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What is SafeAssign and how does it work?

SafeAssign is a plagiarism prevention service offered by Blackboard. SafeAssign is a useful tool in educating students about plagiarism and the importance of proper citation for borrowed content. 

Papers submitted to SafeAssign are compared against several databases to identify areas of overlap between the submission and existing works. In Blackboard, you can use SafeAssign in two ways.

  • SafeAssign in Assignments

SafeAssign is integrated into regular Blackboard Assignments so almost all of the regular assignment features are available with the SafeAssign service.

Students submit papers to an Assignment with SafeAssign plagiarism checking enabled. The papers are then checked against the SafeAssign databases and delivered, along with a corresponding Originality Report, to instructors in Blackboard. Instructors can choose to make these reports viewable to students. Learn more about using SafeAssign in Assignments.

  • SafeAssign Direct Submit

Instructors and TAs may also choose to check papers without student involvement using SafeAssign Direct Submit. Upload one file at a time or a .zip file with many papers and view the matching report, which is not shared with students. Learn more about using SafeAssign Direct Submit.

How do I enable SafeAssign for an Assignment?

SafeAssign is integrated into Blackboard Assignments.

  1. Navigate to any Content Area (i.e., a course menu item like Assignments, Tests, etc).
  2. Click Assessments and choose Assignment.
  3. On the Create Assignment page, expand Submission Details.
  4. Select Check submissions for plagiarism using SafeAssign.
  5. Optionally, select one or both options:
    • Allow students to view the SafeAssign originality reports on their submissions.
    • Exclude all student submissions for this assignment from the Institutional or Global References Databases.
  6. Complete the Create Assignment page.
  7. Click Submit.

Learn more about using SafeAssign in Blackboard.

Additional Resources:

Where can I get support?

If you have additional questions about SafeAssign, contact the Instructional Technology Lab. Staff is available during open lab hours or by appointment.

Submitting to SafeAssign

What types of files can be submitted through SafeAssign?

SafeAssign only supports file types that are convertible to plain text such as DOCX, DOC, PPT, PPTX, PDF, TXT, ODT, RTF, HTML, and HTM. Spreadsheet files are not supported.

Before submitting to SafeAssign be sure to remove any special characters (“, #, @, %, &, etc.) or spaces from the file name.

Learn more about using SafeAssign in Blackboard.

Is there a size limit for submitted files?

Yes. SafeAssign can only process submitted files smaller than 10MB.

Can I allow multiple attempts for assignments that use SafeAssign?

Yes. If more than one attempt is allowed, the report includes attachments for all attempts. Additionally, SafeAssign recognizes each new attempt as originating from the same student for the same assignment, so it doesn't check the new attempt against content in previous attempts.

Can I download all student Assignment submissions at one time?

Yes, however, SafeAssign Reports are not included with the downloaded files. Reports must be viewed in Blackboard.

  1. Go to the Full Grade Center and find the Assignment column.
  2. Click the arrow next to the column title and select Assignment File Download.
  3. Select the checkboxes next to each student’s name.
  4. Click Submit. The documents can then be downloaded to your computer in a .zip file.

Learn more about downloading Blackboard Assignment submissions.

Can I submit papers to SafeAssign without student involvement?

Instructors can submit files through DirectSubmit to generate SafeAssign reports on papers not uploaded to an Assignment.

  1. Go to the Control Panel of your course.
  2. Click Course Tools and select SafeAssign.
  3. Click Direct Submit.
  4. Click Submit a Paper and upload the file(s).

Learn more about using SafeAssign's Direct Submit feature.

Why did a student receive an error when submitting?

Cookies must be enabled in the browser before submitting to SafeAssign. If they are not, students will receive an error indicating they are not logged in, the session has timed out, or do not have appropriate privileges.

Users experiencing issues should follow the instructions linked below to enable third-party cookies in their browser.

If a student still can’t submit, instruct students to remove all special characters (“, #, @, %, &, etc.) and spaces from the file name before submitting.

Contact the Instructional Technology Lab for additional assistance.

SafeAssign Reference Databases

What databases does SafeAssign currently use for plagiarism checking?
  • A comprehensive index of documents publicly available on the Internet.
  • ProQuest and ABI/Inform databases.
  • Institutional document archives containing all papers submitted by users at GW.

Learn more about how SafeAssign works.

What is the Institutional Database?

This is the archive of papers submitted by students in your institution. Papers are automatically added to this database upon submission, stored, and used to check against other papers submitted from that institution.

Each institution's Institutional Database is kept separate from that of other institutions. It is also completely separate from the Global Reference Databases, which extends across institutions and to which students must volunteer their papers.

Can I receive an Originality Report without submitting a paper to the Institutional Database?

Yes, when creating a SafeAssignment you can choose to Exclude submissions from the Institutional and Global References Databases in the Submission Details section. In this case, the paper is not submitted to the Institutional Database, but a SafeAssign Originality Report is still generated.

SafeAssign Reports

How long does SafeAssign take to generate a report?

The SafeAssign service is run and hosted by Blackboard. Typically, the service returns SafeAssign reports within a few minutes, but during busy periods it may take several hours for reports to appear in Blackboard.

What information does SafeAssign provide in its reports?
  • Overall matching percentage and specific text that matches reference sources.
  • Line-by-line comparison of the potentially unoriginal text with the matching external documents.
  • Similarity ratings for each matching sentence.

SafeAssign may include correctly cited quotations and information in the report if they are found in previously submitted papers. Therefore, instructors should carefully check each report to determine if the matches are properly cited and if plagiarism has occurred.

It is key to remember that SafeAssign is an informative tool that does not replace instructor experience and discernment. It is the instructor who will determine if plagiarism has occurred and which next steps are required.

Learn more about the SafeAssign Originality Report.

Is SafeAssign ever wrong?

SafeAssign does not state whether a paper is plagiarized, but only identifies content in a paper that matches content from another source. It is up to the instructor and ultimately the academic department to determine if plagiarism has occurred.

Can students view reports?

When instructors create an assignment and choose to use SafeAssign, they can determine if students can view the report for their submitted paper.

After enabling SafeAssign for an Assignment, select the option Allow students to view SafeAssign originality report for their attempts.

Learn more about using SafeAssign in Blackboard.

Contact the Instructional Technology Lab (ITL)

The Instructional Technology Lab team is available to assist faculty and teaching assistants using Blackboard through one-on-one consultations and workshops.

PHONE: (202) 994-0485 
LOCATION: Gelman Library, lower level