Despite working with large grants, Missouri S&T instructors found that students were often struggling in the area of citation and attribution. Though there is a wide expectation that graduate students come prepared in this area, the university realized that this was not always the case. Angie Hammons, the manager of EdTech and the instructional design team, received requests to help facilitate incidents of undergraduate and graduate students plagiarizing research. “As leaders in research innovation, we knew we had to implement best practices and the right technology to ensure our students understand the importance of integrity and are not misusing someone else’s work,” Hammons said.
To protect the reputation of the university and its students, Missouri S&T educators began using Turnitin and iThenticate. According to Hammons, faculty and its research group use iThenticate as both a tool to educate students about citation and plagiarism, as well as a means for professors and students to collaborate on projects and produce high-quality research without concern of ethical issues. The university, believing that students start their career in engineering as they enter college, quickly pushed to make originality detection part of the norm for submitting research. In doing so, they normalized citation and originality as part of the research process and prevented issues that could have cost the university funding or harmed its reputation.
The Missouri S&T student council had established an honor code, which supplemented and harmonized existing policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. However, academic integrity and plagiarism remained a concern, especially considering how important reputation is to the students, the faculty, and the university. As such, Missouri S&T replaced its previous originality detection tools and implemented Turnitin for its undergraduate program and iThenticate for its graduate program and research group.
For its graduate students, the university’s faculty quickly worked to weave iThenticate into the normal process of creating research. Several instructors required iThenticate reports to be submitted alongside any thesis or research that was being presented. However, the emphasis was not on detecting cheaters, but on improving the quality of research. “I emphasize to students that it’s not checking for plagiarism--they are ensuring their work is original by seeing whether their writing identically matches other writing out there,” said Hammons. “Students like the idea that they can go in and make the decision about what is acceptable, if their work is cited correctly, see the sources, and improve their work before final submission.”
Instructors who use iThenticate as part of their collaborations with students ensure that the work they were creating was original. This makes iThenticate a tool to create a collaborative effort between student and professor, one that is used to hone and improve research.
Now entering their third year of using iThenticate, the tool continues to be integrated into the research process, and professors, previously worried about protecting their grants and their reputation, are able to collaborate with students freely without fear of unoriginal work being published under their name.
By incorporating iThenticate into the research and writing process, the university has been able to address issues before they become problems and avoid potentially damaging publication.
Most importantly, since originality detection is part of the writing process, students have a better understanding of citation and are able to create research that their faculty collaborators can be confident in.
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused university that has an enrollment of 8,900 students. Of those students, approximately 85% are enrolled in the university’s engineering program and the university, at all levels, puts a large focus on research and giving its students hands-on experiences. The university’s faculty and students make up some of the nation’s engineering elite. Many of them hold patents and are routinely asked to testify as expert witnesses in legal cases. The school and its faculty also routinely receive grants from many agencies, including NASA and the National Science Foundation, giving students opportunities to perform research not often available to them elsewhere.
Located in Rolla, Missouri, USA