This information applies only to the Ultra Course View.

SafeAssign compares submitted tests against a set of academic papers to identify areas of overlap between the submitted test and existing works.

SafeAssign is effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool. Use SafeAssign to review test submissions for originality and create opportunities to help students identify how to properly attribute sources rather than paraphrase.

SafeAssign is based on a unique text matching algorithm capable of detecting exact and inexact matching between a paper and source material. Submissions are compared against several databases:

  • 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 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-institution plagiarism.

Use SafeAssign in your tests

You can use SafeAssign to check for potential plagiarism in student submissions.

  1. Open Test Settings in a new or existing test.
  2. Under SafeAssign, select Enable Originality Report.
  3. At the bottom of the Test Settings panel, select  Enable Originality Report once more.
  4. Select Check submissions for plagiarism with SafeAssign.
    • When you enable SafeAssign for the test, you can also allow students to view the Originality Report. For tests where 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.
  5. Close the layer and continue editing other test settings.

When you enable the Originality Report for a test, an Originality column is added to the Submissions page. Scan the list to quickly determine which submissions may include plagiarized material.

You can enable the SafeAssign Originality Report 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.

About the exclude submissions option

The SafeAssign settings have an option to "exclude submissions" when you create the test. This option allows instructors to create tests that don't include any student submissions in the Institutional or Global Reference Databases. Like other options for Blackboard tests, this option will be point-in-time and editable after test creation. If you change the option at a later date, new submissions will honor the new state of the setting. An example use case:

An instructor wants a single test to allow non-final submissions, then a single "final" submission. Only the final submission should be included by SafeAssign in the Institutional database for reference against later submissions.

You can accomplish this use case with these steps:

  1. Create a test with multiple attempts, SafeAssign, and the "exclude submissions" options enabled.
  2. Students submit their "draft" works, and submissions aren't included in the Institutional or Global Databases.
  3. When the final submission is expected, you disable the "exclude submissions" option.
  4. Students submit their final works, and submissions are then included in the Institutional or Global Databases.

Supported files

SafeAssign only supports file types that are convertible to plain text, which includes these file types: DOCX, DOC, PPT, PPTX, PDF, TXT, ODT, RTF, HTML, and HTM. Spreadsheet files aren't supported.

SafeAssign also accepts ZIP files and processes files that match any of these file types.

SafeAssign counts and displays the total number of attachments in a submission, as well as the number of attachments processed by SafeAssign. SafeAssign only processes and creates originality reports for attachments that match the supported file types. For unsupported file types, the SafeAssign originality report omits a matching score.

Global Reference Database

Blackboard's Global Reference Database is a separate database where students voluntarily donate copies of their papers to help promote originality. This database is separated 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 submit their papers to the database voluntarily and agree not to delete papers in the future. Submissions to the Global Reference Database are extra copies that are given voluntarily for the purpose of helping with originality. Blackboard doesn't claim ownership of submitted papers.

Access the report

View the SafeAssign Originality Report to ensure students properly cited their sources.

SafeAssign generates an Originality Report shortly after a student submits their attempt, even before you post grades. The SafeAssign Originality Report appears next to the submission so you can view the analysis in context. This is a preview of the report's results and includes three sections: Overall Risk, Overall Text Matching, and Originality Reports.

  • Overall Risk shows whether the attempt is a low, medium, or high risk for plagiarism. The risk level is determined based on the average text matching range the attempt falls in.

    More on interpreting SafeAssign scores

  • Overall Text Matching shows the average and highest text match for the pieces of the attempt, including file attachments. Want to dive in? Select any of the items in the Originality Reports section to view the full reports.
  • Originality Reports shows you the percent of potential matching text for each piece of your submission, including questions and attachments. Select any of the entries in the list to view the results in a new window.

Report layout

A SafeAssign originality report is divided into three areas:

  • Report information
  • Citations
  • Manuscript text

If you need more room for viewing the paper's text, you can collapse the right panel with the right-pointing arrow. The highlighting colors remain in the collapsed view.

Report information

Report information appears in the right panel of the report. When you reduce the width of the viewing area, this information appears at the top. You can view data about the paper, such as the percent of matching text, word count, and when it was submitted. If you included multiple attachments, they appear with the report information. You also have an option for viewing a printable version. This printable version is the most effective view of the report for users who rely on assistive technology to access Blackboard Learn. At the top of the page, select Print to view the printable version. Download the PDF to email to others.


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

Manuscript text

The submitted paper appears in the left panel of the report. All matching blocks of text are identified. Each source has a color specific to the source-up to 30 unique colors for 30 different sources. Text matching a source is highlighted in the source color and identified with a number. In the right panel, you can select Show/Hide All Highlighting to turn source highlighting off and on for all sources at one time. You can turn the highlighting off and on for only one citation. Select Remove or Show Highlighting next to a citation.

Select a matching block of text to display information about the original source and the probability that the block or sentence was copied from the source.

Multiple attachments and attempts

SafeAssign recognizes multiple attempts for an individual test as submitted by the same student for the same test. SafeAssign doesn't check the contents of the current attempt against content from previous submissions. You can view each Originality Report next to the corresponding attempt.

If a student includes more than one attachment with a test, they are listed in the Originality Report section of the SafeAssign panel. Select a file name link to view the file's text in a new window, along with detailed text matching analysis.

Interpret SafeAssign scores

Sentence matching scores represent the percentage probability that two phrases have the same meaning. This number reflects 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. There is a 10 percent probability that they are similar by chance and not because the submitted paper includes content from the existing source-whether appropriately attributed or not.

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 don't 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 in excess, and need to be reviewed for plagiarism.

Language support in SafeAssign

Language Support in SafeAssign

Language Support in SafeAssign

SafeAssign does more than translate words from one language to another. SafeAssign uses algorithms that make decisions about potential plagiarism based on word frequency, sentence structure, and other linguistic characteristics that are currently specific to the English language only.

Although SafeAssign officially supports only English, clients are welcome to attempt to use SafeAssign with languages other than English. SafeAssign has no technical limitations that preclude using it with other languages, but the results may vary and aren't guaranteed.

Blackboard is working to add official support for additional languages in SafeAssign in 2018.

Grade with SafeAssign

When you grade tests with SafeAssign enabled, you can view an originality report to see how much of a student's submitted content overlaps with other published materials.

SafeAssign doesn't check any attempts submitted while the setting is disabled, nor does it automatically generate grades based on text matching. Use SafeAssign to review test submissions for originality and create opportunities to help students identify how to properly attribute sources rather than paraphrase.

To get started, open an attempt. SafeAssign begins to process submission content automatically after a student submits work. After the Originality Report is finished processing, a SafeAssign panel appears next to the submission content. If this panel doesn't appear, the report isn't finished processing.

When the report is ready, percentages appear in the SafeAssign Originality Report panel of an attempt. SafeAssign analyzes each part of the attempt, including text responses and attachments. Select an entry in the Originality Report list to view the detailed results in a new window.

If you want to use inline grading annotation with SafeAssign, students need to submit these file types for their tests:

  • DOC
  • DOCX
  • PDF

Use the same workflow to grade tests using SafeAssign and groups or multiple attempts. If you allow multiple attempts for a test using SafeAssign, an Originality Report is generated for each attempt. You can view the Originality Report for each attempt in the Submissions list.

More on grading multiple attempts