• About the Writing Fellows
  • How to Make an Appointment
  • Revising Based on the Fellows’ Feedback
  • Common Writing Questions

How to read a SafeAssign report

  • APA Handouts & Tutorials
  • Critically Reading and Annotating a Text
  • From Reading to Writing: Double Entry Notebook
  • From Reading to Writing: Quotation-Comment-Question (Q-C-Q)
  • Choosing Appropriate Quotes
  • Integrating Quotes into Your Writing
  • Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
  • Decoding Your Assignment, Part 1
  • Decoding Your Assignment, Part 2
  • Understanding Assignments Worksheet
  • Creating an Outline
  • Using An Outline to Write A Paper
  • Proofreading and Revising
  • Drafts: Respond, Redraft, Revise
  • Paragraph Construction and Topic Sentences
  • Essay Structure
  • What are thesis and organizational statements?
  • Generating a Thesis
  • Thesis Statements: Working Backwards
  • Five Strategies for Writing More Clearly
  • About the Library
  • Webinars on Finding, Using and Citing Sources
  • How to use the WCOnline scheduler
  • Bring and Cite Workshops

A SafeAssign report can be kind of confusing.

Here are some tips for reading one:

How do I access and/or print my SafeAssign report?

If you’ve correctly submitted your work to a SafeAssign-enabled assignment, then after a short gap (which may be as little as a few minutes or even an hour or more at peak times), you should be able to access the report following the instructions on this link from the University of Maryland Baltimore County: As a student, how do I view a SafeAssign report?

Once you’ve viewed the report, to print it (or print to PDF) for your own reference or to show your Writing Fellow, click the print symbol at top right:

safe assign percentage

(The printed version won’t look as good or colorful as the web version.)

What does the percentage matching mean?

The percentage shows how much your writing matches other writing (sources online and in print, as well as the other students’ papers which have been submitted to SafeAssign).

Here’s a screenshot of a SafeAssign report. This screenshot shows the matching percentage of the entire text:

21 percent match in SafeAssign

This shows that in the entire paper, 21% of the text matches with source materials. (It turns out that in this case, this is entirely based on the references list, because SafeAssign didn’t flag any of the actual sources, used correctly or not.)

You need to look at each instance where there is matching in order to see whether the source was used appropriately.

Here’s what it looks like when something is flagged:

100 percent match for this item in SafeAssign

That item (highlighted in yellow) matches 100%, and it should because it’s an article title in the references list. Another student used the same article. This is not a problem.

However, 100% matching for a particular passage of text would mean that you matched a source 100%. (If you did things correctly, it’s a quote. If someone used the source inappropriately and got 100% matching, it is probably copied and pasted, which is a problem.)

Similarly, 65% matching for a passage refers to a passage where 65% of the text is the same as the source. Less than 100% may mean you paraphrased, but not well (this is sometimes referred to as “mosaic plagiarism”).

Is 0% matching or as close to 0% as possible is a “good” number?

Not necessarily.

Did you use any quotations?

If not, judicious quoting is good. You don’t want to go overboard, but never using a quotation is not necessarily a good thing.

Does 0% matching or close to 0% mean I did not plagiarize?

Sometimes SafeAssign does not flag your sources (that happened with the sample above).

Faculty often discover problems with copied and pasted in material and mosaic plagiarism in student papers that SafeAssign does not flag. It may be because that source is not included in the databases SafeAssign is working with.

Is 10-40% matching bad and does that matched material = plagiarism?

Remember, the SafeAssign reports flag material which matches someone else’s paper .

That might be:

  • What the CBB Plagiarism Resource (described below) calls “mosiac plagiarism” (phrases and sentences from the source interspersed with your own words)
  • Copied and pasted material
  • Properly or improperly listed references
  • Exact quotations

Some of those are plagiarism.

Some aren’t.

Your job is to investigate each instance, bit by bit, and figure out what type of material is being flagged, and whether you did anything wrong. That’s harder than looking at the percentage in the report, but it’s worth taking the time to do it.

Keep in mind also that SafeAssign will not match everything which is plagiarism. Many students are surprised when instructors easily find material which is copied and pasted or improperly paraphrased by searching in Google. It isn’t hard. SafeAssign is an imperfect tool, but your instructors are good at noticing things which sound like they were not written by a particular student.

Keep in mind also that as the percentage matching gets higher, there’s more likelihood you’re doing something that’s either incorrect or not ideal. For example, you may have a score of 50% because half of your paper is quotations. In such a case, you need to think about how much you’re quoting, even if you show these are quotes, and attribute the quotes properly.

If SafeAssign says something in my paper matches “another student’s paper” can I assume that’s not my problem because I did not copy another student?

Not necessarily.  SafeAssign matches other students’ work before it matches sources, if any other student has used that source.  So matching “another student’s paper” is usually a match to source material.

If you see something matched “another student’s paper,” ask yourself:

  • Did I quote properly?
  • If not, did I paraphrase thoroughly? (Note, though, that thorough paraphrasing usually won’t be flagged.)
  • Did I also attribute the source and cite it?
  • Did I say every time I used the source?

If the answers are all yes, then it is probably fine.

Still having trouble?

If you’re still confused or having trouble with using sources, recognizing mosaic plagiarism, etc., reach out to the SPS Writing Fellows, who can work with you on your use of and attribution of sources. They may save you time compared with figuring all of this out yourself.

Using sources appropriately and citing them appropriately is not easy but is one of the most important skills you need to learn to succeed in college. Plagiarism, even if it’s unintentional, can lead to zero on an assignment, failing a class, and having a report made to the college, or worse consequences. Do everything you can to avoid that by learning how to use sources appropriately now.  Learning to look at a SafeAssign report can help you improve how you’re using sources.

You can find more information from Blackboard on SafeAssign here: Assignments and SafeAssign .

Where can I learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it?

You can learn more about types of plagiarism and how to avoid them in the CBB Plagiarism Resource from Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin Colleges.  The Self-Test  from that site is used in Digital Literacy (COM 110) classes at SPS and is highly recommended once you feel you have a grasp of plagiarism.

Instructor, General Education,

Writing Fellows’ (WAC) Coordinator


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How Accurate is SafeAssign? How to Read SafeAssign Scores

How to accurate is SafeAssign. Interprete Scores

How accurate is SafeAssign

If you are a student wondering how accurate SafeAssign is in detecting plagiarism on your paper, then you are not alone. Your concern is valid as very few people know how to correctly read and interpret Blackboard’s Safeassign scores in its scan results.

In this post, we dwell on these two issues in depth. But first, let us learn what SafeAssign really is and how to use it well.

Easy navigation table

What is SafeAssign in Blackboard?

SafeAssign is a plagiarism detection software and system developed by Blackboard as a solution to help educators detect cheating and copy-pasting by students. It prevents plagiarism by detecting duplicated, similar or unoriginal content in student papers.

More importantly, Blackboard’s SafeAssign also incorporates features that help teach students about plagiarism and the importance of citing borrowed work.

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How Accurate is SafeAssign?

SafeAssign is between 92% and 97% accurate in detecting plagiarism, making it effective enough to detect copying. We tested it with 3 papers, and their similarity reports had an accuracy level of 92% and 97% compared to our pre-determined plagiarism percentage. Therefore, if you read and interpret SafeAssign scores well, its originality report is effective enough to show your plagiarism levels.

Is SafeAssign accurate

To test for its accuracy, we uploaded three papers.

Our office writer wrote all these three papers we used and were 100% original.

This is how each of the papers describes;

The first was an essay A, the second was a research paper, B, and the third was a case study report, C. All these were written specifically for the test.

To test the accuracy of SafeAssign, we copy-pasted content from the internet at the following pre-determined percentages.

Armed with our facts, our papers, and our pre-determined plagiarism score, we uploaded the three files on Blackboard’s normal student account. We submitted at different times of the day and different days of the week when the SafeAssign systems were at different usage levels.

The Results

And the results were astoundingly impressive as the system gave us similarity scores for each file that was as close as possible to the actual rates. The following table summarizes the results;

From the table, it is clear that SafeAssign accuracy for the three files was between 92% and 97%, which explains the possible level of plagiarism detection in a file.

For the essay, SafeAssign was 94.8% accurate, meaning that it detected 94.8% of the total present plagiarism. It did this by detecting that 23.70% of the essay was plagiarized, but the actual was 25% because we pasted it that way to test.

This means that SafeAssign detected that 237 out of 1000 words were copy-pasted, but the actual was 200 words out of the total 1000 words, representing 25% of the paper.

This is fairly accurate for plagiarism detection software, and it shows that SafeAssign is accurate enough.

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How effective is safeassign in detecting plagiarism.

SafeAssign works by scanning all work submitted against four databases: a global database, a campus database, an information database, and an all-content found online database.

SafeAssign uses a proprietary algorithm to detect matches to help avoid false positives for common phrases and ensure the quality of results.

SafeAssign is effective to check plagiarism

The software provides links that one can use to compare cases of plagiarism found in a submitted paper. These links include;

  • Text , where the instructor can view any paper submitted with student comments
  • Grades , where grades can be given by SafeAssign the grade book; Matching, where the instructor can see the percentage of the writer’s work matching other sources
  • SA Report , where actual SafeAssign reports can be linked by the instructor.
  • File , where the downloading of the original student-submitted file can be done.
  • Submitted , where the submission dates and times can be seen.

SafeAssign provides an originality report which contains detailed information about matches found in work submitted and the existing sources. The originality report lists the potential sources in different colours, each colour representing a different source.

The campus database is usually accumulated with students’ work making it easy to detect plagiarism from the wide range of work available.

SafeAssign also helps instructors view work that has been flagged and also removes a flag that is viewed as insubstantial.

Can SafeAssign be Wrong?

Ideally, SafeAssign cannot be wrong because it gives your instructor a similarity score to interpret. The similarity report is based on the detected similar content between the uploaded file and both its database and the online content.

Therefore, Blackboard’s SafeAssign similarity report cannot be wrong because it must be interpreted to determine if a file is plagiarised.

At the same time, SafeAssign does not guarantee 100% accuracy. The SafeAssign program does not scan the content of papers that are from outside the public domain books and scholarly journals.

Safe Assign cannot check anything from any source that has not been submitted using SafeAssign previously. This makes it not able to detect any cases of plagiarism in such texts.

SafeAssign cannot check against sources behind proprietary authentication mechanisms. These are sources that are not available publicly. This makes the detection of matching results difficult.

The use of a proprietary algorithm to weigh potential matches in SafeAssign can mean that instructors may consider matches below the SafeAssign confidence threshold that the instructor can perceive as a false negative.

SafeAssign finds the best matches from any online source or its database, not just any specific source.

SafeAssign can fail to check matches from an instructor’s expected source and, therefore, can return a different report from what the instructor expects.

NOTE: The fact that SafeAssign cannot be wrong should not be confused with having a false positive. To get the difference, we hereby explain the issue of false-positive below;

Can SafeAssign give a false positive?

a safe assign score

Yes, SafeAssign can sometimes give a false positive, but it should not be a cause for alarm if you did not plagiarize. The system can return false positives because it hardly differentiates cited and uncited work.

False positives include not flagging plagiarized work and flagging work that is quality and appropriate as plagiarized.

Yes. Just like any other program or algorithm, SafeAssign is prone to giving false positives and false negatives.

What this means is that SafeAssign can indicate that your paper has plagiarism while, in actuality, it does not have.

This is what is referred to as a false positive. It also means that SafeAssign can indicate the absence of plagiarism while in reality, there is. This is called a false negative.

Blackboard updates and tips reveal that false negatives and positives result from the inherent limitation SafeAssign has to public data for comparison.

This means that SafeAssign cannot check works that have not been previously submitted through it. Also, it cannot check primary sources that have not yet been released to the public.

How to Read SafeAssign Scores and Interpret it Report

A SafeAssign score is a score that represents the probability that the submitted paper contains matches existing in other sources. Let us first understand what a SafeAssign score is.

What is a SafeAssign score?

A SafeAssign score is a mark that indicates the probability of a paper that was submitted by a writer containing texts that match existing sources in the SafeAssign database.

This score is only a warning indicator and does not mean a writer plagiarized. This is because SafeAssign may list well-cited and paraphrased work as plagiarized work.

Therefore, this makes it crucial for instructors and concerned writers to review papers submitted to determine whether the matches are properly attributed.

Reviewing the papers helps come up with a more appropriate decision on plagiarism. In fact, reviewing a paper allows you to use other SafeAssign alternatives to check for plagiarism before submitting your paper .

What is a SafeAssign Originality Report

How SafeAssign Originality report looks like

A SafeAssign Originality Report is a report that is produced when a student submits a paper, it is processed by SafeAssign to show the level of original content and plagiarized one.

The report is provided to both the student and the instructor.

This report details the paper’s plagiarism percentage in terms of the text within the paper that matches the sources from the database and those from the paper.

Since SafeAssign shows all text blocks that match, it is imperative for both students and instructors to carefully go through the report to determine if the block of text has been credited correctly.

How to Interpret Different SafeAssign Plagiarism Scores

To understand what is a good safe-assign score, one needs to know how to read a SafeAssign score and interpret it well.

You will have to know which score is good, which is bad, and which is acceptable.

The originality report provides the percentage of the content in your paper that matches other works.

In order to know this, you need to understand the three threshold levels of the plagiarism scanner. Blackboard’s SafeAssign scores can be low, medium, or high.

1. Low SafeAssign plagiarism score

These are scores below 15 per cent. These papers contain some quotes and very few common phrases or texts that can be identified in other documents.

Scores below 15% : Such scores indicate that your paper contains a few common phrases, some quotes, or some texts that match other works. Papers with such scores do not require further analysis.

2. Medium SafeAssign Plagiarism level

Scores between 15% and 40% : Such scores indicate that your paper contains extensive material that has been paraphrased or quoted. This may indicate plagiarism.

This is depending on the similarities detected. Let’s explore each of them.

These are scores between 15 percent and 40 percent. Plagiarism is present in these texts because they contain much-quoted material and extensive paraphrased material.

How to read SafeAssign report and interpret score levels

While some universities may accept this level, it requires further interpretation by the instructors.

Papers with scores between 15 and 40% show significant matching content that could be copied work or necessary external content.

Therefore, such content attracts the attention of your school or the professor. This is because these papers must be reviewed to determine if the matching text is referenced properly.

3. High SafeAssign Plagiarism score

Scores above 40% : In such papers, there is an extremely high probability that the material has been copied from other works. There is extreme usage of paraphrased or quoted text.

These are scores that are over 40%. These represent a high probability that the paper you submitted work copied from a source in the SafeAssign database or available online.

The Unacceptable SafeAssign Plagiarism is the one that lies beyond 40%. It is unacceptable because it shows that a paper contains extensive and excessive content from the matching content. This is the content that you either paraphrased quote. These kinds of papers need to be reviewed for plagiarism.

How to check your SafeAssign Originality Report

You can access the processed SafeAsign report on the grade assessment page. You can access this page from the Grade Center:

  • At the GradeCentre, locate the assignment you enabled SafeAssign.
  • Select the attempt on the cell’s menu. On the grading assignment page, in the grading bar, a SafeAssign section appears. When the report is ready for view a percentage appears in the grading sidebar. 
  • One can then proceed to view the originality report by expanding the SafeAssign link and selecting View Originality Report.

What is a good percentage for SafeAssign?

A good SafeAssign percentage is the one that is below 15. This means that there are few cases of matching text in your submitted work. Such a score is regarded as a good similarity score because it lies within the low plagiarism levels of 0 and 15, showing your work is original.

What is a good percentage for SafeAssign

At this level, the original content of your writing is above 75% of your paper, which indicates a huge chunk of your work.

The remaining percentage is attributed to sources and references that are necessary for giving evidence to back your arguments.

SafeAssign considers well quoted and paraphrased work as matching text and it is, therefore, the responsibility of the writers and the instructors to review the work to solve such cases.

What is a bad SafeAssign score?

A bad Safe assign score is any similarity score of 40 percent and above. This level is regarded as bad because it indicates that the submitted work has a greater percentage of it copied from online sources of already in SafeAssign’s database. It also shows that your original work is low and cannot be explained by references.

The worst similarity level beyond 40% is the one that matches with files or content already in the database.

That level shows a high probability that you copied a lot of content from somewhere, either online or past papers. You can read our guide on how to outsmart SafeAssign and learn ways to avoid such high plagiarism levels.

This work includes too much directly quoted text and excess paraphrased work. Therefore, the instructors for the course should review the paper and the report to check for plagiarism.

What is the acceptable percentage for SafeAssign?

Ideally, there is no single globally acceptable SafeAssign percentage because each university has its own plagiarism policies. However, the widely accepted score is 15% and below. The percentage varies from an institution to another, and there is no universally specified level.

The score range is widely accepted because papers with such plagiarism levels do not require any further analysis because there is no presence of plagiarism.

It should also be noted that the accepted SafeAssign score lies within the Low plagiarism level according to the university’s plagiarism policies.

What does it mean by SafeAssign percentage?

Every scanned paper has a score for its report. This brings two questions to mind; What does a SafeAssign score of 100 mean? What does that of 0 mean?

safe assign percentage

A score of 0% indicates that your paper’s content is your own, while 100% means that the paper is extremely plagiarized.

SafeAssign percentage presents the extent of similarity probability between the texts on the database and texts on the submitted work.

This means that they have the same meaning. For example, a score of 70 per cent means that there is a 70 per cent probability of similarity between the submitted and the work on the SafeAssign database.

This also means there is a 30 per cent probability that the submitted and the database work is similar by chance. This is because the existing source content is in the submitted paper, whether appropriately attributed or not.

What a 100% match on SafeAssign score means

A 100 per cent match in a text or passage means that the text matches a source on the database 100 per cent. There is a high probability that the writer copied and pasted the work directly.

There is no problem when the well-cited statements match is 100 per cent. Titles also may have a 100 per cent match because other contents on the database may have the same title. This is also not a problem.

Based on our tests on the papers we uploaded and the information from the site’s website, we can conclude that SafeAssign is an accurate plagiarism scanner.

The software produces a good and reliable originality report that shows the score based on the similarity of the uploaded work with the files in its database and online sources.

To effectively understand the report, you have to know how to read and interpret the SafeAssign scores so as to know what level of plagiarism the report shows. This way, you will get the best out of the scanner by Blackboard.

This makes SafeAssign an effective tool to detect and prevent plagiarism in educational institutions, especially colleges and universities or any other institution of higher learning.

Watch a further guide on how to read the scores

YouTube video

Jessica Kasen is experienced in academic writing and academic assistance. She is well versed in academia and has a master’s degree in education. Kasen consults with us in helping students improve their grades. She also oversights the quality of work done by our writers.

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  • Teaching and Learning with Blackboard
  • Assessment Tools

SafeAssign is a plagiarism prevention tool that detects unoriginal content in students' papers by identifying areas of overlap between submitted assignments and existing works. SafeAssign can also be used to help students identify how to properly attribute sources rather than paraphrase without giving credit to the original source. The SafeAssign feature is effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool.

Note: Delays in SafeAssign occur throughout the semester based on high demand. Please DO NOT have students resubmit papers as this pushes them to the back of the queue. Blackboard currently reports as much as 24-36 hours or more may elapse before report results are returned.

How SafeAssign Works

Enabling safeassign.

  • SafeAssign Assessment Reports

Interpreting SafeAssign Scores

The SafeAssign feature is based on a unique text matching algorithm capable of detecting both exact and inexact matches between a submitted paper and a particular source material. Assignments submitted to the SafeAssign database are compared with several different databases, including the following:

  • Internet: Comprehensive index of documents available for public access on the Internet
  • ProQuest ABI/Inform database: More than 1,100 publication titles and about 2.6 million articles from 1990's to present time, updated weekly (exclusive access)
  • Institutional document archives: Contains all papers submitted to SafeAssign by users in their respective institutions
  • Global Reference Database: Contains papers that were volunteered by students from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism

Assignments accept every possible file type as an attachment to a submission. SafeAssign will only process and create Originality Reports for attachments with compatible file types. SafeAssign is only able to support file types that are convertible to plain text including the following file types: .docx; .doc; .pdf; .txt; .odt; .rtf; .html; .htm; and .zip (processing files that match any of these file types within the .zip). However, Learn Assignment's Inline Grading feature only supports the following subset of file types: .pptx; .ppt; .xlsx; .xls; .docx; .doc; and .pdf. SafeAssign will only process and create Originality Reports for attachments that match the above file types. For unsupported file types, the SafeAssign Originality Report will omit a matching score. This information is visible in the right-hand navigation bar of the new Originality Report.

These two lists of compatible file types mean that there are only certain file types that can be displayed in the Inline Grading workflow and processed by SafeAssign. Below is a Venn diagram outlining which file types support both features:

Diagram of compatible file types for inline grading and SafeAssign

  • Original Course View
  • Ultra Course View
  • Tutorials and Guides

Enabling SafeAssign in Original Course View

Screenshot highlighting how to enable SafeAssign within an Assignment

Enable the SafeAssign tool during Assignment creation and editing, under the Submission Details section.

Faculty have the option to Exclude Submissions when creating an Assignment. This option will allow faculty to create Assignments that do not include any student submissions in the Institutional or Global Reference Databases, enabling students to "check their work" against SafeAssign sources prior to submitting a final version without subsequently revised drafts being flagged as matching the previous "draft" submissions. Like other options on Assignments, this option will be point-in-time and editable after assignment creation. If the option were changed at a later date, new submissions would honor the new state of the setting.

Enabling SafeAssign in Ultra Course View

Enable SafeAssign in the settings panel while creating an Assignment or a Test.

  • Open Assignment Settings or Test Settings in a new or existing assessment.
  • Under SafeAssign , select Enable Originality Report .
  • When you enable SafeAssign for the assessment, you can also allow students to view the Originality Report. If you allow multiple attempts, an Originality Report is generated for each attempt a student submits.
  • Choose whether to exclude submissions from the institutional and Global Reference Databases.
  • Close the layer. Your changes are saved!

You can enable the SafeAssign Originality Report at any time, even after students have started their submissions, but submissions are only checked when SafeAssign is enabled. Submissions received before you enable the setting aren't checked with SafeAssign.

SafeAssign Doesn't Generate a Report when Filename Has Special Characters

Please note that assignment submissions with special characters (i.e., #,:,*,space, etc.) are not evaluated by SafeAssign and will not generate a report.

It is recommended that users only include numbers, letters, hyphens, and underscores in their filenames. In cases where student users have already made a submission, change the assignment setting to allow multiple submissions and then ask them to resubmit the document after making the appropriate filename change.

  • SafeAssign Originality Reports

After a paper has been processed, an Originality Report will be available that will show the percentage of text in the submitted paper that matches existing sources. It also shows the suspected sources of each section of the submitted paper that returns a match. The faculty can then delete matching sources from the report and process it again. This procedure is useful to ascertain if the paper is a continuation of a previously submitted work by the same student.

Because the SafeAssign feature identifies all matching blocks of text, it is important that the faculty reads the report carefully and determines whether or not the block of text in question is properly attributed.

Click here for more details about the Originality Report

The sentence matching scores represent the percentage probability that two phrases have the same meaning. This number can also be interpreted as the reciprocal to the probability that these two phrases are similar by chance. For example, a score of 90 percent means that there is a 90 percent probability that these two phrases are the same and a 10 percent probability that they are similar by chance and not because the submitted paper includes content from the existing source (whether or not it is appropriately attributed).

The overall score is an indicator of what percentage of the submitted paper matches existing sources. Please note that this score is a warning indicator only and it is the faculty’s responsibility to review the papers carefully to see if the matches are properly attributed.

  • Scores below 15 percent: These papers typically include some quotes and few common phrases or blocks of text that match other documents. These papers typically do not require further analysis, as there is no evidence of the possibility of plagiarism in these papers.
  • Scores between 15 percent and 40 percent: These papers include extensive quoted or paraphrased material or they may include plagiarism. These papers should be reviewed to determine if the matching content is properly attributed.
  • Scores over 40 percent: There is a very high probability that text in this paper was copied from other sources. These papers include quoted or paraphrased text in excess and should be reviewed for plagiarism.

Frequently Asked Questions

SafeAssign can be used in two ways.

  • Faculty Members can set up SafeAssignments in their courses on Blackboard and let students submit papers to complete these assignments, in a way very similar to the Assignmnent tool provided by Blackboard Learning System. The papers will then be delivered to Faculty Members through the Blackboard Learning System together with the SafeAssign Originality Reports, which details the results of the matching process.
  • Faculty Members may upload papers directly, without student involvement through the Direct Submit feature.

What information does SafeAssign provide in its reports? A SafeAssign Originality Report highlights any blocks of text in submitted documents that match reference sources, and links back to the matching documents on the Internet or in supported content databases. SafeAssign reports also show similarity ratings for each matching sentence and allow Faculty Members to view a line-by-line comparison of potentially unoriginal text from submitted papers and the matching external documents.

If intructors enable student viewing, each student can view the reports for their own submitted papers.

SafeAssign currently checks all submitted papers against the following databases:

  • Internet - comprehensive index of billions of documents available for public access on the Internet;
  • ProQuest ABI/Inform database with over 1,100 publication titles and about 2.6 million articles from '90s to present time, updated weekly (exclusive access);
  • Institutional document archives containing all papers submitted to SafeAssign by users in their respective institutions;
  • Global Reference Database containing papers that were volunteered by students from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism.

What is the Institutional Database? The Institutional Database is the archive of papers submitted by students in your institution. Each institution's Institutional Database is stored in the central SafeAssign service and kept separate from other institution's databases. Papers are automatically added to this database upon submission and are stored in the central service to be checked against other papers submitted from your institution. The Institutional Database is completely separate from the Global Reference Database which extends across institutions and students must volunteer their papers to.

Can SafeAssign process papers written in languages other than English? SafeAssign can generate originality reports for papers written in all alphabet-based languages with left-to-right writing. The user interface is currently only available in English.

Who owns the intellectual property rights for each submitted paper? Blackboard does not claim any ownership rights on the content submitted to SafeAssign.

How long does it take to generate originality reports? Reports are not generated instantaneously - it usually takes from several seconds to few minutes to receive a report. During peak use (such as the end of the semester), it can sometimes take several hours.

What file formats does SafeAssign support? SafeAssign supports Word (.doc or .docx), plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), .pdf, and .html formats. In addition, supported file types can be compressed to a .zip file for Direct Submit.

What is the file size limit for files submitted to SafeAssign? There is a 10 MB limit on all files submitted to SafeAssign. This applies to individual student uploads to Assignments with SafeAssign enabled as well as .zip files of multiple papers uploaded by faculty using the Direct Submit feature (in which case the .zip file must be under 10 MB). Unfortunately, this limit is set by the SafeAssign servers, which are managed by Blackboard, so it cannot be overridden.

How does the Global Reference Database work? Blackboard's Global Reference Database is a separate database where students voluntarily donate copies of their papers to help prevent plagiarism. It is separated from each institution's internal database, where all papers are stored by each corresponding institution, and students are free to select the option to check their papers without submitting them to the Global Reference Database.

What if a student decides to remove a paper from the Global Reference Database? Students submit their papers to the database voluntarily and agree not to remove papers in the future.

Are students forced to submit papers to the Global Reference Database either by Blackboard or NIU? All papers are submitted to the Global Reference Database voluntarily, and students are free to choose not to submit their papers to this database. Faculty Members can still use the service effectively, even when students choose not to submit their papers to the Global Reference Database.

What is the SafeAssign "Synchronize this Course" option that appears in the "Direct Submit" area? The synchronize function is to deal with breaks in communication or to update a course which is based on a template or has been copied. It is a good idea for the faculty member to click on this when first using SafeAssign and to periodically update it or update if any course level issues arise. It simply synchronizes the papers in the course with the SafeAssign central database, ensuring the correct associations exist between the course and our central database.

Can students directly submit a draft assignment to check without having it deployed as a SafeAssignment via the instructor or having it be tied to the Grade Center in Blackboard? There is the option to make an assignment a draft. In this case, as mentioned above, the paper is not checked into the institutional database.

Why did SafeAssignment scores in the Grade Center get deleted after the students submitted their assignments? Make sure to enter SafeAssignment scores in the Grade Center after the students submit their assignments. Scores assigned prior to SafeAssignment submission are deleted when students submit their assignments. If paper assignments are collected together with a Blackboard SafeAssign feature, make sure to enter student grades after they have submitted their assignments electronically through SafeAssign.

It is possible to download all of the files that the students submitted to a SafeAssignment. This does not include the originality reports. Those must be viewed within Blackboard directly.

To download all of the submitted files:

  • From the course with the SafeAssignment, open Course Tools in the Control Panel
  • Click SafeAssign
  • On the next page, choose SafeAssignments
  • Move your mouse cursor over the SafeAssignment you are interested in. When the Action Link appears, click it and choose View Submissions from the menu
  • Click the Download All Submissions button at the top of the page

Your browser will download a .zip folder that has all of the submissions. You can open the folder or extract the files to read the individual submissions.

If you get this error and you are logged into Blackboard, it means that the security or privacy settings of your web browser are set to not allow 3rd-party cookies. You will need to change that setting to be able to use SafeAssign.

For Internet Explorer:

  • Click Tools
  • Click Internet Options
  • Click Privacy
  • Set the setting to Low

For Firefox:

  • Click Options
  • Select Accept cookies from site
  • Select Accept third-party cookies
  • Change Keep until to they expire

For Safari:

  • Click Safari
  • Click Preferences
  • Click Security
  • Change Accept cookies to Always

If you or your students receive this error, you will need to re-synchronize your course. To do so:

  • Underneath the  Control Panel , expand the  Course Tools menu.
  • Click  SafeAssign .
  • On the following page, click  SafeAssign Items .
  • On the  SafeAssign Items page, click the  Synchronize this course button.
  • You may briefly see a message telling you it will take a moment to synchronize. Your student(s) should now be able to access the Assignment.
  • How to Use SafeAssign in Assignments Original
  • How to Use SafeAssign in Assignments Ultra

Quick Guides

  • Using SafeAssign in Assignments
  • SafeAssign Originality Report
  • Using DirectSubmit Original
  • Grading with SafeAssign

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Technical Support and Student Help

815-753-8100 [email protected]

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815-753-0595 [email protected]

Interpreting Blackboard SafeAssign Reports

Matching passages.

On the display of a SafeAssign Report, passages of text that are highlighted match, or very closely resemble, texts in other sources. Clicking a highlighted passage brings up a comparison of the two documents, with a statistical measure of how closely the passages match (by words). Clicking on the source's link displays that entire document, if it is publicly available.

Overall matching score

The SafeAssign "percentage" does not reflect the percent of the document that is marked as possibly from another source. It represents   the probability that the submitted file contains copied content from other sources.   Here is Blackboard's explanation of the statistic:

The overall SafeAssign score indicates the probability that the submitted paper contains matches to existing sources. This score is a warning indicator only. Review papers to see if the matches are properly attributed.

  • Scores below 15 percent : These papers typically include some quotes and few common phrases or blocks of text that match other documents. Typically, these papers do not require further analysis as there is no evidence of plagiarism.
  • Scores between 15 percent and 40 percent : These papers include extensive quoted or paraphrased material, or they include plagiarism. Review these papers to determine if the matching text is properly referenced.
  • Scores over 40 percent : A very high probability exists that text in these papers was copied from other sources. These papers include quoted or paraphrased text that may be excessive, and need to be reviewed for plagiarism.

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Interpreting the SafeAssign Report

Important - please note.

Due to variations between disciplines at UWE, there is an expectation that the software would be used sensitively in relation to different subjects and forms of assessment. Care needs to be taken with the output from SafeAssign as the ‘percentage’ result can mean different things in different contexts.

It would be up to each instructor to judge whether the context and degree any matching shown in the reports is considered acceptable, and that which would be considered as plagiarism. For example, scientific and mathematical subjects are likely to have a different level of matching than English language. Our advice would be that instructors need to use the results from SafeAssign as one of a number of criteria to inform academic judgement as to whether an assessment offence had been committed, and would then undertake the normal route to remedy.

Although a result of 0% would generally be an indication that the work has not been plagiarised, this is not always the case.

Unfortunately no single technical solution for plagiarism detection exists, and tools like SafeAssign and TurnItIn cannot detect everything. They are intended to provide indicative results to assist academic judgement rather than replace it. The results output by these tools depend heavily on interpretation (which is often contextual and discipline-specific), and we recommend that further investigation be undertaken where a result is suggestive.

The SafeAssign Report

The SafeAssign report provides extensive information to help you determine whether students are appropriately citing the works used in their papers.

A SafeAssign originality report is divided into three areas: Report information; Citations and Manuscript text.

  • Report Information

Manuscript text

  • Printable view - print as pdf to download / share
  • Collapse right hand Report Information and Citations panel to have more room for viewing the text

The sources which include text that matches the submitted paper’s text are listed in the right panel of the report.

  • To exclude an identified source click on Select Sources and Resubmit where you can untick resources. Selecting the Submit button will then resubmit excluding what you have unticked. This will process the paper again and generate a new value for the percent matching without using the excluded sources.
  • You can remove the highlighting from all the identified sources by clicking on the top highlight icon, or just remove highlighting from specific sources by clicking on the highlight option to the right of the source.

The submitted paper appears in the left hand panel. All matching blocks of text are identified. Each source has a colour specific to the source — up to 30 unique colours for 30 different sources. Text matching a source is highlighted in the source colour and identified with a number. As described in the Citations section, you can choose to show / hide all highlighting or just for specific sources.

To view further information, click on the highlighted section and a pop up will appear showing the percentage match with the source text and the source text itself.

Interpreting the Overall SafeAssign Score

The overall SafeAssign score indicates the percentage of the submitted paper that matches existing sources. This score is a warning indicator only, and papers must be reviewed to see if the matches are properly attributed. You can use the following guidelines to determine which scores need your investigation.

  • Scores below 15 percent: These papers typically include some quotes and few common phrases or blocks of text matching other documents and may not require further analysis.
  • Scores between 15 percent and 40 percent: These papers include extensive quoted or paraphrased material or they may include plagiarism. These papers must be reviewed to determine if the matching content is properly cited.
  • Scores over 40 percent: There is a very high probability that text in this paper was copied from other sources. These papers include quoted or paraphrased text in excess and must be reviewed for plagiarism.

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