How do I interpret my Turnitin Report?

How do I interpret my Turnitin Report?

Turnitin is the Seminary's plagiarism checker. Turnitin works by checking submitted essays against the internet and against other essays submitted at ATS. Turnitin returns a report showing how much of a given essay is potentially plagiarized. For information on how to submit your essay to be checked for plagiarism before turning it in, please see "How do I submit my essay to Turnitin to check for Plagiarism." This article will review the main features of a Turnitin report. 

To open a report, go to your Grades page in Canvas, and click on the green/yellow/orange/red flag.  This will open your report. It may open in a new browser tab. (NOTE: This may not be available in your regular classes. This guide is primarily referring to reports generated in the SC100: Student Canvas Tutorial course, though all Turnitin reports contain the same features.)

Your report should look something like this (red numbers added by me) (sample paper used with permission of the author)

1. Your report includes a complete copy of your essay, with highlighting. Each recognized source is highlighted in a different color that matches the list on the right. 

2. This is your originality score. It shows what percentage of your essay matches other materials Turnitin searches, either on the internet or in the library of other essays written by ATS students. NOTE: It's actually very rare to get a score of 0%. Don't freak out just because you see a number. 

3. This shows a list of sources that match your paper.  They are sorted in order from the biggest match to the smallest. Clicking on this will jump you to the part of your essay that matches, enabling you to review the section in question to double-check that everything is correctly cited. Likewise, clicking on the orange highlighted material will bring up the relevant source. 

When looking at a specific source match, Turnitin gives you the option to directly compare. If the source is openly available, it will open it up for you to directly compare the two sources, like this:  

This allows you to put the sources side by side and see what Turnitin is flagging. Remember, however, that just because Turnitin flags something, it doesn't mean it's a problem. In this case, if you look closely, you can see that both sources are quoting the same material. So, even though it shows as match, there's a legitimate reason for that match, and it's not an issue. 

Turnitin does NOT differentiate between quoted material and plagiarism. It highlights everything that matches. To see if there's a problem, you will need to go through and check the matches yourself to see if any of them are improperly cited. 

Please note that Turnitin highlights any matches longer than a few words, which means that it will highlight things like "In this paper, I am going to discuss . . . " and other commonly used academic phrases. These are incidental matches. Incidental matches happen when various people, working completely independently, happen to use the same phrasing for a common idea. After all, there are only so many ways to say the same thing. These are generally not a problem.

Turnitin also highlights when two people have quoted from the same material. This happens quite a lot with scripture, for example, or when all members of the same class are writing about the same book. Again, this is not generally a problem, though you do need to make sure you have provided a proper reference. 

Any questions about submitting your paper to Turnitin or interpreting a Turnitin report can be directed to the Writing Center at

Additional information about interpreting Turnitin reports can be found here
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