The multiple uses of iThenticate in doctoral education: Policing malpractice or improving research writing?




plagiarism, academic integrity, research writing, anti-plagiarism software, doctoral education, online survey


This article provides a description and analysis of the way in which research degree students and their supervisors at one Australian university (the University of South Australia) use a popular online plagiarism-detection system, iThenticate. The study identifies how these two groups use iThenticate by analysing usage data together with data from an anonymous online survey conducted 12 months after the university took out a pilot subscription to the system. One hundred and nineteen students and 26 supervisors responded to the survey, representing 61% and 43% of the active users in each category. The survey found that the two groups of respondents used the system differently but that, while for both groups iThenticate’s regulatory function in preventing plagiarism (whether international or accidental) was important, the system’s potential educational function in improving research writing capability and publication was equally important. The study highlights the value of regarding the use of anti-plagiarism software so as to encourage a move way from a simple focus on its punitive regulatory dimension and towards its educational possibilities and suggests directions for future research on the relationship between this type of software and the ways scholars work with other people’s texts to recreate meanings and develop original contributions.

Implications for practice or policy:

  • Online plagiarism detection systems (such as iThenticate) can be used either negatively to police doctoral students’ practice or positively to improve their research writing practice.
  • Academic developers should promote a positive approach, aimed at improving research writing practice, as the preferable pedagogy in using online plagiarism-detection systems.


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Author Biography

Felicity Anna Braithwaite, IIMPACT in Health, University of South Australia

FAB was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship and a University of South Australia Vice Chancellor and President’s Scholarship and is currently supported by the John Stuart Colville Fellowship (Arthritis Foundation of South Australia). FAB has received speaker fees for providing lectures related to pain and blinding in clinical trials.




How to Cite

McCulloch, A., Behrend, M., & Braithwaite, F. (2021). The multiple uses of iThenticate in doctoral education: Policing malpractice or improving research writing?. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 38(1), 20–32.