with appropriate measures.

Group Assignments

In the case of a group assignment, Canvas enables one student to submit the paper on behalf of the entire group; the student submitting the paper accepts the plagiarism review on behalf of the group. If any student in the group is unwilling to have the paper submitted for evaluation by SimCheck, then the instructor should facilitate submission of the group’s work via other means. If one member of the group requests that the paper be removed from the SimCheck repository, it can be removed, even if a different student submitted the paper.

Interpreting Originality Reports

When a paper is evaluated, SimCheck provides reports which tell you that text in the evaluated project or paper is similar to or identical to text SimCheck has in its database. It is up to the instructor to whether the parts identified by the report that are similar or identical are actually plagiarized text. Note that all matches are shown, even those where students cited properly.

Similarly, if a paper is reported as “original” by SimCheck, that is not necessarily airtight evidence that the paper is original. Instead, it may mean that the student plagiarized from a work that is not available in the SimCheck database. If a faculty member has a concern, and strongly suspects plagiarism, it is best to check further and/or check the student’s paper references in addition to digital sources. No database is entirely comprehensive and many sources are not digitally available. Therefore, plagiarism can occur and be undetectable by services such as SimCheck.

Suspected Plagiarism

In a case of suspected plagiarism, faculty should refer to the Academic Conduct information in the University’s Faculty Resource on Grading (http://depts.washington.edu/grading/conduct/index.html) and proceed accordingly.

Support

Faculty who need assistance with SimCheck can contact the vendor directly at tiisupport@turnitin.com. or can contact UW-IT by emailing help@uw.edu.

Use of Other Services in Evaluating Student Plagiarism

The UW has a contractual relationship with SimCheck that guards student privacy, as guaranteed under FERPA, and intellectual property rights. Instructors may not submit papers prepared by UW students to other Internet services to evaluate plagiarism.  Plagiarism detection should be conducted only through services that have an approved contractual relationship with the UW.

Last reviewed May 7, 2020