Turnitin is online web-based software that compares electronically submitted papers with billions of pages of content located on the internet and proprietary databases as well as works by other students whose papers were submitted to Turnitin and stored into the Turnitin database. The software is a text-matching tool used by many universities across Australia and internationally.
When a student submits a paper with selectable text, (e.g. Word document, PDF, PPT) an 'Originality report ' will be generated indicating similarities between the work submitted by the student and pages of content stored in the Turnitin database.
Papers submitted to Turnitin are able to generate a comparison document known as the Originality report, this report highlights the matching or non-original text within the document when compared to web pages, electronic journals and other assignment submissions made to Turnitin.
Students are allowed to view the Originality report immediately (generally within 30 minutes), with the option of multiple submissions allowed up until the due date/time. If a student makes a second or subsequent submission, it will take 24 hours for a new Originality report to be generated.
It is important to understand that the similarity score generated by the Originality report does NOT indicate whether plagiarism has taken place. Originality reports can only indicate non-original text. A high score may contain text based on a template content or similar question topic. Conversely a low score may contain text that does cause concern.
- Click on your Turnitin assignment from within your LEO unit.
- In the submission inbox, the similarity index will indicate the text match range.
- Click on the similarity score (% and coloured box) to access the Originality Report directly.
- An additional window or tab appears containing the student assignment submission, including colour coded shading within the assignment where text was found to match other sources, as well as a list of those sources and the percentage similarity to the matching text.
- Click on the match from the right side of the screen.
What do the colours mean?
The colour ranges from blue (low percentage of matching text) to red (high percentage or matching text).
- blue: (no matching words);
- green (one matching word - 24% similarity index;
- yellow (25%-49% similarity index);
- orange (40%-74% similarity index);
- red (75-100% similarity index).
There is no set colour indicating whether plagiarism has occurred and staff within a unit of study and within the faculty need to follow normal protocol when dealing with suspected breaches of academic honesty.
What does the colour indicate?
The overall similarity index and the corresponding colour scaling of percentage icon provides a basic indication of how much information contained in the submission is matched to other sources. This is an overall score based on matching done against the Turnitin repositories.
What percentage is safe?
There is no clear cut rules for this as it will depend on the type of assessment task. Usually most forms of assessment will contain some words from other sources. A low percentage score does not indicate the text is original. The student may have used obscure sources, sources not stored in the Turnitin database or Google translate to alter the structure of text.
A high percentage score may indicate poor academic writing or paraphrasing or an an overuse of quotations or a resubmission of work.
Its important to use academic judgement, such as:
- Is this work at the standard I expect from this student?
- Has the student attempted to cite source materials?
- Are there instances of sudden changes in voice, style, formatting or argument.
Does Turnitin identify all source documents?
The Originality report will identify matching text in an assignment with possible sources from within its repositories, however there may be more than one possible source for the matching text. Turnitin is not able to identify which source out of these matches was used by the student. Occasionally Turnitin may identify the source used by the student as it may have subsequent appearances on various websites. Also Turnitin only examines electronic sources available to its search tools.
Which viewing options are used in Turnitin settings?
The Turnitin assignment settings exclude quotations and the bibliography or reference list from the the possible matching text. Excluding these sources affects the total percentage given in the report including total number of words included in the length of the document. These settings can be changed by the lecturer on a student by student basis to get a true picture of the total amount of text matching included in the whole document or the original work.
What can I do with matching text?
Each instance of matching text needs to be examined for correct citation and a corresponding reference list.
- Has the student attempted to correctly reference the source?
- Has the student attempted to paraphrase, summarise or quote using quotation marks?
- Does the reference list match the in-text citations or footnotes?
- Does the reference list match any sources shown in the originality report?
- Are there long sections of completely unreferenced text?
- Is the referencing style used consistent throughout?
- Are there any unexplained changes in font or layout?
- Are there any inconsistencies in writing style or 'voice'?
What do I do if I suspect plagiarism?
Any decisions about plagiarism should follow normal protocols.
For more information about academic integrity and the rules and procedures if any of your assessments are in breach, refer to the Academic Honesty Policy.
For more information about responsibilities for dealing with matters of academic dishonesty, refer to 'Procedures for Dealing with Alleged Breaches of Academic Honesty'
Enable source view
If a text match is found with a student in another unit, the enable source view will allow you to:
view the text match in the pop window
- Click submitted to ACU for more information about the unit;
- compare full source view;
- download a original document or a PDF copy.
NOTE: The enable source view does not allow lecturers to view the content of the other unit.
If you receive a request via email to view a student paper, please do not respond as student papers cannot be provided to external sources such as other Universities or Institutions.
File submissions that do not include selectable text,such as image files, will not generate an 'Originality 'report' (this may also apply to PDFs that include text as a scanned image).
Silvey, V., Snowball, T., Do, T. (2016) Bridge over troubled water: a literary approach to using Turnitin in Journal of Academic Learning and Language, v.10, n.1, [online] accessed retrieved August 19th 2016
Graham-Matheson, L. and Starr, S. (2013) Is it cheating - or learning the craft of writing. Using Turnitin to help students avoid plagiarism in Research in Learning technology, v. 21 [online] accessed retrieved August 19th 2016
Wrigley, S. (2016) How universities can help students avoid plagiarism: get them to write, in The Conversation, [online], access retrieved August 19th 2016.
Neurospkeptic (2014) How to fool a plagiarism detection tool in Discover magazine, [online] access retrieved August 19th, 2016