Staff guidance and resources for Turnitin

Turnitin is a web-based tool that supports students in the development of good academic practice when preparing written work for assessment. This text-matching tool allows academic staff to check students' work for improper use of sources or potential plagiarism by comparing it against continuously updated databases (including web-pages and student work).

How to set up draft and final submissions in Turnitin

Draft submissions

Draft submissions allow your students to check the originality of their work before a final submission without storing the student paper in the Turnitin database.

To set up a draft submission, follow the instructions in the following article: How do I set up a draft submission in Turnitin?

Final submissions

To set up a final submission, follow the instructions in the following article: How do I set up a final submission in Turnitin?

How to avoid email notifications when students submit drafts

Changing this setting will disable email notifications for both draft and final submissions. We recommend leaving these notifications enabled, as they can work as proof that students submitted on time or evidence that students resubmitted a revised version of their work when they shouldn’t have. Email notifications also give you a better real-time overview of what is happening in a given module. For example, if you aren’t receiving submission notifications on a day where you expect to, this can be an early warning that something is wrong with that assignment. We recommend filtering these notifications out in Gmail using filters. 

If you still wish to disable instructor notifications from Turnitin:

  1. In Moodle, click your profile menu (your name) on the top righthand corner.

  2. Click Preferences.

  3. Click Notification Preferences.

  4. Find Turnitin Assignment Instructor Digital Receipt Notifications and toggle off both for web and email.

Recommendations for interpreting Turnitin

Never make judgements about student submissions in terms of marks or absence/presence of plagiarism based on the overall similarity percentage. It is always about what the match consists of. There is no ideal overall similarity, nor any figure below which an assignment is ok, and above which it is not ok.

Turnitin has both:

  • False positives (where matches are highlighted to text that is not problematic, eg cover sheets, institutional addresses, reference lists, commonly used references, templates, quotations, appropriately cited tables, standard academic phrases, etc.), and
  • False negatives (where no matches are found, but markers may find similarity to texts by using other software or Google, or checking source texts themselves). 

High scores do not necessarily indicate plagiarism; reasons could include lists of appendices or given tables, and extensive use of quotations.

Low scores do not necessarily indicate absence of plagiarism, as Turnitin does not find all plagiarism, and essay writing companies are known to produce texts with 0% match. Low scores may also indicate poor or little research or use of sources, so students should not set out with the aim of keeping Turnitin scores low - they should set out with the aim to write effectively with sources.

More important than the overall similarity are the highest ranked sources in the breakdown of matches. If there are high individual matches, this may indicate plagiarism, or if correctly cited and formatted, may indicate over-reliance on sources, although there may still be understandable reasons for high matches.

The matches do not necessarily show the sources the student used; they show the latest use of the words on the Turnitin database. Very often, this means the use of words from a published source by another student; small matches to many other students’ work just indicates that they are writing about the same subject using the same sources, it is not collusion.

You might like to share the following video with your students - Interpreting Turnitin: a guide for students.

How to respond to Turnitin UK Paper view requests

To respond to Turnitin UK paper view requests:

Paper view request emails are sent by Turnitin when instructors from other institutions are requesting to view a student paper which has been submitted to Oxford Brookes institutional repository. All users enrolled as ‘Turnitin tutors’ in an assignment will receive these emails. The majority of these requests refer to very small matches between student work which just indicates the same sources and therefore should be ignored

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Where to get further support

The TEL Support pages have a large number of articles offering support for academics regarding online assessment and feedback. For further help and guidance with using Turnitin, staff need to contact their Faculty’s Digital Media and e-learning Developers (DMeLDs). When they are not available, contact Digital Services in Learning Resources: digitalservices@brookes.ac.uk.

To follow in due course, we will provide two sets of guidelines:

  • Students: How to Learn from a Turnitin Report
  • Staff: How to Use Turnitin to Provide Feedback to Students.