The report is used to identify instances of matched text across a wide range of online materials including journals, ebooks, websites and work submitted to the Turnitin database i.e. submissions from other universities as well as Roehampton. The Turnitin database includes billions of web pages: both current and archived content from the internet, a repository of works students have submitted to Turnitin in the past, and a collection of documents, which comprises thousands of periodicals, journals, and publications.

Known Issues

Please be aware that in some cases Turnitin may not process and match text within a document due to the use of non-standard fonts. This is likely to be most obvious when you see a paper with a very high similarity score and very few highlighted sections of matched text i.e. the percentage of the matched text across the whole paper does not appear to equal the percentage of the similarity score. If this does happen please contact and we will review the file for you. Please do note that it is necessary to look beyond the similarity score as this cannot be proof of plagiarism by itself.

Viewing & understanding similarity matches

  1. In a Turnitin inbox look for the Turnitin ID next to a students file submission and click on the percentage bar to open the report.
  2. In a Moodle assignment inbox look for the percentage bar underneath the attached file and click on the pen icon     
  3. Open the report and ensure you have clicked on the layers button and the Similarity option is ticked. This will highlight matched text in the students paper. Different matches will be highlighted in different colours and numbered.

Using the Similarity Menu

Click on the number in the red menu to view the match overview on the right hand side. This will show you the percentage of matched work and a breakdown of the sources and the individual match percentages. You can click on the number for any matched text on the paper or click on sources in the right hand side – the matching source displays in a pop‐up window.

Turnitin does not detect plagiarism as such. It detects instances of matched text. A paper that displays a high percentage of matches can in some instances be entirely free from plagiarised content. The originality report is available to

  •  assist students in understanding best practice when it comes to correctly referencing work,
  •  assist staff in identifying where plagiarism might have taken place.

The Match Overview gives you a breakdown of all the matches that have been found on a paper, ordered by highest similarity match to lowest.

The total similarity score of is broken down into several sources which are highlighted in different colours. Clicking on a source provides with a list of matches associated with it.

The way Turnitin calculates the overall similarity percentage is complex due to the sheer volume of sources in its database. Broadly speaking, the report distinguishes between different types of sources – student papers, online sources (webpages or similar), publications etc. Matches are grouped by source.

Example: Type of Source = Student Paper; Source = 32 different papers submitted to Roehampton. The matches highlighted in the paper in question are linked to 32 other papers submitted to UR. There can be more than one match with a particular paper. The matches in those other papers may, in turn, originate from different sources.

Questions to ask 

  •  Is it poor academic skills?
  •  Is the student merely unlucky?
  •  Is it a case of blatant plagiarism? Laziness, collusion, self-plagiarism, academic ghostwriting etc?

Tips and tricks

Average similarity scores may be higher for modules with large cohorts. Turnitin is expected to find a larger number of in-class matches especially for essay type assignments referring to the same set of core readings.

  1. Start your investigation by looking at the main sources on the list and find the corresponding in-text matches.
  2. Ignore any cover sheets if applicable.
  3. Depending on the type of assignment, students may copy text from the assignment brief or essay questions – ignore those too.
  4. Look out for large chunks of highlighted text or even entire paragraphs and assess whether they’ve been accurately referenced. Ignore or remove matches consisting of several words only (see below on excluding sources & matches).
  5. Look at the referencing – is it of too high quality/complex for UG level? Look for inconsistencies across the paper. Could parts have been authored by a different person? Has the student been attending regularly?
  6. Check the language used. Sophisticated but not referenced? Entire paragraphs without matches – good student or bought essay?
  7. Diagrams & numbers – simply cut and pasted? Referenced at all? Source of diagram/source of figures? Try to find them online, you may find accompanying text copied and pasted or poorly paraphrased.
  8. Two or more students have used the same diagrampossible collusion or coincidental?
  9. Look at the sources – are there any giveaways?; wikipedia; tutor2u; slideshare and others?

How to detect suspected misconduct

Internet Sources

Clicking on the number assigned to each match will open a source box revealing where in the source the text has been identified. Click on the source link which will open the URL in a new window. If you click on the book icon the source text will be displayed in the right hand panel.

Papers Submitted to Roehampton

Work with a combination of Source Release information as well as Full Source Text to establish the original source of a match and its author.

Clicking on the Submitted to Roehampton link in the source box will generate the Source Release which will allow you to open the original Turnitin assignment that the match links to. NB Turnitin picks random super-user or tutors enrolled on the module. Simply ignore those. What you should take note of instead is which module the other paper was submitted to. Did two or more students in the same module collude? Or were papers across different cohorts or year groups shared?

If you click on the book icon, the matched essay will display as full source text in the right hand navigation bar which provides a quick way of establishing the other student’s identity using the information on the coversheet. If no coversheet was used (draft eg) or you suspect that the information on the coversheet is incorrect and the other student’s name is still anonymised, open the actual paper as outlined above and click on the Anonymised link at the very top in Feedback Studio (where you’d normally see the name) and reveal the name.

Papers submitted to a different institution

If you come across a large match to a paper submitted to a different institution, you  may want to request view access to that paper by clicking on the source link as explained above.

Filtering and excluding matches

Excluding small matches, quotes or bibliography may help refine your students’ similarity reports. In addition, you can exclude entire sources from the report. Please see our more detailed guide on this topic. 

Common scenarios

  •  Similarity linked to a paper by the same student: a) Student used Turnitin submission inboxes on a different module page to do testing and uploaded a draft or final version. b) Student uploaded paper to a different module page by mistake and later realised his/her mistake. Student re-used paragraphs of a different assignment previously submitted. Solutions: a & b) Exclude the relevant source as outlined in the previous paragraph to generate a more accurate report. c) Self-plagiarism? Student retaking module and doing similar essay?
  •  Matches found in paper by a different student: If submitted to the same Turnitin inbox both papers will cross-reference each other. If submitted to a different inbox on a different moodle page, the paper uploaded first will not show any reference to the other paper which didn’t exist in the Turnitin database that that time. This doesn’t mean, however, that the other student should be cleared of collusion. Also see tips & tricks section above.
  •  Matches found in internet sources, publications etc: see tips & tricks section above.

For further guidance and information, check out the Turnitin help pages.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the most common type of academic offence, and falls under the University’s definition of Academic Misconduct. Plagiarism is when someone presents another person’s work without adequately identifying it and citing its source. This can include deliberate cheating, such as buying essays online or getting someone else to write your assignment, but may also be unintentional, such as when copying text without fully acknowledging the original creator.

What is Self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is defined as a type of plagiarism in which the student reproduces material in its entirety or reuses portions of a previously written text for an assessment for the course or programme.

A student has self-plagiarised, but the similarity report is not flagging it up

By default, if a student submits a paper to a Turnitin inbox then submits the same paper or portions of the paper to another inbox in the same module, Turnitin will not show it on the similarity report as a self-plagiarism, because both papers belong to the same student for the same module. However, if a student is resitting a module and has been asked to resubmit a piece of work, the student should produce a new work and should not reuse previously submitted material.

If you think your student has self-plagiarised and would like to include that source to the similarity report, read the second part of this article explaining how to include this source to the similarity report.