Assessing Academic Integrity Using SafeAssign Plagiarism Detection Software

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David C. Ison
Kimberly J. Szathmary


Higher education has struggled with the problem of plagiarism since institutions were first founded. In the current educational environment where technology and access are integral to institutional functionality and student learning, the concern about plagiarism has been elevated with claims that the availability of sources, commonly sought from the Internet, has made the incidence plagiarism worse. In light of this sentiment and research literature that indicates a systemic problem, it is critical that institutions are aware of their current academic integrity environment. Such information is necessary to address problems, if they exist, and to best manage integrity issues as well as how to assist students in avoiding these quandaries. This study sought to provide baseline data for a large, online, aviation oriented postsecondary institution. A sample of 659 student records were collected in this study of which 520 (78.9%) included a SafeAssign index. The uncorrected SafeAssign index mean was 22.2% (Md = 17%, s2 = 390.9, s = 19.8). Among the uncorrected SafeAssign submissions, 216 (41.5%) had initial report values in excess of 15% similarity and 57 (11.0%) had originality indices in excess of 40%. When making corrections for potential false positive results, the mean corrected SafeAssign index was 20.9% (Md = 17%, s2 = 220.4, s = 14.8) with 206 (39.6%) of papers equaling or exceeding the 15% threshold and 19 (3.7%) of corrected cases had originality indices in excess of 40%. Additional statistical analysis was conducted to evaluate the relationship between SafeAssign values and final grades. Also, comparisons were made with previous studies. The findings indicate that the institution needs to evaluate its plagiarism policies and student education on the topic. It also highlights the importance of such studies at other institutions to determine benchmarks. Suggestions for future research are provided.

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