How Does Turnitin Work?

What is Turnitin?

Turnitin supports academic work integrity by helping to check for plagiarism. An intuitive Similarity Report provides text matches and gives a similarity score.

One of the main advantages of using Turnitin is that students can identify potential instances of plagiarism in their assignments and fix these before final submission. It helps to educate them about referencing techniques and appropriate citation.

A Revision Assistant helps students throughout the writing process. It uses machine learning technology to analyze writing and give sentence-level feedback and other guidance to help students improve their work before turning it in.

Turnitin also offers tools for peer review and online assignment marking. This enhances the way in which students receive grades and feedback.

How does Turnitin work?

Turnitin has a comparison database that contains publically available current and archived web content. It also contains books, newspapers and academic journals as well as the student papers admitted to the system.

There are sources that are not in the Turnitin database, especially if the material is only available in print. However, most of the sources that students typically use are included.

If a student does a web search and copies and pastes information in an essay, chances are Turnitin will find the matching text and be able to identify where it came from.

If a student uses library research databases to copy and paste text into a paper, Turnitin is most likely to identify this material as a match. It will detect other students work if a student has copied from a previous paper submitted to the database.

When students submit papers, it doesn’t take long after submission for originality reports to be available. It may depend on the word count and how many documents are being submitted at the same time.
Students are able to access the report by going to their assignment. Next to the attached file, they see a percentage and a colored square. Five basic colors – blue, green, yellow, orange and red represent how much of a paper matches what’s in the database.

Read also: How to Beat Turnitin in 2022

For example, a blue square means that less than 20 words in a paper is a match to what’s in the database. A green square means that 12%, matches. If the square is red, it means that 75% to 100% of a paper matches. Students click on the colored square to view the report.

Within the text of the Originality Report, matching text is also highlighted in color and is numbered. Various shades of basic colors are used. For instance, text shown in light green may be trivial or incidental.
Turnitin is not able to identify specific incidents of plagiarism. It can’t prove that a student has not plagiarized. It generates a report that shows the degree of similarity between the work submitted and what is contained in the database. The algorithm used is able to identify strings of words in a paper that are identical to those in the database.

How does Turnitin work percentage?

Most work will contain some words from other sources and this is nothing to worry about. A percentage of below 15% probably indicates that plagiarism has not occurred. However, if the matching 15% comes in one block of text, this could still indicate plagiarism.
A high percentage of over 25% probably indicates plagiarized work. However, matches in the originality report are influenced by various factors such as the assignment settings. If the default setting excludes quotes, references and small matches up to five words, this could give a more accurate overall percentage.

How Turnitin helps students

One of the main benefits of Turnitin is that when students submit their draft assignments to Turnitin before a deadline, they can examine the report and make revisions before submitting their final version on the due date.

Once a student receives a report, he or she must wait 24 hours to get another report after resubmission (if this has been enabled by the instructor). This means students can’t trick the system by changing words and resubmitting repeatedly.

If students cite text, it may appear as a match in the report if quotes are not excluded – this offers the opportunity to check that a citation has been done properly. If a matching source is meant to be quoted, it must be enclosed in quotation marks and correctly referenced. This mistake is an easy one to fix and avoid in the future.

Turnitin can detect paraphrasing and will highlight poorly paraphrased text. If appropriate, students can be given instructions on how to paraphrase properly. It’s not difficult to grasp and can avoid them getting a high percentage in reports in the future.

Students working through a report can try excluding trivial matches and quoted material first. They could consider deleting strings of matching words not essential to a paper and inserting more of their own original thoughts.

Students may appear to be anti-Turnitin but many of them appreciate the fact that it helps to keep a level playing field. It gives students a good reason not to share their work with others. It also protects their work from unauthorized use.

How Turnitin helps instructors

Turnitin offers flexibility for instructors. There are many options and settings available for adapting to various needs, whether these are individual, departmental or institutional. For instance, instructors can allow or disallow students from viewing reports, and allow them to resubmit and receive revised reports.
Instructors can also decide on factors such as the number of consecutive words used when checking for similarities. The likelihood of using the same 16 words in a row has less than a one in a million chance of being a coincidence.

Instructors will be able to see a summary of matches and their sources. The source named in the report may not be the source the student used as extensive duplication of material on the web means that many matches are possible.

When it comes to check plagiarism, Turnitin is not able to make judgments on specific cases. All it does is to help instructors locate potential sources of plagiarism. Their judgment is important and they need to find the reason or explanation for the match.

For example, research may have led one student to the same source material that another student included in an assignment already submitted and this may be detected as a match. Turnitin will only find matches and not interpret what they mean.


Turnitin is a valuable tool for both instructors and students but correct interpretation of the results is essential for successful use. Students have the potential to learn from what is highlighted by Turnitin and fix issues such as improper paraphrasing or not using quotes correctly.

Instructors are made aware of matches but know too that not every match means that plagiarism has occurred. They will make a careful examination of both the submitted paper and the suspect sources before drawing any conclusions.

Students who want to bypass Turnitin and try to fool it should rather focus on more reliable methods. Rewrite, rephrase or order a paper from to make sure you’re safe from being accused of plagiarism.