From what I have seen TurnItIn.com is useless when it comes to detecting plagiarism in engineering theses and dissertations.
Today, I want to show you another case of plagiarism that was missed by TurnItIn.com when Ohio University checked all of the theses and dissertations approved by Drs. Gunasekera and Mehta.
In November 2002, five Ohio University professors collectively approved the doctoral dissertation submitted by Padmasiri Vipul Ranatunga. Later in 2006, after Ohio University finally acknowledged a severe plagiarism problem, they used TurnItIn.com to recheck Dr. Ranatunga's dissertation. After the second check, the dissertation was cleared and recataloged in the university library. However, when I checked the dissertation, I found page after page of verbatim plagiarism. I have highlighted the plagiarism here. As you can see, Dr. Ranatunga copied copiously from at least three different sources. Two of the sources can be seen here and here. The third source is a book that I did not take the time to go scan and post.
Notice that Dr. Ranatunga acknowledges five professors for serving on his dissertation committee. The approving professors are: Dr. Gunasekera, Dr. Pasic, Dr. Mehta, Dr. Sormaz, and Dr. Gulino. Except for Dr. Sormaz, I have seen the other four professors' names numerous times as committee members for cheating students. There is no doubt in my mind that the professors did not care that the doctoral student submitted copied material.
It is worth noting that Dr. Ranatunga also plagiarized in his 1999 master's thesis (also approved by Dr. Gunasekera). When interviewed by Paula Wasley in 2006, Dr. Ranatunga stated that he intended to challenge those plagiarism allegations. Evidently, he changed his mind as his thesis re-write has been re-cataloged in the Ohio University library. He is probably now working on re-writing his doctoral dissertation.
I find it remarkable that Dr. Ranatunga told Pauly Wasley that the copying in his thesis "is not plagiarism," and when interviewed by Robert Tomsho of The Wall Street Journal, he said "we had no idea of what to put on a thesis when we took material from someone else’s work." These comments certainly explain things: Ohio University has been awarding advanced graduate degrees to individuals who have no idea what it means to write and publish a thesis or dissertation. What's even worse is that (like other Ohio University graduates) Dr. Ranatunga is now a tenured professor himself. How nice it is for Ohio University to confer a doctoral degree in 2002 and then allow the student to actually do the work seven years later. What a joke.