SafeAssign can be used within Blackboard to check student essays for originality and/or plagiarism. SafeAssign compares each submission against websites and a database of student papers, identifying passages that exactly match or closely match. Each submission receives a percentage score, indicating how much of the paper is likely to have come from such sources.
Importantly, the numerical score can be used to choose which papers to examine more closely for plagiarism, but does NOT directly indicate whether or not plagiarism has occurred. Papers receiving higher SafeAssign scores need to be reviewed by the instructor or grader to determine whether or not identified quotations or paraphrases are properly formatted and sourced.
Blackboard's documentation indicates that papers with a SafeAssign score of under 15% are unlikely to contain much in the way of plagiarism, while papers receiving scored of 40% or higher often do contain plagiarism. However, the nature of a specific assignment might alter the likely cutoff values. For example, short papers with longer bibliographies will tend to score higher, because the titles of books and journals will often match text in other students' papers.
When an assignment is created, the instructor can specify whether or not submissions are to be checked by SafeAssign, whether or not students can see the originality report generated by SafeAssign, and whether or not the submission becomes part of SafeAssign's database of student papers. These options can be found under "Submission Details" while creating or editing an assignment. That portion of the screen looks like this:
NOTE: If SafeAssign is enabled, the processing of a submission by SafeAssign is automatic and usually rapid. Near the end of a semester, when many submissions at many institutions are being checked at the same time, it is possible for processing to take several hours. Backlogs of up to 36 hours have occurred, but are rare.
Once processed, the SafeAssign results are visible while grading a submission. The screen will show the SafeAssign score, and a link to the detailed SafeAssign report. Here, the link to the SafeAssign report is circled in green and the SafeAssign score is circled in red, on a portion of the screen used to grade a student's submission:
The SafeAssign Originality report looks like the following image, which comes from Blackboard's documentation:
Potential matches are identified by number, and sources by color-coded highlighting. Clicking on a a highlighted section will bring up the details of both the student's submission and the potentially matching source:
SafeAssign can process files in Microsoft Word (.doc/.docx) and Adobe PDF (.pdf) formats. SafeAssign and the grading process will work more smoothly if students clearly understand that they can submit work only in these files formats. Less common formats also processable by SafeAssign include Rich Text Format (.rft), Open Office Text (.odt), and text typed or pasted into the submission screen by the student. Formats other than those listed here will not be processed by SafeAssign.