Shift Perceptions of Plagiarism
in a Digital Age

With changing student perceptions of what constitutes plagiarism, it is challenging to combat
plagiarism in today’s digital age. Instructors at Kentucky Wesleyan College use Turnitin to teach the meaning of “originality” and proper academic writing.

Kentucky Wesleyan College
Owensboro, KY
Private Liberal Arts College
1,000 Students


With a student population of just under 1,000, Kentucky Wesleyan College (KWC) is a small liberal arts college that provides arts, humanities, behavioral, social and natural science education as part of their core curriculum. Throughout these disciplines, educators at KWC are dedicated to helping students develop communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied during their tenure at the college and beyond.


Marisue Coy, an associate professor of English and director of the writing workshop program for freshman students, has taught at the college for more than 30 years and in that time has seen a shift in students' perceptions of what constitutes plagiarism. "Copying and pasting from the Internet is such an easy thing to do," said Coy. "In today's digital age, students aren't always taught what the difference is between producing original work and plagiarism. Over the last five or six years in particular, I have found that students have struggled with this since the Internet is so embedded in their culture."


Although there was never a huge problem with plagiarism, KWC decided to implement Turnitin to help students better learn what constitutes original work. Since its adoption, faculty members have led workshops and seminars to teach their colleagues about the program and to promote more widespread use across the college. Dr. Buxton Johnson, physics and probability and statistics professor at KWC, uses Turnitin with his science and statistics classes as a repository for student laboratory reports and is encouraging other professors in the discipline to do the same. "The program allows me to check students' lab reports to ensure that the data and statistics found in their documents are original. It is incredible how well Turnitin works for more than just strictly word passages."


"Turnitin is a great educational tool for both teachers and students," said Coy, who uses OriginalityCheck, GradeMark and PeerMark with all of her classes. "Turnitin helps students really become engaged in the writing process by allowing them to see firsthand areas of strengths and weaknesses in their writing." In addition, teachers have found that the program has cut back on the amount of time it takes to review and grade papers, while significantly reducing the amount of paper used in the classroom since the process takes place electronically. "Turnitin, in part, has helped me make the shift from using printed materials to delivering and assigning coursework online."