9 – Setting Up Turnitin

In the video above, we will

  • Explain the difference between Turnitin and Blackboard assignments
  • Show how to set up a Turnitin assignment
  • Show how to view submissions
  • Explain some key workflows such as changing due dates and using the 23 to Alphanumeric marking schema
    • Note that this workflow is intended for instructors using the 23 to Alphanumeric marking schema. If you are using the Percentage to Alphanumeric scale that is used in SSEN, you should ignore this workflow.

1 Turnitin vs Blackboard

First let’s walk through this guide to make sure that Turnitin is the right tool!

Is your assignment going to be text-based and will it be submitted in a standard file type for a text-based item (e.g. an essay, report or presentation slides – DOCX, PDF, PPTX, etc)? If the answer to this question is “no”, you’ll want to use a Blackboard assignment.

This is an important first question because Turnitin is a text-based similarity tool, so it is only set up for these kinds of assignments. See the link below for more information on filetypes Turnitin can accept.

If the answer to this was yes, the next question is: will the file be a scanned copy of a document or photograph (e.g. signed form, certificate or picture of maths formulaes to show working – JPEG. PNG, PDF, etc.)? For instance, if you have a certificate that needs to be signed and submitted, you may answer “yes” to the first question as it is a text-based file and it may be submitted as a PDF. However, scanned items are interpreted by Turnitin as being only images – so scanned documents are not a good fit for Turnitin. For these kinds of use cases, you should use a Blackboard assignment, instead.

If this is not the case, we’ve got one last question to see if Turnitin is the right choice. Is this intended for a group submission where one student is submitting on behalf of a group, or is this for an assignment where each student will submit their own paper? Turnitin can filter items by pre-set groups, but it is not set up for group submissions or group marking, so you should use Blackboard for group assignments.

If at the end of these questions you’ve confirmed that you’ve got a text-based submission that is not a scanned item, and each student will submit their own work, then Turnitin is the correct tool!

Now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s talk more about what Turnitin can do and how to set up an assignment.

2 Key Features of Turnitin

Turnitin is a text-based similarity checker, and it ought to be the default submission tool except in the cases we outlined a moment ago. Turnitin will generate similarity reports comparing the submitted work against various online and published sources, as well as against their internal repository of student submissions across the world. We’ll talk more about similarity reports in the session on marking and feedback.

You can set up Turnitin for anonymous submissions, allow students to view their similarity reports, and decide if late submissions are allowed. You can also provide feedback within Turnitin, enter marks, and see exact timestamps for student submissions.

3 Setting up Turnitin

Let’s go into a module to look at creating a Turnitin submission point.

First, find where you want the item to go. Hover your mouse on the separator between items where you want the submission to be and click on the purple plus icon that appears. Then choose “external apps” from that menu.

Once this side window opens, scroll until you find the item for “Turnitin”. It’s good practice to keep an eye out for the little plus signs in the bottom right corner – if you see this, you will need to click on that icon. As this doesn’t have the plus sign, you can click anywhere in this box.

3.1 Basic settings

This will open up the Turnitin settings page. First, you’ll have space to enter your Assignment title and any description you may want to add.

Below this is a tickbox for PeerMark, only use this if you want students to be able to provide peer-review feedback on other student’s work. We won’t cover using PeerMark in this session, but we’ll provide links to Turnitin’s guides on using this feature.

Below that we have a section that’s called “optional settings” – this is bit a of a misnomer because these settings are very important, but we will return to them in just a bit.

First, let’s look at the items on the right-hand side. For the max grade, you will want to enter 23 points if you will be using the 23-to-Alphanumeric grading scale. Turnitin can be a bit tricky to use with Turnitin, so the key thing to remember is to enter 23 points here then either direct your students to the University’s page on the marking scale or use a calculation to convert this in the gradebook. We’ll provide links for both of these options below.

If you are using the Percentage to Alphanumeric marking scale (used by SSEN), please ignore the advice around max grades and the 23 to Alphanumeric conversion.

The start date does two things – it determines when students can start submitting work and (at the time of this recording) it will automatically link with Blackboard to hide this item until that time. We’ll show you how to change this visibility setting after we finish setting up the assignment.

The next date is the due date.

The final date is the Feedback Release Date. This is very important to pay attention to. Once the date you enter here passes, marks and feedback will be automatically returned to students. You can edit this due date before the date, but you cannot undo this release once the date has passed. The system will let you change the date in this field even after the release date has passed, but it will not re-hide any information and any new marks or feedback you enter after this will be immediately and automatically released to students.

If this does happen and grades are released too early, you can hide the submission point. We will cover how to do this in the session on Marking and Feedback.

Next, let’s look at the optional settings.

3.2 Optional Settings

Once we open this link, you can see there are several important settings here. The first is where you want to store the submitted papers – you should leave this as the default “Standard Paper Repository”.

Next, we recommend that you leave the “Allow submission of any file type” off – if your students are submitting a non-standard file, you ought to be using a Blackboard submission point. Another good reason to leave this off is because Turnitin cannot process Pages files. This is a file type specific to Macs, so a student could understandably create their content with that and try to upload that file instead of converting it to a standard DOCX filetype. Using this setting would allow students to upload the file, but it would not load in the Feedback Studio at all, and unless you have a Mac you also won’t be able to open file even if you download it directly to your computer.

After that, you can turn on the box to allow late submissions – the best practice is to leave this on. There may be occasions where a student is granted an extension, but the most important reason is to prevent any further issues. The server is very exact, so if the assignment is due at 11:59 AM, a student who starts submitting in time but whose paper does not get to the server until 11:59:01 would not actually be allowed to submit as they were technically a second late. All papers are timestamped with their submission, so you will always be able to see when students have submitted. Anyone who submits late will appear in your list with red text, so you can still see at a glance who has submitted work after the due date.

Next, you should turn on the enable anonymous assignments, as at the time of recording, the default is that submissions ought to be anonymous. If you have questions about this, please contact your school AD L&T as they will be able to provide the most up-to-date recommendations.

You can find guidance about the ETS e-rater and using rubrics in the link below, but we will just highlight here that rubrics are owned by individuals – so you may need to contact your school office to help set this up or to send you a copy of the rubric file if your school uses standardised rubrics.

Next is the section for “Compare against”. You ought to keep all of these enabled as it will check similarity against the items listed here.

After that you can find the settings for the similarity report. The drop-down menu allows you to choose between “Generate reports immediately (Students cannot resubmit)”, “Generate reports immediately (students can resubmit until the due date)” and “Generate reports on due date (students can resubmit until the due date)”. We recommend using the options for generating reports immediately, as otherwise it can cause confusion for yourselves or your students. If you do want to generate reports on the due date, you ought to make sure you highlight this to your students so they know what to expect.

It is important to note that if you select one of the options for “students can resubmit until the due date” and the option for late submissions, only students who have not submitted before the due date can submit late. So, if a student uploads a draft before the deadline, makes changes, and wants to upload another draft after the due date and accept any late penalties – they will not be able to do this. However, if a student has not submitted any work to the submission point, they could still upload one single submission after the due date.

Underneath that is the option to allow students to view the similarity report – we strongly recommend that you use this setting. This is used across the university by default, and it can help students learn how to cite items properly. If you turn this option off, you ought to make your students aware of this as they will likely expect to see similarity reports from their experiences in other modules.

The three options for exclusions below this are best kept off by default. You can adjust these exclusions later in an individual submission if you would like but leaving them off by default helps ensure that the similarity report that is initially generated is highlighting all of the similar text. One reason this can be useful is if you turned on the option for “exclude bibliographic materials” and a student had a table of contents that listed the “bibliography”, the automatic checker might see the word “bibliography” and exclude everything that follows from the checker – essentially skipping any similarity checking! Again, this can be changed in a student paper later, so this won’t prevent you from seeing their full similarity report.

Below that, you have an area to upload a template if your school uses one. This helps exclude any common front-page matter such as module or assignment title from the similarity checker.

Finally, you have a really useful and easily missed tick box called “Save these settings for future use”. If you have added a template or rubric, we recommend you do not tick this box as these items may change across assignments, and it is easy to forget to update them! Otherwise, if these are the standard settings you will want across modules, you can use this button and save yourself some work when you set up any subsequent assignments.

4 Using the Assignment Inbox

Click on the link for the assignment you’ve just created. You may have to be patient as this page loads, especially if you have a large class.

In an anonymous submission point, you cannot see any of the student names. If any students have submitted work, you have a button to “reveal author’s identity.” If you click on this and enter a reason (this just needs text to trigger it), the student’s name is permanently displayed for you and any other instructors or markers who can view this page. It is important to note that the student’s name cannot be re-hidden, and the view is shared amongst instructors, support staff, and markers.

Next to that, you can see the paper title which is a blue link. After that you can see the Paper ID number – you will need this if there are any technical issues with the submission and you need to report it to Help4U. After that is a timestamp for the submission. If a paper has been submitted late, this text will be red. After that is an eye icon that is black and crossed out. This will turn green if a student has accessed their feedback once it has been released.

Next to that is a pencil icon – if you click on this it will open the paper. Once you have entered a grade, this will display the grade instead. After that is a similarity score. Next to that will be a flag if there is anything that Turnitin thinks may signal suspicious behaviour that may require a closer look. For more information on flags, you can click the link below. Finally, you have the three dots for an option menu. Here you can have the option to upload a new paper, download the original file, or remove the item from the inbox (delete it from this page). If it is past the deadline and you or a student need to re-upload a paper, you will need to remove the original submission from the inbox before this can be done. Do be careful as once a paper has been removed it cannot be retrieved.

Above the student submissions, you can see a useful row of tools. The first is a search bar – you can search by paper title or paper ID. If the submission isn’t anonymous, you can also search by student name. After that is a filter that is linked to groups in Blackboard, so you can sort the inbox by a pre-selected group (for instance by marker group). However, do note this tool is rather limited so it will only sort the group in this view – not once you open a paper, so you cannot use the arrows in a paper to navigate within a group.

Next to that is a search field that will allow you to submit on behalf of a student. Even if your assignment is anonymous, you can still use this search bar to find and submit on behalf of a student. After that, you have a refresh button that will refresh inside this page, and a drop-down menu. The drop-down menu will allow you to bulk download the marked papers, original submissions, basic (non-marked) pdf file, or the grade report or submission list. The “Grade Report” will generate a spreadsheet for all of the students who have submitted – this will include things like the paper ID, date uploaded, grade, and similarity score. The “Submission List” is really handy if you have an anonymous assignment as it will generate a list with all of the students – those who have submitted will be marked anonymous, but those who have not submitted will have their names available. This can allow you to email non-submitters as a due date approaches!

We’ll cover the student submission itself, the similarity report, and how to enter marks and feedback in the 101 session on marks and feedback.

Let’s move on to some handy workflows you may need to use once you have created the submission.

5 Changing Settings in Turnitin

Once you have created the item, you may need to change some of the optional settings, the max grade, or the feedback release date. You can adjust these by clicking on the cog wheel in the right-hand corner of the window. Anything you can change here will be in white, you can make your changes and click “Submit” when you are done.

Here, you’ll notice the start date is greyed out – this cannot now be changed. However, some of the other items such as the due date and title can still be changed, even though they are greyed out here.

To change these we’ll need to close this Turnitin assignment and return to the course content page.

5.1 Changing Additional Settings

Instead of clicking on the link, click on the three dots to the right of this item. Here you can delete this item – which you should not do if there are any student submissions in it – and an option to edit it.

In the side panel that appears, you can see that you can change the title, the due date, the maximum points, category and the marking schema.

You should not change the Mark Using to “23 to Alphanumeric” as this will automatically change the maximum points to 100. Instead, you should mark this out of 23, then either set up a calculation to convert it to Alphanumeric in the gradebook, or send students the link to the University’s Alphanumeric scale. We’ll provide links to the university page as well as guidance for setting up a calculation in the gradebook.

Please note, this guidance above is for those using the 23 to Alphanumeric marking schema, not those using the Percentage to Alphanumeric schema (used by SSEN).

You should set up a category at the time when you create the assignment if you intend to use the Overall Mark in the gradebook. The reason this is important to do when you set it up is that a category is required for the Overall Mark, and if you make any changes in this side edit panel, the due date must be set to be past the date when you edit it. In order to save confusion for yourself, markers, and students, it’s best to avoid editing this panel after the due date if possible.

5.2 Changing Availability for Students

Once you’ve made any changes, click “Save”, and let’s review how to adjust the visibility of the item. Underneath the title of the assignment is a link that says “release conditions.” If you hover over this, you can see the details of the release conditions. To make this item visible to students, you can click on the drop-down that says “release conditions” and select “visible to students.” If you wanted to customise the release conditions, you can click on that option and a side panel will open that will give you custom control over the release conditions, including allowing you to release this to specific users or groups.


Turnitin’s guides:

Other information:

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Updated on 03/03/2023

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