Debate Ensues over

Dennis Faas's picture

In today's age where millions of documents can be retrieved from search engines in a single click, students now have more and more opportunities to plagiarize. To combat Internet plagiarism, websites like have been established, where teachers are able to reference previous student work through a massive online database.

What is is "an Internet based program ... most renowned for its plagiarism detection service. Institutions (typically universities and high schools) can buy licenses to use the plagiarism detection service. Teachers may then submit essays to the Turnitin website to check for plagiarism, or -- as is most commonly practiced -- students submit essays directly to the website themselves." (Source:

Teachers submit essays and assignments to, and the service then compares the document to a database of over 22 million online sources, electronic journal archives, and papers written by other students. (Source:

Students Protest While School Administrators Defend the Service

McClean High School in Fairfax County, Virginia has recently subscribed to the service this year -- and the majority of the student body is protesting the move.

Members of the newly formed Committee for Student's Rights say they do not condone cheating -- but are protesting the school's use of The major issue at hand is the infringement of intellectual property rights that occur the moment papers are added to the service's massive student essay database.

Senior student, Ben Donovan, who was able to collect almost 1,200 student signatures rallying against the mandatory use of, exemplifies what McClean students are feeling.

"It irked a lot of people because there's an implication of assumed guilt." (Source:

Assistant principal, Kimberly Carney, defends the use of the site, hoping that that it will deter the isolated cases of cheating that the high school has encountered in recent years. Carney also notes that will also be used as an educational tool for teachers to teach students how to cite sources properly.

Is Violating Student Rights?

The debate surrounding the online service goes well beyond the walls of McClean High School, as educators are trying to adapt to the age of the Internet. Although lawyers for both and educational institutions have concluded that the system does not legally violate student rights, other educators are debating the issue. The main question: Do services such as "undermine students' authority over the uses of their own writing" and make them feel "guilty until proven innocent"?

Rebecca Ingalls, an English professor at the University of Tampa thinks so.

"These students are giving their work to a company that's making money [for licensing fees to use their service, while the students get] no compensation." (Source:

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