- Academic Writing
- Writing Courses
How to Interpret Turnitin Reports
Reports off Turnitin can be very frightening if you don't know how to interpret them, but there is a systematic way of looking at them to help you understand what can look extremely complex. Keep in mind faculty may check the content of papers in Turnitin.
Step 1: Identifying your "Overall Similarity Index."
As stated in the Turnitin Student User Guide (2006), "papers submitted to Turnitin are compared against billions of internet documents, an archived copy of the internet, our local databases of submitted student papers, and a database of periodicals, journals, & publications" (p. 7). The percentage provided here is based on your essay’s overall similarity to these documents.
Step 2: Identifying your "Sources" as Defined by Turnitin
Here you will find a percentage-based breakdown of all the sources that Turnitin is identifying in your essay. However, as the program readily admits, a reading that shows a high percentage does not necessarily mean the paper has been plagiarized (Turnitin, 2006, p. 7). The results here should therefore be read as a prioritized list and nothing more; the higher the percentage, the more frequently the source is appearing in the document whether appropriately cited or not.
In most instances, each suspect source listing should also provide you with the opportunity to view the original document via a hyperlink. These identifiers are also numbered and color coded so that they may be referenced with your document in the "Paper Text" section below (see Step 3).
Step 3: Reviewing the "Paper Text"
As you review the "Paper Text" section of the report, you should notice that blocks or chunks of your draft have been quarantined from the rest of your essay. It is in these instances where Turnitin has identified potential plagiarism. That being said, it is now your responsibility (and, to a lesser extent, the responsibility of your instructor, advisor, and tutor) to examine the academic integrity of each one of these instances. Is the highlighted portion appropriately cited? Is it paraphrased correctly? Is it in your own words? Have you referenced material that you've actually read? Have you cited your secondary sources appropriately?
Please remember that comparing the original source to the document submitted is crucial in determining whether plagiarism has taken place. This can be done most effectively by using the color coding and numbering established in the "Sources" section of the report.