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How to understand the Similarity report

Turnitin compares your document submission with others in their global database of previously submitted and known internet sources. Once complete, it will highlight matches it finds and provides an overall score based on how much of your assignment was found to be identical to other sources.

This score is a percentage listed in the Similarity column:

Turnitin submission listing with similarity score and assignment link indicated

A high score does not automatically indicate plagiarism nor does a low score automatically indicate plagiarism hasn't taken place. If you want to review the matches found in your submission, you can do so in the Turnitin Feedback Studio.

1. Open the Turnitin Feedback Studio by clicking name of your assignment in the Submission Title column.

Screenshot of the Turnitin Feedback Studio interface

2. Click the 'Match Overview' tool (the number that indicates the overall match percentage in the red "originality" section of the tools menu) and a panel showing all your matches will appear. The selected tool will also highlight red.

3. In the list of matches, click a specific listing to view the match where it is found in your submission:

Selecting a match listing in overview panel

This will scroll the document viewer automatically to where the match appears in your document, and will also show a pop-up box showing the matched content source of the text match:

Information panel showing text match information

This example shows that the same text was found in a publication found on the web. The pop-up window shows you the content of the matched document with the matched part highlighted so you can see how the text in the source matches your own. In some cases this may be as simple as a portion of a sentence, but sometimes can be an entire paragraph or more.

If you have taken large portions of text from another source on the internet and included it as your own, ensure you have correctly cited the source, if not your tutor may be able to use this tool to identify this as a possible instance of academic dishonesty.

4. Determine whether or not this match needs your attention.

The quick view of the content matches (shown in bold and red) lets you see that specific section where the match was found. If it is an online source, you can click the 'Full Source View' button to load the source text into the right panel and see all text matches for that resource. If your text matches another student's paper, whether from ACU or another university, you will not be able to see the paper (for privacy and copyright reasons).

Turnitin is an education tool providing students with the opportunity to use Turnitin prior to assignment due date and enhance their understanding of academic integrity. If you want to fix up any references, you can modify your assignment and then resubmit. The similarity report may take longer to generate if you are not submitting the assignment for the first time. If you're not sure why a particular piece of text has been matched, see the "types of text matches" section below.

This section explains the most common causes of text matches and consequently a high similarity score, what information Turnitin looks for, and how you can avoid common mistakes in your assignment referencing and citations.

Turnitin recognises portions of text between double quotation marks (" ") as a quoted source. Failure to properly add quotation marks will most likely result in text match.

Full text matches

Full text matches are most often due to improper citations, usually due to one or both quotation marks being left out. If text has been copied directly from an internet source, or from another assignment, Turnitin will highlight this reference, and provide a link to the original source.

A paragraph of text with a full highlighted match

In the above image, the full paragraph is highlighted with no breaks. There are no quotation marks that would indicate that it is quoted from another source, nor is the source listed. Turnitin indicates that this sentence is an exact copy of text in a paper submitted previously to another university, indicating that it has probably been copied from another paper or resource found online. This would most likely be classified as an instance of plagiarism.

Partial text matches

A paragraph of text with partial matches

In this common example, you can see how Turnitin has highlighted specific words in this paragraph, because the order and usage of words and partial sentences is similar to another paper in Turnitin’s database. Turnitin not only matches exact portions of text, but can identify where a portion of text has been modified slightly from its original source to avoid detection.

Missing double quotes for direct source quotes

In order for Turnitin to recognise text quoted directly from a source, the quoted text should be surrounded by double quotation marks. In this example, single quotation marks have been used instead, and Turnitin has marked it as a text match because it doesn’t recognise single quotation marks as a proper citation.

Text with missing quotation marks highlighted as a match

If you are using a referencing system such as APA, and are directly quoting a source, always use double quotes to surround the quoted text, followed by the source. Under the APA referencing system, double quotes are only not used when the sentence preceding the source referenced is paraphrasing the actual source text (as paraphrased text is not the same as a direct quote).

Misquoted text matches

In the following example, you can see how even though the quote was surrounded in double quotation marks, Turnitin has text matched it because the quote is not exact (the text ‘by oppression’ has been omitted). You should always be careful to quote your sources accurately.

A text match with partially misquoted text

Text as an image

If you have improperly saved your document when converting it from one file format to another, you may have accidentally saved the content as a series of embedded image files instead of selectable or readable text. Turnitin cannot read and determine text from images. Usually in these cases, a high overall score occurs because the only text being matched is in header or footer information, which is usually common words such as "page" or "assignment".

Usually this happens accidentally when saving a document in a format such as PDF, depending on the program settings. If found to be unreadable, you will be asked to resubmit your assignment in a proper format.

Text as an image is easily recognisable, as it appears either slightly blurry, inconsistent in size, or faded from its original colour. It also means that tutors may have trouble adding comments to text when providing feedback.

References included in text matches

Sometimes, Turnitin will include your entire references section in the match results. Turnitin tries to ignore the references section, which is everything after the heading called "References" or "Bibliography".

However, if you add other text (such as text to state the referencing method) or misspell the heading text, or perhaps because of an unexpected technical glitch, Turnitin may try to match your references text. This can result in an overall percentage that is much higher than it should be.

Submit early to fix errors

If you leave enough time to fix up improper references or citations (such as submitting your assignment the day before), you can use the similarity report to identify areas to fix, then resubmit your assignment before the due date to potentially lower your overall similarity score.

Improve your academic referencing skills

Text matches are often found when double quotes have not been used in a citation. If you haven’t already fully read and understood the academic referencing information in the ACU Academic Skills unit, please enrol yourself in the unit and familiarise yourself with the referencing systems and rules surrounding referencing styles.

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