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What is SafeAssign?

SafeAssign compares submitted work against a database of submitted papers and internet resources and issues an "Originality Report" identifying overlap between the submitted work and other works.  This allows the instructor and/or the student to check for potential plagiarism and can create opportunities for students to learn how to properly cite sources or how to paraphrase more appropriately.

What Instructors should know:

How is SafeAssign enabled?

When you create a Blackboard Assignment click on "Submission Details" and check a box to enable SafeAssign for that Blackboard Assignment.  You can make it a "draft" assignment by checking the box to not submit papers to the institutional (UAS) and global databases.

You cannot require the student to submit work which contains personally identifying information (other than in the file name).

Under the Federal Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA) students cannot be required to submit work which includes personally identifying information via a third party application. The instructor can, however, require students to submit such work via SafeAssign as long as the student not required to include personally identifying information.  Note that the students name can be included in a file name because only the content of the file is submitted to SafeAssign (not the file name).  Students may also voluntarily submit work which includes their name or other information.

If you check a student's work via "DirectSubmit" you must strip all identifying information.

SafeAssign includes a tool which allows you to check all or a portion of the work via "DirectSubmit".  This allows you to check not only papers but text from Discussion forums etc.  In order to comply with FERPA the instructor must remove all personally identifying information before submitting such work to SafeAssign.  Access the DirectSubmit tool from the Control Panel > Course Tools > SafeAssign.

When setting up an Assignment to accept draft papers always check the box "Exclude submissions from the Institutional and Global References Databases."

When you allow multiple attempts for a Blackboard Assignment (i.e., the student can submit papers more than once for the same assignment) then if SafeAssign is enabled it will not check the students work against previous submissions for the same Assignment.  In other words if a student revises and re-submits a paper using the same Assignment link it will not be compared to their previous version.  However if the paper is submitted via a different Assignment link (even if it is the same student and the same class) then it be compared to their previous version.  This means that if you prefer to have a separate (ungraded) link for drafts and a second link for the final (graded) paper you should deliberately set up the first link to "exclude submissions from the Institutional and Global Reference Databases".  An originality report will be generated but the paper itself will not be forwarded to the databases and therefore subsequent revisions will not be compared to the draft paper.

The "score" from a SafeAssign Originality Report is not a simple measure of plagiarism - you should read the report and make your own evaluation.

When a paper is processed an "Originality Report" is created.  A percentage will be generated showing how much of the submitted work overlaps with work in the existing database.  SafeAssign does not distinguish between uncited and properly cited sources however. You must read the Originality Report to learn the meaning of the percentage. Blackboard gives these rough guidelines:

  • Scores below 15 percent:  These papers may include some quotes or common phrases.  On the one had there is low probability of plagiarism, on the other hand if this is a research paper or literary critique the student may have not have included enough citations.
  • Scores between 15 and 40 percent: These papers include extensive quotation or paraphrased material.  They may include plagiarism but the Originality Report should be checked to see if sources were properly cited. 
  • Scores over 40 percent: A high probability that text in these papers was copied or paraphrased from other sources.  Again the text may be properly cited but a very high score, even if properly cited, may indicate a lack of original work or analysis by the student.

The content of this page received a score of 16% in a SafeAssign Originality Report (prior to being published on the internet). 

Best Practices:

  • Always read the full report to learn the meaning of a score and discuss problematic cases with the student.  Create the opportunity for a learning experience.
  • Do not use SafeAssign to check inherently personal content such as memoirs.
  • Include a statement in your syllabus and/or class introduction to let students know you may be using SafeAssign.
  • See below for a sample syllabus statement.

What Students should know:

Under the Federal Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA) students cannot be required to submit work which includes personally identifying information to a third party.  Students should be aware that the percentage score for a submitted work is not an "accusation" of plagiarism but that they need to check to be sure their direct quotes are properly cited and also that paraphrasing of other work is not appropriate without proper citation.  A high score may not indicate plagiarisms if content is properly cited but may indicate lack of originality. Students will always retain copyright to their work and can choose whether or not their work is submitted to a global database (external to UAS) - however unless the instructor has set up the submission as a draft it will be submitted to the institutional (UAS) database.  Short portions of their work may be anonymously quoted when an originality report is generated.

More about SafeAssign for Students

For your syllabus:

"Your instructor may ask you to submit one or more of your writing assignments to Blackboard's "SafeAssign".   The instructor also has the ability to individually check submitted work with SafeAssign.  Your submitted content will be checked against internet sources, academic journals and papers submitted by students from UAS and other institutions. SafeAssign generates an Originality Report which highlights overlapping text and can be used to detect lack of originality and/or plagiarism in the submitted work. You are not required to submit any work which includes personally identifying information other than in the name of the file submitted.  Neither UAS nor Blackboard make any claim of ownership of your work.  When submitted to the UAS or global database, short, anonymous excerpts from your work may be quoted in other student's reports."


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