Checking student work for plagiarism

In June, 2020, Turnitin acquired Unicheck, which was previously the only option for Populi customers to integrate with plagiarism-checking software. As we understand things, Unicheck has not been accepting new customers since that time. However, the software will continue to work for existing Unicheck customers until they are migrated over to Turnitin. Accordingly, please keep these things in mind when consulting this article:

  • This article's Setup section presents instructions for setting up integrations with both Turnitin and Unicheck; the Unicheck instructions are presented solely in case you need to troubleshoot your Unicheck integration.
  • Regarding assignment setup and plagiarism-checking, Populi acts the same regardless of which service you're using. The two services themselves have different user interfaces, and we refer you to their documentation for instructions on how to use them.

Here's how you can use Populi's integration with Turnitin (and Unicheck, for now) to check student assignment submissions for plagiarism for these assignment types: file, essay, test essay questions, and discussion posts/replies. The setup sections of this article must be performed by your school's Populi Account Administrator; after they've done that, you'll have the plagiarism-check options available for your use.

Properly-speaking, Turnitin (and all other "plagiarism-checker" services) do not check for plagiarism, per se. Rather, they check for similarities between student work and the work of others. Similarity is the measurement of one work's resemblance to another; plagiarism, on the other hand, is the act of intentionally presenting the work of another as one's own. Computers can count words, but they can't discern intention! It is up to you as a course instructor to determine whether student work has crossed that line. This blog post goes into more detail.

All that said, we use the term "plagiarism" in this article, but please understand that it usually means "similarity".

Turnitin Setup

Populi works with Turnitin's Similarity product. To set up the integration, you'll first need to create a Scope and a Key in Turnitin, which you'll then enter in Populi.

adding turnitin in account integrations
  1. "Step One" on this Turnitin help page contains the instructions for creating an API Scope and Key. Copy the API Secret—you'll be entering this in Populi.
  2. In Populi, go to Account > Account Settings > Integrations and click Add Integration.
  3. Select Turnitin from the list of built-in integrations.
  4. Enter your school's Turnitin API URL—it'll be something like
  5. Enter the API secret you copied from Turnitin in Step 1, above.
  6. Make selections for the Indexing Options, Source Text Visibility, and Match Detail Visibility settings.
  7. Finally, click Save.

Unicheck Integration Details

While you can no longer add a new Unicheck account to Populi, should you need to review your integration settings, here's how:

  1. In your Unicheck account, go to Integration > API Integration. You can review the your App name, API Key, and API Secret fields.
  2. In Populi, go to Account > Account Settings > Integrations. Click next to the Unicheck integration and select Edit to review the API Key and API Secret settings entered in Populi.

With either integration, faculty members will have the plagiarism-checking features described below.

Setting up your assignments to check for plagiarism

You have a few options for how you can check for plagiarism in student assignment submissions.

  1. Follow the steps for setting up a new assignment. When you choose Test or one of the File or Essay types (including the Peer Review types), you'll see new options appear in the dialog:
    • Automatically check student submissions: If you check this, all student submissions will be checked for plagiarism as soon as they are submitted.
    • Three visibility options: You can let students see the plagiarism reports as soon as they're available, you can hide them, or you can decide on a case-by-case basis.
  2. After you Save the assignment, student submissions will be subject to the plagiarism-check settings you've established.

Checking for plagiarism

After students have submitted work, here's how you'll check it for plagiarism.


  1. Go to the assignment page.
  2. Click a student's name to go to his assignment detail page.
  3. Above the document viewer, click . Select your options (Exclude quotes, etc.) and click Start.
    • The first time you run a check with Turnitin, you'll be asked to agree to the Turnitin EULA (End User License Agreement). Indicate your acceptance to proceed with the check; you'll not need to do this again.
    • If you've set up the assignment to automatically check for plagiarism, the View... link will already be there.
  4. You may need to wait a few minutes for the plagiarism check to complete. When it's done, the symbol will update based on results of the check. Click the symbol to view the report.
    • If you've set up the assignment to automatically check for plagiarism, the check will already have run. Go ahead and click the symbol to see the results.
  5. You'll be taken to the plagiarism report. When you're done, click the X in the upper left of the viewer panel to return to the student's assignment detail.

You can see the student's plagiarism score at a glance on the main assignment page. The percentage is based on the plagiarism software's Similarity score. Click the score to see the plagiarism report.

Test essay questions

  1. Go to the test's page and click the History view.
  2. Click the Start Time for the student's test.
  3. Essay questions will have a symbol; click it to start the check. (If you've set the test assignment to automatically check for plagiarism, it will start running the check as soon as you open the student's test attempt.)
  4. After the check is completed, you'll see a link to view the report...

Discussion posts and replies

  1. Go to the discussion's page.
  2. Click above the comment or reply you wish to check.
  3. Select Check for plagiarism.
  4. After the check is completed, you'll see a link to view the report...
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  • 0
    Joel Wingo

    The Unicheck integration works very well. The cost is reasonable, too.

  • 0
    Dr. Beemer

    Thanks for the great upgrade for checking discussion and essay answers!  

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