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 original work which appropriately acknowledges the words, ideas, scholarship and intellectual property of others.

Key points

  • There is no 'ideal' similarity percentage in a Turnitin originality report.
  • Use the Turnitin practice site to check your work and improve your writing.
  • Check every instance of where you use sources, even the examples that Turnitin does not highlight.

The originality report

When you submit your work to Turnitin, your assignments are checked against a large database of academic publications and other sources to find any 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
  • assignments that have already been submitted at ANU or at other education institutions in Australia and around the world.

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 needs 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'). It is to be expected that a certain percentage of your academic work will always contain matches, as you are required to include evidence and examples from a variety of sources in your assignment.

Turnitin practice site

The Turnitin practice site lets you practice using Turnitin. It is a Wattle site that you self-enrol in. Once enrolled, you can submit work to Turnitin and access the originality reports. Work submitted through the practice site is not stored in the repository. So you can practice on this site before you submit your work to your course. On the practice site, there are resources to enhance your understanding and use of Turnitin:

  1. Academic integrity and how to avoid plagiarism. 
  2. Rules for referencing, quoting, paraphrasing and summarising. In particular, when is a match acceptable? When is a match not acceptable and what can you do about it?
  3. Where text matches should and should not occur in your work.

As the practice site explains further, matches could occur for the following reasons.

Direct quotations

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.

Close paraphrasing

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.

Plagiarism

It is considered plagiarism if you have copied someone else's work, including another student's paper, recycled some of your own work, or taken material directly from another source and made it appear to be your own. 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 most important aspects of your writing.

Ask for help

Regardless of Turnitin's text matches or similarity percentage, before submitting any assignment, you should check each of your quotes, paraphrases and summaries to make sure you haven't inadvertently plagiarised. If you are unsure of how to do this, see our information on using sources. You can also come to see ASLC or talk to your lecturers or tutors.