Investigating and Documenting Suspected Plagiarism

Online tools like Turnitin and Google can be very helpful in determining the extent of copying of the work of others. Anyone accusing a student of plagiarizing written material is encouraged to use them.

Verbatim Copying

The online service Turnitin does a strict comparison of text, revealing identical words, phrases, and sentences in documents you supply. It may also suggest other sources that have significant overlap with the student's submission. UBC has a site license for Turnitin so instructors can use it at any time.

To apply Turnitin, obtain electronic copies of the student’s course assignment or thesis/dissertation and the original document(s) from which he/she is alleged to have plagiarized. Then go to and follow the instructions for setting up an account.

Once you have authenticated your session, you can upload your electronic documents for checking. (Occasional users will benefit from Turnitin's “Quick Submit” option, which a user must turn on explicitly by modifying his/her personal profile. Turnitin's standard mode receives incoming documents from students in courses, which calls for administrative overheads not required by a single scan.) The electronic scan takes time to complete: a list of pending and completed jobs is available on-screen, and the Originality Report becomes available after some time.

If you have questions about using Turnitin, please contact the UBC Learning Technology Support Hub/Turnitin.

Re-phrased Work

If the student has re-phrased someone else’s work, Turnitin may not detect it. You will need to go through the student’s work and the suspected source document(s), and highlight areas, paragraphs, and/or sections that are similar.

Supporting Documents and Resources

Workers in the G+PS Dean's Office appreciate receiving copies of the student’s work and the original sources with clear notes on their relationship. Highlighting the two documents with corresponding colours is the preferred way to present this information. If you are comparing the student’s work with more than one source document, use a different colour of highlighter for each source.

If the Dean of G+PS refers the case to the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Discipline for a hearing, G+PS will be required to provide supporting materials including a copy of the marked student’s work, the “Statement of Case” (on a standard form made available by the PACSD), and the names of one or two witnesses (normally including the faculty member who investigated the alleged plagiarism). Each witness will attend the Committee’s hearing along with the Dean (or designated Associate Dean) of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The student will also be asked to attend the hearing and may be accompanied by an advocate or support person. The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will count on the student's graduate program to collect materials that substantiate its belief that the student has committed academic misconduct. These will form the bulk of the “Statement of Case” submitted to the PACSD.

Next: Preventing Plagiarism