In post-secondary education, academic misconduct has been a long-standing concern and is commonly acknowledged as a complex problem related to individual, institutional, and societal factors. This study examined the perception of students towards the use of the Turn-It-In software in detecting plagiarism in public universities in Ghana. The study specifically assessed the students’ knowledge concerning plagiarism and their awareness, usage and perception about the use of Turn-It-In software in detecting plagiarism. The study also examined the students’ computer literacy skills, their perceived ease of use of the Turn-It-In software, and the challenges they face in using the software. The research is helpful to the management of both University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, educational professionals and policy makers

The research was based on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). The study employed the quantitative research methodology and the exploratory research design. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data from 276 respondents out of a sample of 344 students, giving a response rate of 80.23%. The College of Humanities and College of Health Sciences from both University of Ghana (UG) and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) were specifically targeted. Convenience sampling technique was adopted, data was collected using a questionnaire and were analyzed using SPSS version 22.

The findings disclosed that the students were fully conscious of plagiarism and they had a good knowledge of plagiarism acts. The results also revealed that the students were conscious of the presence in their various universities of the Turn-It-In software used to detect plagiarism. Their channels of awareness of the Turn-It-In software were through information gathered from their

lecturers, friends, Teaching Assistants and their universities’ orientation programmes. The findings further revealed that the students perceived the Turn-It-In software to be beneficial to their academic activities. The students found it easy to use the Turn-It-In software and they preferred using it for checking the originality of their work as compared to other means of detecting plagiarism. Finally, the finding showed that the students had the computer literacy ability required to adequately utilize the Turn-It-In software. However, the major challenges faced by the students in their usage of the Turn-It-In software were: inadequate training on the usage of the software and system errors leading to the inability to access the Turn-It-In system. In conclusion, to mitigate the incidence of plagiarism among the graduate students of UG and KNUST, effective policies should be implemented to ensure the maximum use of the Turn-It-In software for plagiarism control.



            Background to the study

The impact of plagiarism among the scholarly population has introduced a lot of misconceptions and academic dishonesty (Mohammed, Iliyasu, & Habib, 2017). University academic dishonesty is a prevalent occurrence among students of all ages and specialties. Moreover, higher education throughout the globe is witnessing heightened reported instances of plagiarism particularly in this 21st century. Nowadays, the extensive use of the internet and the popularity of mobile and wireless devices have made it easier for students illegally and dishonestly to reach and transmit data (Hosny & Fatima, 2014). This subject has raised a lot of arguments among academics. For instance, Onuoha and Ikonne (2013) have asserted that, plagiarism incidents currently appear to be on the increase particularly with the emergence of the internet which made information more easily available and accessible without any geographical obstacles. Researchers can therefore have as easy as possible access to any document in any part of the globe. In addition, Köttgen et al (2013) state that, the incidence of plagiarism among students can be traced primarily to the introduction of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education as well as the overabundance of internet resources.

Garba (2017) defined plagiarism as the use of content that is not quoted or referenced to its source. Simply put, it is plagiarism to present another person’s work or property as one’s work without proper recognition of the original work or using the hard work and dedication of someone, and to pass the work as yours. Köttgen et al. (2013) also defined plagiarism as corruption of the process of independent and critical thinking that is vital to adding

to the body of knowledge. Orim, Borg, and Awala-Ale (2013) both referred to plagiarism as scholarly malpractice and academic integrity infringement.

According to Garba (2017), plagiarism is an immoral act and a felony that one cannot escape from as this has damaged the reputations of numerous academics since ancient times. He further stated that generally plagiarism occurs as a result of ignorance, lack of skills, and academic pressure of publish or perish syndrome. Similarly, Orim et al. (2013) highlighted that most plagiarism cases occurred as a result of the lack of awareness and proper skills. The most common forms of plagiarism are copying information and using it as part of ones’ assignment or essay, without acknowledging the original source of information. Usually this source of information could be from a book, an article, a website or any other electronic or non – electronic material whose author is not personally known to the student.

In literature, existing studies have suggested ways that can be used to overcome plagiarism in the field of academics which include the use of high-tech defenses like blocking, filtering and rating systems. However, this study focuses on the use of Turn-It-In software in checking plagiarism. Turn-It-In is a web-based software that is used for plagiarism detection and is meant to aid students and instructors in their joint effort to promote originality in student papers (Batane, 2010). Additionally, Turn-It-In is a web-based text-matching tool that compares students’ written assignments with a database of pre-existing sources, including over 62 billion web pages, over 734 million student papers, and over 165 million journal articles, periodicals and books (Turn-It- In, 2018) . In demonstration, students submit an electronic form of their work through the software, which checks submissions for textual match with material in its database and creates an Originality Report which can be viewed, but one cannot view the reports of others (Garba, 2017). This helps in encouraging proper citing of other people‘s written material.

On the other hand, Thompsett and Ahluwalia (2010) observe that, the use of Turn-It-In is not easy and not useful as a learning tool. Their research demonstrates that the majority of students would like an alternative means of plagiarism detection. Sutherland-Smith (2010) also stressed that, merely identifying plagiarism does not help students to understand how to avoid plagiarizing in the future since, in the majority of cases, plagiarism is unintentional and is due to students’ inadequately developed writing skills.

In addition, regarding the discrepancy between students’ and the university’s perceptions of what constitutes academic misconduct, Meadows and Randers (2012) suggest that students need more than just plagiarism detection. This is because the introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) in an organization does not mean it will be used as intended, as users may reject it, misuse it, sabotage it or work around it (Holden & Karsh, 2010). They further stated that, one of the significant factors in the planned introduction of information technology (IT) is the attitude of the individual that will be required to use it. Thus, an individual’s acceptance of ICT is a crucial factor in determining the success or failure of an ICT system (Turn-It-In software inclusive). Hence, in addition to identifying plagiarism, assessing the awareness and perception level of academics, including students in relation to the use of Turn-It- In software is also paramount (Garba, 2017).

            Statement of the problem

The practice of plagiarism has been rife in academic institutions all over the world. There is also a consensus among academics that the advancement of technology has increased what is in the public domain and made it easier to access and plagiarise. To address this issue, higher education traditionally used a rule compliance approach, which focuses on deterring, policing, and enforcing academic integrity rules (Gallant, 2008). In keeping with this strategy, text matching

software such as Turn-It-In has gained widespread use as an effective tool for deterring and catching plagiarism. Interestingly, numerous studies have been conducted on the incidence of plagiarism and the use of Turn-It-In software to detect plagiarism in tertiary institutions (Batane, 2010; Chew, Ding, & Rowell, 2015; Chuda, Navrat, Kovacova, & Humay, 2012; Onuoha & Ikonne, 2013; Orim et al., 2013; Ramzan, Munir, Siddique, & Asif, 2012). However, majority of these studies were conducted from the perspective of the developed nations.

Some research have been done recently in relation to the issues of plagiarism in Ghana (Appiah & Awuah, 2016; Augustine Aduko Alu, Roland Bardy, & Perpetua S. Dadzie, 2017; Grün et al., 2015; Russell, Goubran, Kwamena, & Knoefel, 2017; Saana, Ablordeppey, Mensah, & Karikari, 2016). But it appears less attention has been given to researching the use of the Turn-It-In software in detecting plagiarism in public universities in Ghana. Also, of the few studies conducted and stated above, they did not explore the use and perceptions of Turn-It-In software in Ghanaian public universities. It is for this reason that the researcher conducted this study to find out the extent to which students of public universities in Ghana know about plagiarism issues and the use of the plagiarism detection software, specifically the Turn-It-In software, to detect plagiarism in public universities in Ghana.

            Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study is to examine the perception of students towards the use of the Turn-It- In software in detecting plagiarism in public universities in Ghana.

            Objectives of the study

The specific objectives of this study were:

  1. To examine the knowledge of students concerning plagiarism
  • 2.              To assess students’ level of awareness of Turn-It-In software
  • To assess students’ usage of Turn-It-In software
  • To assess the students’ perception about the use of the Turn-It-In software.
  • To examine the challenges faced by students in the use of the Turn-It-In software for detecting plagiarism.
    • To make recommendations based on the findings of the study.

            Theoretical framework

Theories are formulated to explain, predict, and understand the phenomena under study and, in many cases, to challenge and extend existing knowledge within the limits of critical bounding assumptions, according to Aamodt et al., (2008). White et al., (2013) state that, a theoretical framework is analogous to the frame of the house. Just as the foundation supports a house, a theoretical framework provides a rationale for predictions of a research’s connection between variables. Thus the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) is the theoretical model that will be adopted for this study. The Technology Acceptance Model created by Davis, Bagozzi, & Warshaw (1989) is one of the research models most commonly used to predict the use and acceptance of information systems and technology by individual users. TAM has been extensively researched and verified by different studies to examine individual behaviours in accepting and using technology in various information systems contexts.

This model comprises two factors: perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. Davis et al., (1989) define perceived usefulness as the prospective user’s subjective probability to improve his or her life or work by using a particular application system. Perceive ease of use can be defined as the extent to which the potential user expects effort-free target system. According to TAM, the most significant determinants of actual system use are ease of use and perceived usefulness. These

two factors are influenced by external variables. The main external factors that are usually manifested are social factors, cultural factors and political factors. Language, skills and facilitating conditions are social factors. Political factors are mainly the impact of using technology in politics and political crisis. The attitude to use concerns with the user’s assessment of the desirability of using a specific information system application. Behavioural intent is the measure of the eagerness or readiness or probability of a person using the application. The following diagram further explains the model:

Source: Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) by Davis et al., (1989).

The two main principles of the theory which are Perceived Ease of Use and Perceived Usefulness concur with objective two (2) of this study in the sense that, if students are aware of the benefits they will gain from using the plagiarism software for instance, they will go ahead and make use of it. In other words, the more users of the software are aware of the benefits of using it, the more they will  be using it as well. Moreover, social factors which is one of the external variables which influences the two major tenets of the theory includes issues such as skills and facilitating conditions concur with objective three (3). This is because users of the system must have the requisite skills and experience in the usage of the system so as to make full use of it and enjoy the full benefits of the system. Facilitating conditions also mean that computers and other

infrastructure which are required for the system to function must be in place so that the system can fully and effectively serve users.