Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection and prevention tool that is part of Blackboard. It compares submitted assignments to the following sources:
- Internet sources – public access sources
- ProQuest database
- Institutional document archives – any previously submitted documents from University of Rochester’s Blackboard system
- Global Reference database – any submissions made voluntarily to a global database of all Blackboard customers
Note: University of Rochester is currently not providing students the opportunity to submit to the Global Reference database.
How To Read Your Report (PDF)
The University of Rochester highly recommends that instructors provide students with the option to view their reports before final submission and to exclude these initial submissions from being stored in the institutional database. Check with your Blackboard support to learn more about how to allow this.
The University of Rochester also discourages the use of the Direct Submit option. Students should be aware that their papers are being submitted to the system to be checked for plagiarism. Direct Submit bypasses this step.
Please note that once submitted, the Safe Assign Originality Report may take some time to process. Processing can take anywhere from minutes to days, depending on the volume of submissions to the central system. During busy times in the academic year (midterms and end of semester) the process is subject to take longer.
Note: Safe Assign is a Blackboard shared, hosted solution and is subject to its own maintenance periods and downtimes. University of Rochester has no control over these. When University of Rochester is made aware of any maintenance or downtimes, they will be posted in Announcements.
Note that you must first turn on the Safe Assign tools in your course before the options in the documentation become available. Tools can be turned on under Customization, Tool Availability.
The system generates an originality report that offers suggestions about possible sources of plagiarism. Please note that this is not definitive, nor comprehensive; the instructor still needs to review the submission.
Risks of False Positives:
- Does not always distinguish properly quoted material
- Cannot distinguish between common phrases and truly proprietary expressions
Risks of False Negatives:
- Limited search
- Cannot detect disguised plagiarism
Results returned in a SafeAssign Originality Report may not be identical to results returned by a consumer internet search service (e.g. Google, Bing, etc.) for any individual sentence or phrase. The results from the SafeAssign service are only meant to be a tool for use at the discretion of the teacher or instructor. Due to the size and scope of both academic subject matter and the number of resources searched by SafeAssign, the results are not meant to guarantee or otherwise indicate that plagiarism has or has not occurred. The assessment of potential plagiarism should reside in the hands of the instructor, and SafeAssign results should always be considered in the context of other resources and good judgment.
SafeAssign does not distinguish between direct quotations and text lifted from a source; students who are quoting correctly will likely have reports that indicate overlap with these sources. The reports are easy to read because these instances are easily noted.
Conversely, SafeAssign does not catch essays that include plagiarized ideas or concepts, nor can it detect uncited paraphrasing that dramatically changes the wording of an original source while maintaining that source’s organization and/or sentence structure.
The implications of originality reports are not always self-evident. Teachers need to discuss the interpretation of these reports with students and allow students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the tool.
If you have questions about interpreting the originality report, please contact a librarian or your academic honesty office.
FERPA considerationsAccording to FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, education records that identify students without their consent may not be disclosed to third parties.
- Students should be advised to remove their name and any personal information (name, SSN, Student ID) from within the paper and title page, or the header or footer before submitting assignments to Safe Assign.
- If a student wants to voluntarily leave their name on their paper, they may do so.
Additionally, this “cloud” service is not HIPAA compliant, therefore assignments that contain patient information should not be created with Safe Assignment and students should not be asked to submit papers containing patient information.
The following are tips on preventing plagiarism:
- Require multiple drafts of assignments before final submission
- Design original assignments that are hard to plagiarize
- Provide aids to comprehension of complex texts
- Provide multiple low-stakes assignments
- Provide clear guidance on preventing plagiarism
Use SafeAssign as part of a balanced approach to encourage academic integrity and foster student success:
- by providing clear instructions and guidance for assignments
- by encouraging students to manage time and make progress prior to deadlines for submission of graded assignments
- by making other resources known to students (e.g., writing center)
- by using it as a deterrent, not as a “caught you” enforcement tool
Openly disclose the use of SafeAssign for this course on the syllabus and at the time assignments are announced, including clarifying the choices made about retention of student work (Local, or No-Retention).
For any given assignment:
- use SafeAssign for all papers;
- not submit papers arbitrarily to SafeAssign, for the purpose of reviewing originality reports for papers deemed “suspicious;”
- or consider exceptions for specific students, who may object to the retention of their work by SafeAssign, working with the University Ombudsperson to resolve any conflict
Faculty should make the final determination of originality and integrity. The originality reports, and the machine judgment that generates them, provide a set of useful resources for comparison. However, there is no substitute for human judgment and assessment prior to generating feedback for students or making a determination about honesty and integrity.
To ensure privacy, please ask students to remove identification (e.g., names and student numbers) from submissions because:
- Blackboard will automatically show student’s names to assignments when instructors are viewing, or downloading.
- removing the identifying information from the document allows it to be preserved in the repository without affecting the student’s educational privacy.
It’s important to note that plagiarism software has a tendency to produce “False positives”,meaning that a paper is noted as potetially plagiarized when in fact it is not. The following articles provide more insight on this matter.
False Positives on Plagiarism, from Inside Higher Ed, 2009
False Security, from Inside Higher Ed, 2015
A Comparative Analysis of SafeAssign and Turnitit, from Inquiry, The Journal of the Virginia Community Colleges, 2014
Gauging the effectiveness of anti-plagiarism software: An empirical study of second language graduate writers, from the Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 2012
Safe Assign is currently available to courses in School of Medicine and Dentistry, School of Nursing, Eastman Institute of Oral Health, Warner School of Education, and Simon Business School. Faculty in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering should contact the Academic Honesty liaison for more information or alternative approaches.