Blackboard Safe Assignment

Update! SafeAssign is now integrated into the regular Blackboard Learn assignment tool. Learn more about creating assignments here.

SafeAssign allows you to compare submitted assignments against a set of academic papers to identify areas of overlap between the submitted assignment and existing works. It employs a unique text-matching algorithm capable of detecting exact and inexact matches between an assignment text and source material. SafeAssign is used to prevent plagiarism and to create opportunities to help students identify how to properly attribute sources.

SafeAssign can be effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool. Use SafeAssign to review assignment submissions for potential plagiarism, and help students identify how to properly attribute sources.

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.

Creating/Adding a SafeAssign Assignment

  • Safe Assignments are created through the regular Assignment link setup process: via the module Assessments drop-down menu, select Assignment.
  • On the Create Assignment page expand the Submission Details section.
  • Select Check submissions for plagiarism using SafeAssign.
  • Optionally, you can allow students to view the SafeAssign originality reports on their submissions.
  • Optionally, you can exclude all student submissions for this assignment from the institutional or global reference databases.
  • Complete the Create Assignment page.
  • Click Submit.

Global Reference Database

Global Reference Database

When a student submits a safe assignment they agree (by ticking the box) to submitting their assignment to the Global Reference Database .

Blackboard’s Global Reference Database is a database where students voluntarily submit copies of their papers to help prevent plagiarism. It is separate from each institution's internal database. Students are free 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. Blackboard does not claim ownership of submitted papers.

Limits to Safe Assignment by file-type, file-size and file-name


SafeAssign only supports file types that are convertible to plain text. This includes the following file types: DOCX, DOC, PDF, TXT, ODT, RTF, HTML, and HTM.
PowerPoint and spreadsheet files are not 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.


Additionally Safe Assign can only process files up to 10MBs in size. Files larger than this are accepted by submission but do not produce an originality report.


Long file-names have also caused problems for Safe Assign. Files which are of the accepted file-types, are smaller than 10 MBs, but have long files-names and have not produced originality reports should be resubmitted with reduced file-names, with no spaces and no punctuation characters.

SafeAssign Originality Reports

A SafeAssign originality report provides detailed information about the matches found between a student's submitted paper and existing sources. Both instructors and students can use the report to review assignment submissions for plagiarism potential and create opportunities to identify how to properly attribute sources rather than paraphrase. When instructors create an assignment and choose to use the SafeAssign service, they determine if students can see the results of the report.

The report identifies all matching blocks of text. Instructors and their students need to determine if the matching text is properly referenced. Investigating each match prevents detection errors due to differences in citing standards.

The originality report displays the list of potential sources, and each source is highlighted in a different colour. The report can display up to 30 colours to represent 30 different sources. Originality report information adapts to the screen it appears on, such as an iPad or iPhone.

For more detail on accessing and understanding SafeAssign Originality reports see below.

Accessing the Originality Report

When a SafeAssign report has finished processing, you can access it within the grade Center on the Grade Assignment page. In the Grade Center, locate the assignment that you enabled the SafeAssign options for. When students have made their submissions, you see the needs grading icon—the exclamation mark. Access the cell's contextual menu and click the attempt.


On the Grade Assignment page, a SafeAssign section appears in the grading sidebar. While the report is processing, the following statement appears: Report in progress...

When the report is ready to view, a percentage appears in the grading sidebar. Expand the SafeAssign link and click View Originality Report to view the results in a new window.

Understanding the Originality Report

Report Layout- A SafeAssign originality report is divided into three areas:

  1. Report information
  2. Citations
  3. 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.
BB9SAOR3Report 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 author, percent of matching text, word count, and when it was submitted. If students have 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, click 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. You can expand the section to select sources, exclude them from the review, and process the paper again.

You can click Select Sources and Resubmit to determine which sources to include in the next report. By default, all sources are included. Clear the check box for each source you want to exclude from the results and resubmit. This is useful if a source is a previous work from the same student for the same assignment. You might also exclude a source if there is a reason that lengthy sections from the source appear in the paper. Processing the paper again generates a new value for the percent matching without using the excluded sources.

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 click 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. Click Remove or Show Highlighting next to a citation.

Click 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.


Use the pertinent findings in the report as you determine what grade to assign to the student on the Grade Assignment page.

Multiple Attachments and Attempts

SafeAssign recognizes a student's multiple attempts for an individual assignment as submitted by the same student for the same assignment. SafeAssign does not check the contents of the student’s current attempt against content from previous submissions.

If a student includes more than one attachment with an assignment, they are listed in the report. Click a file name link to view the file's text in the left panel and view its word count in the right panel.


Interpreting Safe Assignment 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.
  • Scores between 15 percent and 40 percent: These papers include extensive quoted or paraphrased material that match other documents. Carefully review these papers to determine if the matching content is properly attributed.
  • Scores over 40 percent: There is a very high probability 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.

Re-Submitting without a Selected Source

To exclude a source go to the report and tick the box to exclude the source and re-process without the checked sources.

SafeAssign Delays or Service Outages

During periods of high demand there can be significant delays with SafeAssign reports. More information can be sought on any delays here.