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Using the originality report in Turnitin

Once you have received your originality report from Turnitin, you should use the report to check your work and find ways to improve it. This page will give you suggestions on how to do the following:

  • Retrieve your originality report
  • Understand matches in the report
  • Use the filters
  • Reference any genuine matches 
To retrieve your report, click on the box that gives your percentage (you will see this percentage icon whilst your assignment is still under draft status).  

Percentage icon

You should then be shown a report on screen which looks something like this:

Originality report

Understand matches in the report

Matches in your report are places where the text that you have written appears to be the same as text that is held somewhere in the Turnitin database. This database holds enormous amounts of text, from sources such as books, journals, the internet (it has a complete historical record of everything that has been on the web going well back into the 1990s) and also any other piece of student work that has ever been submitted to Turnitin.

Notice that the report shows you your assessment, in the same format you submitted it, but with colour overlaid. These blocks of colour indicate places where matches were found. The colour overlaid on the text coincides with the colour of one of the sources listed in the right-hand column under 'Primary Source View'.

There are different reasons why matches may be found:

  • Quotations will be identified (unless you have set the 'Exclude Quotes' filter - see below) because these are the words of another author. Be sure that you have cited the original author correctly.
  • Some or all of your bibliography or reference list will be identified because these may have been used in other students' papers.
  • Small numbers of words, perhaps 3 or 4 words together, may be identified because they are either common phrases or they are genuine coincidences of language use.

All of these examples listed above are not a plagiarism risk. Learn to identify these and it will help you to recognise that part of your percentage of similarity is acceptable. However, the following are matches that suggest a plagiarism risk:

  • There is a genuine match to another source that is not referenced within your paper.
  • You have paraphrased but not changed the words sufficiently.

These two instances, and particularly the case of genuine matches, do present a plagiarism risk. For poorly written paraphrasing, the strategy is clearly to rewrite the original author's words further (and make sure you reference the source correctly). 

Use the filters

Notice that on the bottom-right of the page, there is a toolbar that includes the funnel-shaped filter icon: 


If you click on the filter icon, you will get some options: 

Exclude quotes 

Notice that this provides you with different ways to filter the information in your report. Try ticking the boxes for 'Exclude Quotes' and 'Exclude Bibliography' and see how much your percentage will go down (if you have quoted and written your bibliography correctly):

Doing this means that Turnitin will recognise text in your paper that has been properly quoted and will not include this text in your percentage of similarity (because if it is quoted, it is not plagiarised). It's important to note that only quotes given in double quotation marks (" "), or indented quotes are recognised by Turnitin. Single quotation marks (' ') are not recognised. 

Turnitin ideintifies text that comes after the heading Bibliography or alternately Reference list as the bibliography for your paper and will also exclude this when you select that filter.

If you need to know about quotation and writing a bibliography or reference list, then you can visit Referencing and academic integrity.

You may also choose to use the filters based on number of words or % of match. For instance if you choose to filter out any matches that are 3 words or less, then you will omit lots of instances of coincidental matches.

Reference any genuine matches

If you find that you have any text matches that are more than just a few coincidental words, then you need to do something about it. If you don't use correct quotation and referencing for text matches then you are commiting plagiarism, which is counted as academic misconduct and you will lose points for your paper.

What you need to do is:

  1. Use Turnitin to identify the source of the original text

  2. Write a full citation for that source in your reference list or bibliography

  3. Put the matching text into double quotation marks and quote it correctly, e.g.
    Smith (2008, p.9) tells us that, "quotation shows us the exact words of the original author"

  4. Or paraphrase the original author's words, e.g.
    Smith (2008, p.10) explains that paraphrasing is the act of reporting another person's ideas but giving them in your own words.

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to receive your report, make these changes and upload your work again before the assessment deadline and before clicking the final submit button.