Top 15 Misconceptions About Turnitin

Misconception 15:  Turnitin employs legions of writing experts to read and evaluate papers for plagiarism.

Reality: Turnitin receives over 200,000 papers daily, and no human reads the papers at Turnitin.  All papers are processed by our software, servers and databases.

Misconception 14:  Turnitin automatically evaluates and grades papers . . . eliminating the need for instructors to grade them.

Reality: Turnitin matches text similarity and does not grade papers for the instructors.  It is up to the instructor and/or student to determine whether the assignment exhibits plagiarism.

Misconception 13:  Turnitin has expertise in plagiarism and can render judgment on specific cases.

Reality: There is no "threshold" Similarity Index that is either "good" or "bad"--each Originality Report needs to be examined to understand what a student did and whether or not there is a problem. Misconception 12:  Turnitin compares a paper against everything ever written . . . web pages, books, publications, unpublished works, etc . . .

Reality: There are sources that are not in Turnitin--especially if that material is only available in print.  But the sources that students typically use are largely included in Turnitin.

Misconception 11:  Matched text is likely to be completely coincidental or common knowledge.

Reality: The likelihood that a 16-word match is "just a coincidence" is less than 1 in a trillion.  Turnitin also includes the ability to exclude "small matches" if the instructor wants to exclude common phrases.

Misconception 10:  Students can easily "game" Turnitin to escape detection.

Reality: Once the student receives an Originality Report, they have to wait 24 hours to get another report on a re-submission, preventing students from wordsmithing and re-submitting repeatedly.

Misconception 9:  All students hate Turnitin.

Reality: Many students have stated that they like the fact that Turnitin helps maintain a level playing field. Turnitin protects students' work from unauthorized use, and gives students who want to do their own work a good reason not to share their work with others.

Misconception 8:  Student copyrights are compromised in some way by Turnitin.

Reality: The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed that Turnitin's archiving of work was not a copyright infringement because it falls within the fair use exception.  Please see our "Answers to Common Legal Questions about Turnitin."

Misconception 7:  Every student paper submitted becomes part of the Turnitin database--forever.

Reality: Turnitin has many options--including the ability to offer students an "opt out" of the database and the option of having an institutional database of student papers.  Student papers may be removed only by request of the instructor of the class.

Misconception 6:  The source named in the Originality Report is the exact source used by the writer.

Reality: There can be many matches because of extensive duplications of material on the web.  The source named may not be the exact source the student used.

Misconception 5:  Papers in the Turnitin database are easily accessible by others so privacy is not protected.

Reality: Papers are secure from prying eyes.  No one can go into the student database.

Misconception 4:  An instructor can determine if a paper is OK or not from the Similarity Index % and doesn't need to look at the Originality Report.
Reality: The Similarity Index must be interpreted in the context of the assignment and the actual writing. The only way to do this is to look at the Originality Report.

Misconception 3:  The "Similarity Index" shows the percentage of paper that is plagiarized.

Reality: The Similarity Index is just a percentage of material in the paper that matches sources in the Turnitin databases.  Text that is quoted and cited will be included in the Similarity Index, which offers a great opportunity to check for proper citation.

Misconception 2:  Turnitin works the same in all situations and is not flexible.

Reality: Turnitin has many options and settings for adapting Turnitin to your various institutional departmental, and individual needs. Instructors can decide to let their students see their reports, do re-submissions, get revised reports -- or not.

Misconception 1:  Turnitin detects plagiarism.

Reality: Turnitin matches to text in our databases and leaves the judgment up to the instructor.  As mentioned above, instructors MUST look at the Originality Reports to determine if there is a problem.