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What is Turnitin?

It is text matching software, widely used in HE institutions to check the integrity of student work.

How does Turnitin work?

Work is uploaded to Turnitin and checked against the contents of the Turnitin database. Turnitin produces an originality report that shows the percentage of matched text in the work with the content in its database. Turnitin’s database is huge. According to York University (2019) it contains:

  • 45 billion web pages
  • 337 million student papers
  • 130 million articles
  • A growing foreign language database

Turnitin is not…

  • plagiarism detection software
  • able to tell you if too much/little of the text matches other sources
  • able to identify changes in writing style throughout a document
  • able to isolate common phrases or technical terms that have been correctly used
  • able to distinguish between poor academic practice and malicious intent
  • a substitute for academic judgement (York University, 2019)

What will be submitted to Turnitin?

Any summative work that students submit to CTE as part of their studies. Students will not have access to the originality reports generated for these summative assignments - only markers will have access to these. Please note students will have to accept Turnitin’s End User Licence Agreement (EULA) before they can submit a piece of work to Turnitin.

How do I use Turnitin with Moodle?

When you set up an assignment dropbox in Moodle, making Turnitin available is one of the options. If you navigate to the Turnitin plagiarism plugin settings section, you will see a screen similar to the image below. First of all you need to choose Yes from the Enable Turnitin dropdown menu. This will make the rest of the fields/menus available.

Moodle assignment dropbox Turnitin fields - each section is described underneath this picture.

Display Similarity Reports to Students - You need to choose No from this dropdown menu as Warwick does not give students access to their originality reports. Some institutions use Turnitin formatively and do give students access to these reports (usually alongside some form of academic writing support sessions or self-help materials).

When should the file be submitted to Turnitin? - You have two choices here: Submit file when first uploaded or Submit file when student sends for marking. Either option works fine.

Allow submission of any file type? - Set this option to Yes as it gives students the most flexibility with respect to the type of file they can submit. However, Turnitin will only accept the following file types:

  • Microsoft Word (DOC and DOCX)
  • Corel WordPerfect
  • HTML
  • Adobe PostScript
  • Plain text (TXT)
  • Rich Text Format (RTF)
  • Portable Document Format (PDF) (Created using Adobe Acrobat)
  • OpenOffice (ODT)
  • Hangul (HWP)
  • PowerPoint (PPT)
  • Google Docs via Google Drive

Turnitin cannot be used to upload media files (as Warwick does not use GradeMark) or image files. Any uploaded file should be under 100MB in size and less than 800 pages long. Larger files will need to be edited to remove any non-text content before they can be submitted. Files that are password protected, encrypted, hidden, system files, or read only files cannot be uploaded or submitted to Turnitin.

NB: Text only files should not exceed 2 MB in size.

Store Student Papers - As Warwick only uses Turnitin for summative submissions, you should set this to Standard Repository. This means that the submission will be added to the Turnitin database and any subsequent submissions will be checked against it.

Check against stored students papers - set this to Yes so that the submission is checked against any submissions already in the Turnitin database.

Check against internet - set this to Yes. Be aware that Turnitin is unable to check the submission against everything on the internet as a significant proportion of the internet is unavailable to it. Generally Turnitin can check against those internet sources that have been archived (which is a lot) or those which are publicly accessible.

Check against journals, periodicals and publications - again set this to Yes but do not assume Turnitin can check against all journals, periodicals and publications. It can only check the submission against those that it has been given access to (or that are publicly available).

Moodle assignment dropbox Turnitin fields - each section is described underneath this picture.

The Report Generation Speed field allows you to choose when the originality reports are generated. There are three options available: 

  • Generate reports immediately (students cannot resubmit) - originality reports for all submissions will be generated immediately. Students cannot resubmit assignments.
  • Generate reports until due date (students can resubmit until due date) - originality reports for all submissions will be generated immediately. Students can resubmit assignments until the due date and time but any new originality reports can take up to 24 hours to become available.
  • Generate reports immediately (students can resubmit until due date): After 3 resubmissions, reports generate after 24 hours - originality reports for all submissions will be generated immediately. Students can resubmit assignments until the due date and time but if they submit more than three times, any new originality reports will not be generated for 24 hours. Only the latest version of the report will be available and the originality reports will compare assignments within the same assignment dropbox.  

Text in a submission that appears after the headings bibliography, works cited and references can be excluded from the originality report by choosing Yes under the Exclude Bibliography menu.  

Text that appears between double quotation marks in a submission can be excluded from the originality report by clicking Yes under the Exclude Quoted Material field. Be aware that Harvard referencing uses single quotation marks and therefore will not be excluded even if you set this field to yes. 

You can choose to indicate that the similarity index for every originality report for an assignment should exclude matches equal to or less than a certain value (1 - 100). The default setting is that all matches are shown. Choose Words or Percent from the Exclude Small Matches menu and then put a number into the Exclusion value field. 

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on either of the Save buttons to complete the process.

How do I access the originality report?

Click on the assignment dropbox title in Moodle and then click on the View all submissions button. You will need to scroll across to the right of the page to see all of the columns but you should see the assignment title with a coloured block underneath it. This will have a percentage value in it (38% in an amber coloured block in the example below).

Turnitin originality report access point in Moodle

Essentially the percentage matches range from blue (almost no matches) through to red (a very high percentage of matches). Originality reports that have not yet finished generating are greyed out.

0% blue, 6% green, 43% yellow, 58% orange and 80% red

Click on the coloured block to access the originality report. An example report is shown below.

Example Turnitin originality report - further information about the report is included below the image

The main body of the submission is shown on the left of the page. The panel on the right with Match Overview at the top gives you a breakdown of the matches that Turnitin has found. If this panel is not visible, simply click on the button with the number in it on the similarity menu to the right of the main body section.

The Match Overview section will display the matches with the highest percentage match at the top and the lowest percentage match at the bottom. Ignore any colours that Turnitin assigns to matches. Red does not necessarily indicate a higher percentage match than green, the colours are just assigned in a particular order that always starts with red.

If you click on one of the matches in the Match Overview panel it will highlight the match in the main body section. In the example above the highest percentage match (7%) is shown in red on the main body section with a number 1 assigned to it. Clicking on the number will show a pop up window which shows the match on the web in its original form. You can see in the example above that match 23 is highlighted in green and the pop up window above it is the matched text on the source website.

To navigate to the next submission you can use the back and forth arrows at the top right of the screen. Added functionality is available from the other buttons on the similarity menu:

Turnitin panel menu The second button on the menu (that looks like a bar graph) is the view all sources button. This will allow you to see all of the sources in much more detail, not just the overview.
Turnitin filters and settings menu

If you have chosen not to exclude matches under a certain number or percentage when setting up the assignment dropbox, you can still do this at an individual submission level. Click on the filters and settings button (it looks like a funnel) on the similarity menu. Choose whether you want to exclude Quotes or the Bibliography by clicking the relevant checkbox. Then add values to the Words or Percent fields and click on the Apply Changes button at the bottom of the panel.

The final button that looks like a no entry sign (the excluded sources button) will allow you to show all sources if you have previously set filters (either at the assignment level or the individual submission level).

The grey download button will allow you to download a local copy of the originality report and the i button just gives you submission information such as the date and time the submission was uploaded and how many words it contains. To access a text only version of the report click on the Text-only Report link at the bottom right of the main body section.