How to Detect Plagiarism on Turnitin

Written by jared lewis
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How to Detect Plagiarism on Turnitin
The availability of information online makes plagiarism tempting, but easy to detect with certain programs. (working on laptop image by kastock from

Plagiarism is a rampant problem on many college campuses, especially since the advent of the Internet has made information readily available at the push of a button. Thanks to websites like Turnitin, however, college professors and other educators are taking back control of the research process and enforcing plagiarism standards with a higher degree of stringency. Detecting plagiarism on Turnitin is fairly simple to do, but it is necessary to know how to navigate your way around the site and interpret the data that is provided.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Create an account with Turnitin. You cannot create an individual account to use with all of your classes, however, unless your school has a license agreement with the website. Once the account is established, Turnitin provides an account number and password to a school administrator who can then provide it to you as an instructor. Once you have that information you can click on the "Create Account" link located just below the sign-in form located at the top of the page. Follow the online instructions for setting up your account and creating an account for each of the classes that you teach. Each class will have a separate identification number and a password that you will create and give to your students.

  2. 2

    Log in to your account and create a class and assignment. When you set up each class for use on Turnitin, you will have the option of naming each one. For instance, if you have a U.S. history class that meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you might name it "US_History_MWF" or something that will help you distinguish one class from another. For each class assignment you can create a new link which the students can access and submit their work through.

  3. 3

    Instruct your students to create their own student accounts and upload their work to Turnitin. Let the entire class know that they will not receive a grade for the assignment until this step has been completed. This will help you keep students from attempting to circumvent the system by not submitting their papers.

  4. 4

    Log in to your account and click on the link to the appropriate class. Under the "Assignments" tab, click on the "View" link that corresponds to the appropriate assignment. This will take you to a page listing each student, the title of her paper, the date it was turned in and a report that Turnitin has generated regarding the student's use of sources. In the "Report" column, a percentage will be listed with a corresponding colour code that indicates the amount of material that is similar or identical to other content on the Internet or other papers that have been submitted to other schools. Blue bars indicate zero correspondence, green only some, yellow a bit more and orange a good deal of correspondence. A red bar indicates that most of the paper is not original. Both orange and red bars (and sometimes yellow) indicate that you should check the report more carefully.

  5. 5

    Click on the coloured box corresponding to the percentage listed for that paper. A new window will open with a report generated by Turnitin. In the left column, you will see the original paper, but it will be colour-coded and include a superscript if any of the text matches Internet websites or other papers in terms of content. In the right column, the number of the superscript and the colour code will show you what percentage of the paper's material corresponds to another source. To see the source from which the material was borrowed, click on the colour-coded text in the left column and a pop-up window will provide you with a snapshot of the original source. If you wish to see the entire website's page, click on the pop-up window and a new window will open in your browser. From there you can see how much material has been borrowed or stolen from another source.

Tips and warnings

  • Some papers will show a high amount of correspondence between other student papers that have been submitted and students in your class. It is possible that your student purchased a research paper that combines several different research papers. You can request to see the paper, but the author of the paper has to give you permission. Because many students have already graduated and moved on, they will no longer have access to the Turnitin website, while others may simply never respond to your request. Approach your students cautiously if you cannot prove that the material was purchased.

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