SafeAssign is a plagiarism detection tool that is built into our Blackboard LMS. When you have students submit their assignments through Blackboard you can choose to have those assignments checked for plagiarism using SafeAssign (click here for a tutorial video). SafeAssign uses a text-matching algorithm to detect exact and inexact matches between a submitted essay and any source material used. Results are further examined by weighing them against both the weight returned by the service and “comparative weighting by the SafeAssign algorithm” (Blackboard: SafeAssign). Student submissions are compared against several sources such as:
- Institutional document archives
- The Global Reference Database
- The Internet
This means that SafeAssign not only searches the internet for matches, but also any document that was ever submitted through SafeAssign by users at FHSU and any institution that uses Blackboard. This can be problematic for a couple reasons. For instance, if a professor assigns a research paper and gives every student the same topic, students are bound to find the same sources and use them in their paper. SafeAssign will flag these pieces of every student’s paper as plagiarized because SafeAssign found it within other papers submitted. The professor might then have to manually go back through each paper and check the SafeAssign report for “errors”.
Just like any tool, SafeAssign has its limitations. It might not catch every bit of copied source material due to the limit of resources SafeAssign can sort through, or it might catch too much and result in an unnecessarily high plagiarism score. This is seen across the board in other plagiarism detection tools, as well, such as Turnitin. In a comparison of Turnitin and SafeAssign (original article and follow-up article), Turnitin performed nearly the same as SafeAssign in detecting (and not detecting) plagiarism. Because of this, we recommend that you screen the results of SafeAssign and the original material if you are uncertain. If you believe a part of the paper was plagiarized and SafeAssign didn’t catch it, try copying and pasting that piece into Google and see what comes up. Similarly, you could do this if SafeAssign flagged something in the paper incorrectly. It’s always good to double check anything done by a computer system because they can still make mistakes.
If you have any questions regarding SafeAssign, please contact TILT at firstname.lastname@example.org.