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Help guides, tutorials, and general information for Instructors and Students in using the plagiarism prevention tool, Turnitin.


What is it?

Turnitin is software both accessible online and built into Blackboard, which can automatically screen student papers for originality.

How does it work?

Turnitin works via text-matching. It checks writing against existing publications on the web and its internal database of student papers, color coding matches based on the source. It assigns an originality number based on the percentage of the text with no match.

Why do we use it?

The university provides Turnitin free of charge to all KU students and faculty to improve student writing and ensure academic integrity. Consider it another tool in your arsenal against plagiarism.

*If you use Turnitin outside of Blackboard, you must create your account. Please open a track-it from the Information Technology Trackit Portal.

Top 15 Misconceptions About Turnitin

Top 15 Misconceptions About Turnitin

Students and instructors around the world may think they know everything there is to know about Turnitin tools; however, we're here to clarify the top 15 misconceptions about Turnitin, so you can really be in the know.

1. Turnitin detects plagiarism.

Reality: Student papers are compared against content in the Turnitin database, and leaves the judgment up to the instructor. Instructors MUST look at the Similarity Report to determine if there is a problem.

2. Turnitin works the same in all situations and is not flexible.

Reality: Turnitin has many options and settings for adapting to your various institutional, departmental, and individual needs. Instructors can decide to let students view their reports, allow students to resubmit and receive revised reports -- or not.

3. The similarity score shows the percentage of plagiarized content in a student’s paper.

Reality: The similarity score is just a percentage of material in the paper that matches sources in the Turnitin databases. Text that is quoted and cited may appear as a match in the Similarity Report if quotes have not been excluded from the report; this offers a great opportunity to check for proper citation.

4. An instructor can determine if a paper is acceptable purely from the similarity score and doesn't need to look at the Similarity Report.

Reality: The similarity score must be interpreted in the context of the assignment and the actual writing. The only way to do this is to look at the Similarity Report.

5. Papers in the Turnitin database are easily accessible by others so privacy is not protected.

Reality: Papers are secure from prying eyes. No one can go into the student database.

6. The source named in the Similarity Report is the exact source used by the writer.

Reality: There can be many matches because of extensive duplications of material on the web. The source named may not be the exact source that the student used.

7. Once a paper has been submitted to Turnitin, it is in the database forever.

Reality: Turnitin offers students the ability to "opt out" of the database and provides institutions with the option of having an institutional database of student papers. Student papers may be removed only by request of the class instructor.

8. Student copyrights are compromised in some way by Turnitin.

Reality: The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed that Turnitin's archiving of work was not a copyright infringement because it falls within the fair use exception. Please see our Privacy and Security page for more information.

9. All students hate Turnitin.

Reality: Many students have stated that they like the fact that Turnitin helps maintain a level playing field. Turnitin protects students' work from unauthorized use and gives students who want to do their own work a good reason not to share their work with others.

10. Students can easily "game" Turnitin to escape detection.

Reality: Once the student receives a Similarity Report, they have to wait 24 hours to get another report on a resubmission (if resubmissions have been enabled by their instructor); this prevents students from wordsmithing and resubmitting repeatedly.

11. All words, big or small, could be mistaken for a match in a Similarity Report.

Reality: The likelihood that a 16-word match is "just a coincidence" is less than 1 in a trillion. Turnitin also includes the ability to exclude "small sources" if the instructor wants to exclude common phrases.

12. Turnitin compares a paper against everything ever written.

Reality: There are definitely sources that are not in the Turnitin database, especially if that material is only available in print. However, the sources that students typically use are largely included in Turnitin's collection.

13. Turnitin has expertise in plagiarism and can render judgment on specific cases.

Reality: There is no "threshold" similarity score that is either "good" or "bad." Each Similarity Report needs to be examined to understand whether a student has plagiarized and whether there is a problem.

14. Turnitin automatically evaluates and grades papers eliminating the need for instructors to grade them.

Reality: Turnitin matches text similarity and does not grade papers for the instructors. It is up to the instructor and/or student to determine whether the assignment exhibits plagiarism.

15. Turnitin employs legions of writing experts to read and evaluate papers for plagiarism.

Reality: Turnitin receives over 200,000 papers daily, and no human reads the papers at Turnitin. All papers are processed by our software, servers, and databases.