What Does Turnitin Consider Plagiarism?

Aug 31, 2020


Turnitin is one of the most commonly-used plagiarism checkers for students and educators. The service provides a platform and an extensive database of online academic resources for checking your paper’s uniqueness. 

But let’s face it; Turnitin can be frustrating sometimes. You spend a lot of time working on your paper just to get an annoying similarity report. Or you submit a unique work, but your professor rejects it because of plagiarism. 

Don’t beat yourself up: we’ve all been in this predicament.

This article will tell you what constitutes plagiarism and how Turnitin detects it.

What is considered plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of reproducing someone else’s work without consent and accreditation. But there are other forms of plagiarism that you must consider.

  1. Copying someone’s work verbatim without citing the source
  2. Citing the wrong source (intentionally or accidentally)
  3. Rephrasing a direct quote without citations
  4. Copying your own previous work

Yes, you can’t publish parts of your work without proper citation. 

With these four points in mind, you now have a better understanding of how similarity reports are generated.  

How does Turnitin work?

Let’s get into some technical details…

No human sits around to read your paper and generate a similarity report. Like any other plagiarism checker, Turnitin consists of a system of complex algorithms focused on cross-referencing the work you submitted to the existing publications. The service has access to a multitude of online databases, including a repository of papers submitted to the platform. 

For example, you can submit a paper to Turnitin but exclude it from the database. If you add it to the database, any other paper submitted subsequently will be checked against it.

Now, the generated report shows the similarity between your work and the other materials in the Turnitin database. So, your similarity report might be perfect on Turnitin, but your professor will detect any foul play and reject it.

Phew! That was a lot to take in!

In essence, make sure you cite your sources whenever you quote someone’s work. Cite the correct sources using the recommended formatting guidelines. You can trick the system, but you can’t fool your professor. Protect your academic integrity by doing your own research!


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