Interpreting Turnitin Originality Reports

If you submit your work to Turnitin, the system analyses the text for matching sources. You will receive an Originality Report which marks and annotates your text in different colours and shows the rough percentage of the content which matches the sources. It does NOT matter what colour Turnitin assigns to your text; you must check all identified sections regardless of colour.

Interpreting Turnitin reports

The overall percentage is an accumulation of all the individual percentage matches, regardless of whether they are substantial or minimal. There is not an acceptable percentage because this value can be arrived in different ways. For example, a number of small matches can result in a large overall percentage which is relatively unimportant, but a small overall percentage may be the result of one or two copied paragraphs and this is more significant. You should examine all the matches in detail to understand why Turnitin has highlighted them. It is possible to reduce the overall percentage by excluding quoted text, small matches and the reference list.

How do I manage the matches?

There is no set threshold for an acceptable or unacceptable similarity index. However, as a rough guide if your overall similarity index is below 5% and comprises several sources, you may feel that no further action is required. If your similarity index is above 5% with few sources, then there may be issues with your work.

  • You have nothing to worry about if the coloured text in the report is mostly made up of the title of the work and references
  • Excluding the title and references should bring the similarity index to below 5%. If it does not, check references, referenced quotes and short sentences from a variety of sources. Your report is probably borderline if the majority of the coloured text is in paragraphs with a few words changed from the original
  • You will need to make substantial revisions if:
    • the coloured text, excluding titles, referenced quotes and references, makes up a significant proportion of your work
    • if there are more than three paragraphs in any one colour
    • and/or the majority of the text in any one colour is unchanged
  • This suggests you need some help with paraphrasing. Remember that even if you have paraphrased you should still cite the original source. You should be aware that direct quotes are not acceptable in some subjects: In scientific writing, for example. Paraphrasing is an important academic skill which you must practice and learn. 

Further help

  • Study skills workshops are offered in both libraries.
  • Help on Referencing will always be a useful way to check referencing rules and develop your understanding of how to reference and cite the work of others in your writing
  • For more information on how to correctly reference resources in your work, visit the Information Skills section of the Resources for Learning Channel on the Learning Essentials tab of shuspace
  • For more information on the Turnitin service, including how to submit work and how to interpret your originality report, view our Turnitin support videos
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