‘Turnitin Paper View Request’ Emails Explained

If you are (or have been) listed as an instructor on a Blackboard course which uses Turnitin for student submissions, you may occasionally receive a ‘TurnitinUK Paper View Request’ email.  This will usually appear in your email inbox as:

From: TurnitinUK No Reply <noreply@turnitin.com>
Subject: TurnitinUK Paper View Request

With the rise in phishing emails in recent years, instructors are often unsure as to whether these emails are genuine or not and may query these emails with Serviceline (which is always the correct thing to do if you are in any doubt).

The body of the email will look like this:

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Dear <Your Name>,
TurnitinUK is forwarding this request on behalf of <Name of Academic>, an instructor at <Name of institue>. This instructor requests your permission to view the paper, “<Title of submission>”, submitted to your <Name of Blackboard course to which submission was made> class at University of Southampton on <Date of submission>.
This instructor has found a <n%> match to this paper in a paper submitted to his or her <Name of Assignment at sender’s institute> class.
If you choose to grant permission to the instructor to view the paper, simply reply to this email. Please confirm the text of the student’s paper is displayed in your reply email. By replying to this email, you will be sending an email (including the text of your student’s paper) to the requesting instructor, <Name of Academic).
The text of the paper previously submitted to your class is included below. Please remove any identifying student information in the text below to respect the privacy of your student prior to sending.
Thank you for using TurnitinUK,
The TurnitinUK Team

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Why am I receiving this email?

If you are an instructor or teaching assistant on the Blackboard course in question, you may receive this email if an instructor on another course (either here in Southampton or at any other University around the world which also uses Turnitin) has found a match between a submission made to one of their assignments with a submission made to one of the assignments on the course you are listed on in Blackboard.  The email arrives as a result of the instructor at the institute in question making a request to Turnitin to view the paper which was submitted to your course so that they can view the matching text.

As Turnitin does not have any concept of who is the lead instructor is on a Blackboard course, the system sends the email to all listed instructors.  This is why you may receive the email even if you are not actively teaching the course.

How do I know whether the email is genuine?

If you have received an email like this, the easiest way to decide whether it is genuine is to ask yourself the following questions:

1 – Am I, or have I been at some point in the past, an instructor or teaching assistant on the Blackboard course in question (regardless of level of involvement in actual teaching)?

2 – Does the text in the email match the text in the above example (excluding the text contained in <>)?

3 – Is the email address in question noreply@turnitin.com

4 – Have other instructors on the Blackboard course in question also received the email?

If the answer to any of the above questions is no, you may wish to query this with Serviceline.  Otherwise it is safe to assume that the email is legitimate.

Should I respond to the email, and if so, how?

Whether or not you respond to these requests is entirely up to you.  By replying, you are agreeing to make the basic text of the paper submitted to your assignment available to the instructor who has made the request.  The idea is that they are then able to compare the text and decide whether they need to take further action from an academic integrity point of view.  Of course, it is also possible that one of your colleagues may reply, so you may wish to confer with colleagues for their opinion on whether you (collectively) believe that replying is the correct thing to do.  If you choose not to reply then nothing more will happen (i.e. the academic who made the request will not receive any reply and will not be able to see the matching text from the Southampton side).

It is, of course, worth noting that should you make a similar request of another University at some point in the future, they may have a similar decision process regarding whether to make the matching text available to you or not.