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SafeAssign Basics for Administrators

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SafeAssign is a tool used to prevent plagiarism and to create opportunities to help students identify how to properly attribute sources rather than paraphrase. SafeAssign is effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool.

SafeAssign compares submitted assignments against a set of sources to identify areas of overlap between the submitted assignment and existing works.

SafeAssign in Action

SafeAssign is based on a unique text-matching algorithm capable of detecting exact and inexact matching between a submitted paper and source material. This proprietary algorithm analyzes submission text and optimizes the words and terms to be searched against multiple data sources. Results returned from each service are further processed based on both the weight returned by the search service and comparative weighting by the SafeAssign algorithm, which determines the result set to be returned in the originality report.

Student submissions to SafeAssign are compared against several sources:

  • Institutional document archives: Contains all papers submitted to SafeAssign by users in their respective institutions.
  • Global Reference Database: Contains over 15 million papers volunteered by students from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism.
  • ProQuest ABI/Inform database: More than 1,100 publication titles and about 2.6 million articles from the 1990s to present time, updated weekly.
  • Internet: SafeAssign uses an internally-developed proprietary search service to provide results from the broader Internet.

Global Reference Database

The SafeAssign Global Reference Database is a separate database where students voluntarily submit copies of their papers to help prevent plagiarism. It is separate from each institution’s internal database, where all papers are stored by each corresponding institution. Students are free to select the option to check their papers without submitting them to the global reference database. Students are not required to submit papers to this database. They submit their papers voluntarily and agree not to delete papers in the future. Blackboard does not claim ownership of submitted papers.

Internet Search

The Internet search service is built using the latest search crawling and indexing technologies and allows Blackboard to significantly reduce dependency and exposure to third-party tools.  Because the search service is now administered internally, Blackboard has the ability to enhance and refine search results over time and improve the overall SafeAssign product quality and performance.  Additionally, any potential concern of client data being shared with Blackboard partners is entirely mitigated using this new approach to providing search results from the Internet. 

Because of the ever-changing nature of the Internet, there may be occasions when the SafeAssign internal search service does not yet include specific web pages or web sites and, as a consequence, the SafeAssign Originality Reports may not identify potentially matching text within student works.  When these situations arise, Blackboard will investigate the source web content and if possible add the content to the SafeAssign internal search service for future submissions. 

Results returned in a SafeAssign Originality Report may not be identical to results returned by a consumer internet search service (such as 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 Originality Reports

After a paper is processed, a report is generated detailing the percentage of text in the submitted paper that matches existing sources. The report also shows the suspected sources of each section of the submitted paper that returns a match. Instructors can delete matching sources from the report and process it again. This is useful if the paper is a continuation of a previously submitted work by the same student.