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Turnitin Guide for Instructors: About Turnitin

Turnitin is a web-based solution that that can find and highlight matching or unoriginal text in a written assignment.

Additional Training

Turnitin has thorough training materials and tutorials on their website:

About Turnitin

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Turnitin is a web-based solution that can find and highlight matching or unoriginal text in a written assignment. Faculty can use Turnitin to make the process of detecting plagiarism easier and more efficient. In addition, Turnitin provides students and faculty with a variety of educational resources on preventing and avoiding plagiarism, writing research papers, and citing sources.                                

  • Turnitin allows students enrolled in courses to submit their written assignments to its database. Turnitin compares those papers to papers in its database and returns an "originality report" which highlights strings of matching text.
  • Turnitin does not distinguish between cited text and plagiarized text. For instance, an originality report will highlight words inside quotation marks—words which are properly cited.
  • Turnitin does not catch plagiarized text that is not in its database, including most print sources such as books and student papers never before submitted to Turnitin.
  • Turnitin does not generally catch paraphrased text, nor does it recognize made-up facts or false citations.
  • Turnitin does not analyze students' writing styles.

When a paper is submitted to Turnitin, it is compared against databases of content from three primary sources:

  1. Student papers that have previously been submitted – over 330 million submissions
  2. Current and archived webpages: 45 billion pages of Internet content
  3. Leading content publishers, including library databases, textbook publishers, digital reference collections, subscription-based publications, homework helper sites and books—Over 130 million articles. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does a Turnitin check take?‚Äč

Originality Reports should usually be ready within 1 hour, and most are returned within a few minutes. However, it may take up to 24 hours during peak times such as the end of semesters when many papers are being submitted to Turnitin.

2. How complete is Turnitin?

Turnitin provides originality reports that tell you which text in the evaluated project or paper is similar to or identical to text Turnitin has in its database. Instructors should still evaluate the quality of the report independently and determine if the parts identified by Turnitin that are similar or identical, are actually plagiarized text. This is because all matches are shown, even those where students cited properly. As a result, faculty must critique the report they receive, use their best judgment and follow University policy before approaching a student about possible plagiarism.

Similarly, if a paper is reported as "original" by Turnitin, that is not necessarily airtight evidence that the paper is original. Instead, it may mean that the student plagiarized from a work that is not available in the Turnitin database. If an instructor has a concern, and strongly suspects plagiarism, it is best to ask the library staff to assist him/her to check further and/or check the student's paper references in addition to digital sources. No database is entirely comprehensive and many sources are not digitally available. Therefore, plagiarism can occur and be undetectable by services such as Turnitin.

3. How does Turnitin work?

Turnitin uses data mining to compile a large database of electronic academic materials that it indexes and stores. Students log in to the Turnitin website with their eRaider credentials, then submit assignments electronically by uploading a file or copying and pasting a digital copy of the work (e.g., a Word document or an html document) in a Turnitin text box. Turnitin then checks the new submission against its database of materials to look for matches or near-matches in strings of text.

Users access the Report Inbox within Turnitin to view an Originality Report generated for each assignment that is uploaded. Instructors can view Originality Reports for each student in the class, but students can only view the Originality Report for their own assignment, not the assignments of other students.