Turnitin and Other Plagiarism Detection Methods

Various electronic means can be used to detect unfair means and provide the necessary supporting evidence of any concerns.  However, vigilance on the part of academic staff remains key in detecting unfair means, for example:

  • bibliographies that only cite material not available locally or contain only older references in work on a topical issue;
  • introductions and conclusions written in much poorer English or in a different style to the body of an essay;
  • unusual or highly specific professional jargon from a student just starting out in a discipline;
  • coursework which only obliquely addresses the question set, which closely resembles the work of other students or which contains material not covered in the course;
  • work which is out of character for that student (once the coursework is anonymously assessed).


Turnitin is a text-matching tool which checks a document against a range of websites as well as other students' work already submitted to their data base. An originality report is created, highlighting matches between the student's work and their source material. However Turnitin can only signpost concerns: the decision as to whether a piece of work meets required standards or not is ultimately down to academic judgement. It is good practice to share the academic analysis of such a report with the student as well as the report itself.

Some departments use Turnitin as a tool to help students learn about referencing and academic writing techniques.

See also: Further information about Turnitin