About Turnitin

Turnitin is an online text matching tool accessed through Wattle designed to assist you with your academic writing. In particular, it helps to ensure that you are completing your work with academic integrity by submitting genuine and original work which appropriately acknowledges the words, ideas, scholarship and intellectual property of others.

The originality report

When you submit your work to Turnitin, your assignments are checked against a large database of academic publications and other sources in order to find if there are matching text sections. An 'Originality Report' is generated which indicates what percentage of your work is your own and what percentage comes from other sources. Examples of resources checked are:

  • Electronic books and journals
  • Websites (such as Wikipedia) and webpages
  • Student assignments that have already been submitted at ANU, or at other education institutions in Australia and internationally.

If matches are found, the texts are highlighted and linked to the original sources. Turnitin also gives your work a 'similarity index', which is the percentage of text in your assignment that has been matched to other sources. This report need to be interpreted carefully in a constructive way to improve the academic integrity of your work.

Interpreting the similarity index

A match in your assignment indicates that a section of your work is not original because it directly matches writing stored in the Turnitin database. This also applies to reusing assignments previously submitted for assessment (also known as 'recycling').

Given that you are expected to include evidence and examples from a variety of sources in your assignments, it is to be expected that a certain percentage of your academic work will always contain matches. Matches could occur for the following reasons.

You've placed a direct quote in your assignment

A match will give you the opportunity to check that you have correctly referenced direct quotes. Turnitin can be particularly useful helping you check where your source texts originated.  These matches also give you the opportunity to consider how many quotes are appropriate for your paper.  Remember that you want your work to reflect your own ideas and writing. Each discipline area will set different expectations about the level of 'original' work needed to satisfy their assessment criteria. If you are unsure what this level might be, then check with your lecturers or tutors before submitting any assignment.

You've placed an indirect quote in your assignment that is very similar to the original

An indirect quote is when you paraphrase someone else's words. If you get a match on Turnitin when you paraphrase, it will generally indicate that your paraphrasing is too similar to the original and you need to rephrase it. Remember that when you paraphrase, you must still acknowledge the author by correctly referencing the original work.

You have plagiarised

If you have copied someone else's work, be it another student's paper, recycled some of your own work, or taken material directly from some other source and made it appear to be your own; this is plagiarism. Sometimes students are tempted to use other people's words because they don't feel confident with their own writing. Remember that your ideas, your argument and your analysis are the key aspect of your writing.

Turnitin cannot detect all breaches of academic integrity. You still need to ensure that you are complying with the ANU Academic Misconduct Rules 2014. For example, Turnitin does not access all scholarly and commercial databases and websites and it does not do text-matching against print-based documents. If you are unsure, then check with your lecturers or tutors before submitting any assignment.

Key points

  • There is no 'ideal' percentage threshold in a Turnitin Originality Report
  • Using Turnitin to check early drafts of your assignments before final submission will give you the opportunity to assess and improve your writing
  • The Turnitin practice site is available for all assignments to check your drafts without the work being stored on the repository.
  • As long as you are confident that your work has academic integrity and the level of originality adheres to the assessment criteria, then the final similarity index is irrelevant.