Interpret the Originality Report

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Table of Contents

Turnitin originality report has to be always interpreted as it can not show whether the text is written following guidelines on academic writing or subject spesific instructions. The report is a tool to help assessing and supervising by showing similarities between the text at hand and comparison sources.

Quick Guide of Originality View

Picture Originality view (below) is a quick guide to start examining the originality report.

Watch also a Demo video of Turnitin Originality Report  (2:53, click "Demo").

Picture. Originality view. Click the picture to maximise it.

Take an Overview of the Report

Before reading the paper, spend just a minute for a quick overview by browsing through the originality match overview (number 1 in the picture).

Matches show up as colored. See if the matches with different sources, are

  • small spots here and there → No need to react at this point
  • bigger chunks in the middle of the text or Are they properly marked quotations? Are they justified? If not, take a closer look before assessing the paper.
  • bigger chunks in the bibliography No need to react at this point
  • making the overall similarity index percentage over 25%   browse through the originality check report more carefully.
Read the paper as usual and interpret similarities

After a quick overview, read the paper as usual. Interpret similarities in the context. At least now, it is time to recall what are the typical forms of plagiarism.

Teacher: click now to GradeMark view, where you can asses the paper and interpret similarities at the same time (number 4 in the picture Originality view). If you need to see the match details of the originality report, it is easy to go back and forth between Originality and GradeMark views.

What does the similarity index percentage contain and how to interpret it?

First of all, do not pay too much attention to the similarity percentage. It is a relative number and it does not tell relevance of found similarities. Similarities need to be interpreted in their context. This is why it is better to read and assess papers and interpret the similarities at the same time in Turnitin.

The percentage can contain both "good" and "bad" matches: it is necessary to read the paper and interpret the similarities in the context before plagiarism can be suspected. 

"Good" similarities can be

  • typical phrases, mathematical formulas or definitions of the field which can not be expressed otherwise
  • citings and bibliography, when sources connected to them can be checked easily
  • quotations marked with quotation marks (Turnitin identifies quotation marked with quotation marks, but it does not identify one marked with italics)
  • a big part of the overall similarity percentage, see the chapter Filter Matches.

"Bad" similarities 

  • can form only a small percentage of similarities, but if they are found in an important part of the text, they can be significant
  • similarities here and there can bring forward the kind of plagiarism where only minor changes has been made to the source text.
Filter Matches

Settings of the submission box influence on the similarity index percentage.

To exclude acceptable similarities in the Originality Check report you can change 3 settings while examining the report (see picture Filters)

  • Exclude bibliographic materials from Similarity Index for all papers in this assignment? = YES
  • Exclude quoted materials from Similarity Index for all papers in this assignment? = YES
    • Note: if quoting has been made with indentation or italics, exclusion does not work
    • If there is plenty of quotations in the text, quotations should be included in the report for checking if they are all indicated
  • Exclude Small Matches = 1 (or 2) Words

Picture. Filters.


Exclude Matching Sources

Any of the sources can be excluded from the originality report if needed. For example, if a latter version of the paper is compared to the earlier version, the earlier version can be excluded (see tips how submissions of several versions of the same paper can be arranged). To exclude a source, choose "All sources" view (see picture All sources -view) and choose the source which should be excluded. If different versions of the same paper are submitted into the same submission box, the versions are not compared to each other.

Picture. All sources -view.

Explore matching sources

When interpreting the similarity, you can explore how a match is located in a matching source. Click a number of a match (see nr 3 in the picture Originality view) to get the full source view.

Turnitin does not cover it all - Turnitin comparison databases

The originality report is a good tool, but it is not the whole truth. It does not find all possible similarities. See the description of Turnitin comparison databases (repositories). You can search for scholarly journals that are included in database of licensed publications (content partnerships). Although the content repositories of Turnitin are vast there are still contents which are not included. Naturally, non-digital sources are not there. More contents in Finnish have to be indexed in future.

Note: At the moment, Aalto University has not purchased the tool of checking translation plagiarism.

Teacher: if the writing style changes, but matches are not found, be aware of possible plagiarism. This is the traditional way of noticing texts that are not written in own words by the author.

Procedure if plagiarism is suspected

Read the chapter Aalto University Code of Academic Integrity about the procedure which should be followed if plagiarism is suspected.

Next: Give feedback in GradeMark view