Answered By: ic
Last Updated: Aug 21, 2018     Views: 18237

Turnitin does not identify plagiarism. Similarity Reports are merely tools which help identify sources containing text similar to submitted papers. Matching text may represent legitimately cited references. Qualitative academic judgement together with knowledge of particular subject areas is required prior to any judgements being reached.

 For information on how to access a Similarity Report, please refer to the relevant FAQ.

 What is an acceptable percentage of matching text?

It’s not about the number! The percentage of original writing will vary depending on the genre, subject matter, and parameters of the assessment. It is important to use your own academic judgment for each individual piece of work. The similarity percentage simply indicates the proportion of material in the submission that can be found in other sources. Identified matches could include:

  • The University cover sheet (there is no need to include this in a Turnitin submission)
  • The assessment question (because other students may have included it too)
  • Correctly referenced quotes
  • Incorrectly referenced quotes
  • Areas of poor paraphrasing (referenced or not)
  • Common phrases and discipline-related terms
  • Authors’ names
  • Titles of books
  • In-text citations, bibliographies or reference lists

It’s important that markers also look out for instances where expected matches do not occur. In sections of text which appear to quote from academic sources but have no matches at all, it may be worth reviewing the original document submission to ensure the text has not been pasted in as an image and aligned with the surrounding text to appear normal.

What do I do about matching text?

Each instance of matching text must be carefully examined to determine whether there is a case of academic misconduct. The University’s Student Misconduct Rule requires staff to report suspected cases of misconduct to the appropriate Authorised Officer.


If a section of matching text is a direct quote and includes a citation then the match can be considered acceptable. However, if a great deal of the paper consists of direct quotes, there is an academic writing issue to be addressed and could possibly be considered misconduct depending on the context e.g. if it is repeated behaviour.


If the section of matching text is not a direct quote but includes a citation, then the issue is probably more about poor paraphrasing than intentional plagiarism. However, this is very much dependant on context. Poor paraphrasing is a form of plagiarism; whether this is completely unintentional or due to time or ability constraints, it should be addressed.


If the section of matching text has no citation, check whether it is common knowledge, specific terminology, or the result of students’ use of a supplied template. Matched areas of unoriginal writing where you would expect to see a citation should be reported via the appropriate channels for your School.


The following checklist may be helpful:

  • 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 Similarity Report?
  • Are there long sections of completely unreferenced text?
  • Is the referencing style used consistent throughout? Is it the style you specified?
  • Are there any unexplained changes in font or layout?
  • Are there any inconsistencies in writing style or 'voice'?
  • Does it seem as though words have been replaced with odd synonyms or strange phrases?


Human analysis is the key aspect of identifying academic misconduct in students' writing. Turnitin is a tool which helps to identify possible instances, however you may also notice other ‘red flags’ which indicate the use of free paraphrasing tools or custom essay writing services. These should also be investigated and reported through the appropriate channels.



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