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Turnitin: For Students

Turnitin at Cummings

Turnitin logoTurnitin is used to check the originality of papers (assignments) and the correctness of citation practices in students' work.

Once your work is submitted, it will be checked against Turnitin's extensive database of student submissions, publications and Internet content for matches to similar content.  Your instructors will enable Turnitin automatically in the assignment folder so your work gets checked immediately after submission.  Typically it takes anywhere from 15 - 30 minutes to get a report back.

While the use of Turnitin often strikes fear in the hearts of students, it's actually a tool that is designed to help prevent plagiarism.  By showing you areas where you may have paraphrased poorly, quoted improperly, or forgotten citations, you can fix any issues before they turn into real problems.

Turnitin Help Center

This series of tutorials features videos and written instructions on how to use the various features of Turnitin.

Turnitin for Students Training Suite

Turnitin Printable Guide

Click on the link below to be taken to a detailed, printable guide to Turnitin's Grademark and Originality Check services.

Innocent Matches

Q.  Turnitin highlighted something that is such a common phrase, there's no way it can be plagiarism!  Everyone says it!

A.  Those are called "innocent matches" or "small matches."  Some common phrases are likely to occur in many articles and essays on the same subject. In these cases, Turnitin will report similarities to some online text and to student papers submitted to the system, but these similarities are coincidental and often inevitable.  The only way to not have small innocent matches is if you are the first person ever to use a particular turn of phrase!

Some types of assignments are more likely to contain these kinds of "innocent" similarities, particularly those answering a very prescribed, tightly-focused question (in which many students may be expected to use very similar expressions and phrases), some technical, scientific or legal assignments which tend to employ established phrases, expressions and terminology, and textual analysis assignments, which may contain sizeable examples from the poem, novel, or passage being discussed.

Turnitin may also identify "innocent" similarities between the assignments of a number of students on the same course if they share a common essay title, for instance, or if every submission includes a departmental cover-sheet.

Please Feel Free to Reuse Content

Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License

under the terms of Creative Commons' Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 License

and in the spirit of the LibGuides community

What is a Similarity Index?

Q.  What is a similarity index?

A. If Turnitin reports a high "similarity index" for your paper, it's because a large amount of your text matches text from other sources.    If you have a copy of your originality report from Turnitin, you'll be able to see exactly where too-similar sections of text were found.

When Turnitin returns your report to the Assignments folder, it will contain a percentage of similar material, coded with a color so you can see at a glance where your work is on the index.

Excessive similarity in student papers is often simply due to inproper paraphrasing and/or excessive quoting -- both are easy to fix, once you know how to spot and avoid them.  


Make Turnitin Work for You

Turnitin is used by instructors AFTER you submit a paper.  Your most effective use of this tool, however, is BEFORE  that, during the writing process.

You can submit a paper to Turnitin as many times as you would like BEFORE the due date.  This means that you can submit a draft, review the feedback, make improvements, and resubmit it.  You can do this as often as you would like as long as you do it before the due date and time.

One item to know is that after you submit your paper the first time, Turnitin will delay the issue of a new report from a new submission by 24 hours.  This is so it can clear out the data from the first submission, and honestly, it's what keeps Turnitin from considering your subsequent submissions as self-plagiarism.

Downloading Your Report

If Turnitin's report indicates a similarity index that is higher than you'd like, or if your professor has returned your paper with comments that can help you improve the work, it's a good idea to download a copy of the paper that includes comments and the similarity report.

To do so, click on the Print icon located at the bottom of the page, and choose Download PDF of current view for printing.  This should also print any comments that the instructor has made.

Choose download pdf of current view

Turnitin Services @ CORE

If you are unsure why Turnitin is flagging items in your work, feel free to contact the CORE Library.  We can help explain why Turnitin is behaving the way it is.

A Word to the Wise ...

If you are planning to re-use work from another university or from another course here at Cummings, please be advised that your new work will indicate that re-use as a similar match on the report.

Please be sure that you have taken the following steps prior to re-use of work:

  • View the CORE Library's resources on the re-use of work so you understand the difference between authorized re-use and plagiarism.
  • Talk to your instructor to secure permission for the re-use and map out a clear plan of exactly what will be re-used.  Talking to your professor after a high similarity report is returned is probably too late.
  • Cite your own previous work responsibly and accurately.  View the CORE tutorial on citing your own previous work for more information.

CORE Librarian

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Lori Christianson
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