Put What Where? Lost in the Turnitin Vortex -->

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Put What Where? Lost in the Turnitin Vortex


Hillary explains using Turnitin.
By Hillary Wentworth, Writing Consultant

Many students are scared of Turnitin, others are angry that they have to use the program, while still others are utterly mystified by it all.  Turnitin is an interesting tool—if you know what it really does.  It’s important to remember that a high Turnitin percentage does not necessarily indicate plagiarism.  The software is simply matching your paper—word for word—to other documents in its database.  These documents (literally millions of them) are journal articles, college papers, web pages, and books.  Amongst those millions, there will be matches.  After all, there is no truly original way to refer to differentiated instruction or evidence-based practice, right?  

So, when you are looking at a Turnitin report, don’t scream and run around the room or dissolve in tears.  Instead, take a long, deep breath, sit down on the couch, and read these tips:

  • Don’t worry about matches in your reference list.  There is only one correct way to format an APA reference, and chances are, someone else in the database has used the same source as you.  Especially if that source is a college textbook.  Therefore, don’t spend time agonizing over the highlights here; they do not mean you are plagiarizing.  They just mean you are using a popular source!
  • Don’t worry about matches in your title or headings.  At Walden, students taking the same class are likely titling their papers similarly and maybe even using the same prescribed headings.  After these papers are submitted to the course-based Turnitin, they become part of the database.  Unless you are indeed copying a fellow student’s paper (and I certainly hope you aren’t!), you can disregard these highlights.
  • Don’t worry about matches of common terms or phrases.  It’s possible that Turnitin will flag common phrases in your field, for instance No Child Left Behind, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or even cognitive-behavioral therapy.  Because there is no other way to describe these particular terms, these highlights are not considered violations of academic integrity.  You are simply using the language of your field.

You’re starting to feel better, aren’t you?  See, it’s not so bad.

Now, there are some cases where you should be nervous. 
  • When reviewing your Turnitin report, if you see long highlights without quotation marks and a full citation (Author, year, p. xx), you need to jump into action.  And by that I mean either adding those elements to reflect a direct quotation from a source or paraphrasing more effectively.
  • Note: Even if you do correctly use direct quotes in your paper, your Turnitin score will be high.  The only way to lower your score is to paraphrase.
  •  A percentage of 90-100% means one of two things:
    • you are reproducing a fellow student’s work, or
    • (more likely) a previous version of your paper was submitted to the course-based Turnitin, which logged it in the database.  Therefore, you are matching your own writing.  If this scenario happens, don’t fear!  Your instructor can disregard that match (see image to right).
Now that we’ve covered some dos and don’ts, I hope you understand Turnitin a bit better.  Like all technology, it is not perfect, but it can reveal when you are directly quoting too much (for instance, 10% or more of a paper) or inadvertently plagiarizing a source.  With this knowledge you can use the program for your advantage—rather than it using you.


  1. Thank you for the tips, they will certainly come to good use.

    Doctoral Candidate.
    Wesley A.Yarborough Sr.

  2. This information about Turnitin gives me much hope and courage. It eased my tention. I wished I am there already.

  3. You cleared up a lot for me, I was under the impression of the higher the score, the better I'm doing but its the other way instead. Turnitin at the school I just transferred from was merely a vehicle to turn in your assignment.
    I'm so glad I'm reading this.

    Berman Bennett
    Walden Student

  4. This post just gave me some relief, but I'm still hesitant. Having just submitted an assignment and recieved a 58% match, (i'm matching my own writing) Im still quite worried. But you state that my instructor "can" as in its at their discretion? or "will" disregard it? Thanks for your help

    1. If your instructor has concerns about your Turnitin report and similarity index, you may want to ask that he or she remove your previous submission from your current report. Your course instructor will have the administrative rights to do so.

  5. I need to check the originality score on two papers to make sure I paraphrased properly, but I used up all six of the Turnitin drafts for this quarter. What can I do?

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! We are glad to hear this was helpful. :) While you have a specific number of allotted TurnItIn submissions in Blackboard, you do you have any limit if you are using TurnItIn through the Academic Skills Centers. Here a link to the Academic Skill Center's TurnItIn page: http://academicguides.waldenu.edu/ASCtii

      I hope that helps!

  6. This was a great breakdown of understanding the usage of Turnitin. Thank you so much for submitting this information. How extremely helpful this is.


  7. Thank you for the information. I started at Walden in 2013 and has used TurnItIn from day 1. It is a helpful tool and I tried to educate myself about the percentages. I am not all the way there, I am much better than what I used to be.
    This quarter has been a new learning experience for me where if you do not know APA, you better know APA (hanging indent, paragraph indent and double spacing in papers and references)
    I have two professors who are by the book - Thanks to them for opening up my eyes.

    Stephanie Charles

  8. We're glad you found this post helpful, Stephanie Charles!

  9. Where can I find Turnitin to insert my paper

    1. Hello Patsy. Thanks for your question. For your coursework, the Turn It In (TII) drop box should be in your blackboard classroom.

      To learn much more about TII and a few helpful tips for using this service, our friends at the Walden U Academic Skills Center have written up a helpful set of instructions. They have even created a "practice" TII Inbox where you can test your papers to see how the service works.

      Check out this great information on TII at the Academic Skills Center Website by clicking on this link.

      Thanks Patsy! Have a great day.