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ASC TurnItIn: Reading the Turnitin Originality Report

How to read the Turnitin Originality Report

Turnitin reports can be confusing if you do not know how to interpret them, but there is a systematic way of looking at them to help you understand the information they contain.

A Note on Similarity Index: The Academic Skills Center does not advise students or faculty to aim for a specific similarity index in a Turnitin (TII) report. Because TII will flag properly cited material, a high similarity percentage does not always indicate plagiarism.Similarly, a paper with a low similarity index can still have strings of text that have been improperly cited or improperly paraphrased. Instead of focusing on reaching a certain percentage, students and faculty can use the TII report as a means to discuss how to properly credit sources and paraphrase scholarly material, reviewing the results match by match.

  1. Identifying your overall similarity index
  2. Identifying your sources
  3. Reviewing the paper text
  4. Taking action
  5. Downloading a copy of your report

1. Identifying your overall similarity index

As stated in the Turnitin student user guide (2006), "papers submitted to Turnitin are compared against billions of internet documents, an archived copy of the internet, our local databases of submitted student papers, and a database of periodicals, journals, & publications" (p. 7).  The percentage provided here is based on your essay's overall similarity to these documents.

Image of Turnitin report showing where to find overall similarity index in top right corner

2. Identifying your sources

Here you will find a percentage-based breakdown of all the sources that Turnitin has identified in your essay. However, as the program readily admits, a reading that shows a high percentage does not necessarily mean the paper has been plagiarized (Turnitin, 2006, p. 7). For example, if you or your instructor has previously submitted your paper to a course TII drop box and you made changes and then resubmitted the same paper, TII will produce a high match because your paper is similar to itself. In addition, TII will note any strings of words that match another student paper or scholarly source, including elements like a title, reference citations, or common terms used in your field of study. Remember that TII will also flag any properly cited material as well, so even if direct quotes have the proper citation and quotation marks, TII will note these areas in the percentage.

The results here should therefore be read as a prioritized list and nothing more. The higher the percentage, the more frequently the source appears in the document, whether cited appropriately or not. These sources are also numbered and color coded so that they may be referenced with your document in the Paper Text section.

Image of Turnitin report showing the percentage breakdown of sources
In most instances where you select to review a match in detail, each suspect source listing should also provide you with the opportunity to view the original document via a hyperlink.

3. Reviewing the Paper Text

As you review the Paper Text section of the report, you should notice that blocks or chunks of your draft have been quarantined from the rest of your essay. These portions of the text have been color-coded (and number-coded) to match the sources on the right. 

Image that shows the highlighted text in draft and the matching source identified by Turnitin

4. Taking Action

You should compare your writing with the source material Turnitin has identified. Is the highlighted portion of your work cited appropriately?  Is it paraphrased correctly?  Is it in your own words?  Have you referenced material that you’ve actually read? Have you cited your secondary sources appropriately?

5. Downloading a Copy of Your Report

To download the report, select the "download" printer option in the lower left corner of the report.

Image of how to download a PDF of the Turnitin report


After ensuring that your pop-up blocker is disabled, you will be prompted with a series of messages to confirm your download. The default file to save to your computer will be in PDF format. Click on the printer icon and select the option to print to a PDF file; your document can then be saved to your desktop and attached to emails as needed.