I remember the first research paper I ever assigned. I received three Internet articles disguised as final drafts with the URL at the bottom. Eleven years later the parents still think the 'F' was unfair.
Turnitin.com claims to be a "group of dedicated professionals that includes award-winning teachers, graphic designers, computer scientists, and business professionals working together to stop the spread of internet plagiarism and promote new technologies in education." Turnitin.com has been featured on Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and the New York Times.
Check for Plagiarism Online
Teachers who register at Turnitin.com receive an account for each student. Students must go to the site and register to submit a paper. The site then compares each submission with Internet sources to check for plagiarism. The site does more than check for online plagiarism. It compares each paper to all other submissions on the site. If your entire school requires its students to submit their work to Turnitin.com, intraschool cheaters will be caught.
If a teacher suspects copying or plagiarism, through his own senses or through a high duplicate content rating on the site, he or she can click on the actual scoring and find out exactly which content matches and with what other source it matches. In other words, if Bob from your class and Mary from Ms. Barker's class turn in the same exact paper on golfing in Whistler, British Columbia and submit it to Turnitin.com, both papers will have a 100 percent duplicate rating. If you click on either one of their papers, it will show you exactly what the duplicate content is and exactly where the duplicate content came from.
If a student plagiarizes his paper from a Website about Telluride, Colorado, you can actually click on the passage and be taken directly to the site. I'm getting giddy just thinking about it. If you don't think that's great ammo for a parent teacher conference, then you haven't been teaching very long.
Ease of Use
Once you and your students are registered, the site is easy to use. There is a lot of work on the front end, however. Each class you teach has a separate id number and a separate password. Once a student registers, he or she is assigned a user specific password, aligned with his or her e-mail address. It takes some time to make sure each student has a chance to register.
It takes only a few minutes to add new assignments or students, once you have registered as the teacher. It's up to you how closely you check each submission. Watch out for students submitting one paper to Turnitin.com and turning a plagiarized paper to you. I recommend going to the site and demonstrating to your classes how to register, how to submit, and how the site works.