Turnitin Originality Report

This page will help you understand the Originality Report and give you ideas about using Turnitin formatively to identify Academic Skills Development Areas.

About the Originality Report

What is an Originality Report?

The Originality Report (OR) is generated by Turnitin every time a piece of work is submitted to it. The OR shows where matches have been found between the submitted document and other existing sources in the Turnitin database. These sources include the internet, online journals, books and previously submitted student work.

What does the percentage score mean?

This is the amount of text in the submitted document which matches text in the Turnitin database. It is not a grade. A higher percentage indicates a greater proportion of matched (i.e. unoriginal) text.

What percentage is ok?

This depends on the nature of the assignment and on the way sources have been used. Some kinds of writing (e.g. describing an experiment) will be very similar to other texts, and other kinds of writing (e.g. textual analysis) will need a lot of quotations. Some assignments may have a long reference list, which will increase the percentage match. This is not a problem. Likewise a low percentage doesn’t necessarily mean that the submitted work is OK. It may indicate that not enough research into the subject has taken place, or that inappropriate use has been made of sources which are not in the Turnitin database. If in doubt, ask the module tutor.

Help Materials

Help and resources for using Turnitin as a formative teaching aid as well as hints, tips, videos and downloadable help sheets.

Reading and interpreting the Originality Report

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger examples.

About quotations

A quotation is when someone else’s words are used directly in a piece of work. When direct words from a text are used, the source must be referenced correctly.

In the first example, the writer has copied from a number of sources. The coloured highlights and numbers on the student’s text (left) correspond to texts (right) in the Turnitin database. In this example, 28% of the student’s text matches content from www.canadiancrc.com. There are no “quotation marks” or in-text citations. This constitutes plagiarism.  Turnitin quotations

In the second example, the writer has used quotation marks and given an in-text citation (Harvard style) to show that this section of text is not original. Quotations can be excluded from the Originality Report by clicking on the ‘filters and settings’ button at the bottom right-hand side of the screen.

Tip for students: Quotations should be used sparingly and for a specific purpose, e.g. to support or illustrate a point you are making, not to convey general information.
 Turnitin quote referenced

About referencing

Writing an academic piece of work requires using material written or produced by others to back up and prove or disprove the points that are being made. Referencing is the method used to ensure that these research influences are recognised in an assignment.

Referencing may also show how thoroughly a topic has been researched and what sources have been used.

Whenever you draw on a source of information that someone else has created, be that a direct quote, specific information, paraphrased text, or just a theory, opinion or viewpoint, this needs to be referenced. This also includes charts, diagrams, models, and tables of statistics.

A reference list can also be referred to as a bibliography although they do have slightly different purposes.

In this example, there are several matches to items in the reference list. This is nothing to worry about. If sources have been referenced correctly, they are likely to match with other documents which have drawn on the same sources.  Turnitin references‌ 
References can be excluded from the Originality Report by clicking on the ‘filters and settings’ button at the bottom right-hand side of the screen.  Turnitin filters and settings
In the third example the entire reference list has been copied from one source. This is plagiarism. Only sources which have actually been read or used should be included in the reference list.  Turnitin references 1

About paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is expressing someone else’s ideas in a piece of academic work but without using a direct quote.  A paraphrased idea must still be referenced as carefully as a direct quote.

Some students think that when paraphrasing a text it is enough to change a few words, maybe using a dictionary or thesaurus. This is not the case. This example shows a high match to the first source listed on the right (www.defra.gov.uk).   Turnitin paraphrasing example

Comparison with the source text on the right shows that some words have been changed and some sentences deleted – this is not enough. When paraphrasing or summarising, the sentence structure needs to be reformulated as well as the vocabulary.

The easiest way of doing this is:

  1. read the original text a couple of times, making sure you understand the meaning;
  2. put it to one side and rewrite from memory, using synonyms where possible;
  3. check the original to make sure you haven’t missed out anything important or changed the meaning of the source text.
Tip for students; When summarising a longer text, it is helpful to take notes and work from these when writing your essay.
 Turnitin paraphrasing example
In this example, the paragraph on area access control has been correctly paraphrased and summarised, and a reference has been added.  Turnitin paraphrasing example 2

About common words and phrases

Some words or phrases commonly occur in academic assignments, as in the example shown.  Other examples include scientific equations, theorems and principles.  Many scientific, technical and legal terms cannot be paraphrased as this would involve changing their meaning.  In this instance, using quotation marks or referencing common words is not necessary and shouldn’t cause concern if highlighted in the Originality Report.

Turnitin common words 

Why does Turnitin find matches to work by students in other universities?

If a similarity is found between work submitted at different institutions, this is usually because both students have used the same source as each other. As long as the source has been correctly referenced (and quotation marks used where necessary), there is nothing to worry about. Occasionally, Turnitin displays a very high match to a student from another university. This suggests that the students have colluded, or both downloaded essays from a cheat website.  Turnitin Matches

Why has Turnitin identified a source I didn’t use?

Turnitin searches for all the matches in its database and lists them in order of percentage match, from large to small. In this example, 28% of the student’s text matches content from www.canadiancrc.com. However, by clicking on the arrow to the right of the source link, it is clear that at least five other sources contain the same matched text. The student may have used one of these or another source entirely. Turnitin search ‌ 

Why hasn't Turnitin identified a source I DID use?

The Turnitin database is not infinite, though it is growing constantly.  Certain texts (e.g. from journals or websites) may not be in the database at the time work is uploaded. However, the sources will probably be familiar to the tutor. It is important to reference all sources, whether or not they are highlighted in the Originality Report.  This will help to demonstrate a breadth of reading and research.  Turnitin source

If I resubmit an assignment, won’t it show up as a 100% match?

When you upload to a formative (= draft/practice) Turnitin task in Canvas, your work is not stored in the Turnitin database and will not be matched against the final version.

Bear in mind that it's not permitted to submit the same piece of work for credit on more than one module. For example, sometimes we find matches in postgraduate research proposals to a student's undergraduate independent study project. This 'recycling' of former work can be viewed as self-plagiarism. If in doubt, contact your module tutor.

In some cases it is acceptable to reuse part of a previous assignment, for example in certain resit tasks. The tutor(s) marking this work will be able to exclude the match to the original assignment.

 Turnitin resubmission