In common with many Universities across the UK, Edinburgh Napier subscribes to TurnitinUK, a text matching software tool to help deter plagiarism and to support academic writing skills. 

TurnitinUK Basics

1. How do I access Turnitin and submit my coursework? 

Use of Turnitin is at the discretion of individual tutors. Students submit their coursework to Turnitin in the Turnitin assignment submission box in your Moodle module. The following resources provide instructions for submitting coursework to Turnitin. 

Turnitin Student Resources Hub

Video: How to submit your coursework and find your feedback

Please note that, when submitting a paper to Turnitin for the first time, you will be prompted to accept the end user licence agreement. There are certain licence requirements for students under the age of 18 who should speak to their programme or module leader before using the service. 

2. What file formats can I submit? 

The acceptable file requirements are described in the Turnitin website. Most text based files are accepted but please note that Apple Pages are not accepted and so you should save these as PDFs before submission. If you have work on an external website, such as WordPress or WikiSpaces, then read the Using Web 2.0 Tools to Produce Coursework document. 

3. How can I see my grade and feedback? 

Turnitin also provides a digital mark-up system that allows your tutor to mark your assignment online and provide comments anywhere in the body of your paper. When your tutor returns your assignment click the pencil icon to open your marked paper online and see the grade you have been given and also any comments that your tutor has made. View this video for help with finding your feedback.  


Read the information in the Regulations and Data Protection section for further information regarding use of your personal data in Turnitin. 

4. How should I use my Turnitin report? 

The student FAQs provide help with interpreting your report, and more details are available in this presentation (PDF). You can also refer to this checklist (PDF) by lecturer Dr Claire Garden, which provides a five step process to interpreting your originality report. 

For a more in depth look with examples, visit Turnitin’s help pages or view this video by Senior Lecturer Joan McLatchie, which is based on the support she has provided to her students. The video has 4 sections: 

  • Understanding sources of matching text 
  • Identifying your referencing mistakes 
  • Reducing your percentage match 
  • Matches to student papers (collusion) 

Although the video was produced in 2010 and Turnitin has changed since then, the advice that Joan is providing is still very relevant with the current version of Turnitin. 

5. What does TurnitinUK actually do? 

Turnitin helps academic staff address a number of common, but difficult to identify issues related to citation and collaboration in coursework assessments. By submitting student coursework to the Turnitin database, tutors and students can identify matching sources of text in the student work from the results of searching: 

Billions of archived copies of websites worldwide 

Thousands of journal articles from several of the databases of articles in journals and magazines written by academics, consultants and practitioners 

The entire database of work submitted by students or their lecturers in every UK institution since records began (around 2002) 

Matching sources are presented in colour coded Originality Reports which are used to help provide better information and feedback to students about the work they have submitted. 

Turnitin does not make decisions about the intention of work it identifies as unoriginal, nor does it determine if unoriginal content is correctly cited or indeed plagiarised. It simply highlights sections of text that have been found in other sources. In many cases this will lead an academic member of staff to provide feedback to you on how to improve your coursework submissions and citations. All assessment decisions will continue to be made by a module leader who will review the entire work. 

6. How long will TurnitinUK keep my work? 

Your submissions will be retained until the termination of Turnitin or its successor, thus helping to accumulate as large a database as possible against which to compare submissions. Please read the Regulations and Data Protection section for more information. 

7. What is the benefit of using TurnitinUK? 

Edinburgh Napier University aims to encourage students to behave with honesty and integrity at all times. The correct citation of work and the authenticity of assessments is a cornerstone, not just of our education system, but of the trust and value held in each of our education institutions by employers and the public at large. 

The University has signed up to the use of Turnitin to help maintain academic standards and fairness in assessment, together with other methods of upholding the integrity of the academic process. The service will also help to protect your work from future plagiarism and thereby assist in maintaining the integrity of any qualification you receive. 

By highlighting matching text in Originality Reports, students are receiving helpful information for improving key referencing skills. To do this students need to understand how to interpret the originality report. 

TurnitinUK FAQs

1. Can Turnitin detect collusion? 

Collusion is a form of plagiarism where one or more students copy from each other, and TurnitinUK can detect matching text between student papers. It is important to realise that if you are permitted to submit multiple drafts, TurnitinUK does not compare student papers within the same assignment until the due date. This means that the Originality Report may change from the last version you viewed and you will not be able to submit another paper to that assignment. For guidance in avoiding collusion then view section 4 of this video (which starts at 9:00)

2. How can I use quotations without matching other sources? 

If the quotation has been used elsewhere, or the original source is on the Turnitin database, then it will show up as a match. This is not a problem, as long as you have presented it as a quote, and cited it correctly. Alternatively, you can set Turnitin to exclude quotes from text matching, and this will remove the match. 

3. How do I submit a paper on Turnitin? 

Access to Turnitin is usually via an icon in the Moodle module and instructions can be found in this step by step guide. Please contact your tutor if you cannot see the Turnitin assignment submission box in your module. 

4. How many times can I submit a document to Turnitin? 

Your instructor may permit you to resubmit papers, and resubmitting a paper is handled in an identical manner as a first-time submission. You are allowed three resubmission attempts where the Similarity Report will generate immediately. After three attempts, you'll have to wait 24 hours before a new Similarity Report can be generated. 

5. How significant are matches that are just a few common words? 

If a sentence contains several words in common with a source, then Turnitin will show the match. Often these are coincidence where a source has used the same common words. Sometimes these include commonly used but important words in your subject so you don’t need to reference them. You can set Turnitin to exclude small matches. Turnitin lets you specify how many words can match and still be ignored, up to a limit. 

6. I am having problems with the End User Licence Agreement 

When students first use Turnitin you willl be prompted to accept the end user licence agreement (EULA). You will not be able to submit a paper until you accept the EULA, and once accepted the prompt no longer appears. 

Please note that Turnitin use a pop window for the EULA and this may be blocked by some browsers, and which students may not notice. The IT Support Desk are aware of this requirement and can advise students accordingly. This is not an issue for on-campus computers which permit pop-up windows from Moodle in Internet Explorer. 

Please note that Turnitin use a pop window for the EULA and this may be blocked by some browsers, and which students may not notice. The IT Support Desk are aware of this requirement and can advise students accordingly. This is not an issue for on-campus computers which permit pop-up windows from Moodle in Internet Explorer.


7. I don’t have access to Turnitin in my modules 

Use of TurnitinUK is at the discretion of individual tutors so you should contact your module leader in the first instance. 

8. I need help with referencing and paraphrasing 

Download your referencing guidelines, visit the Academic Skills blog, or speak to your module leader. There are numerous referencing guides available in the university, so check with your module leader about the referencing conventions they expect students to follow. 

9. What if my reference list / bibliography is matching other sources? 

It is highly likely that other authors writing about the same topic will use similar references to support their work. So your references will normally match other sources, but the manner of the match is important. They will be different matches, so they will be in different colours. If they are all in the same colour, it usually means that you have copied your references too. 

10. What if my text matches my classmate’s work? 

It is very likely that for a class assignment, some of your text will match text from other students submitting the same assignment. This will happen if you are including a departmental cover-sheet, repeating the assignment title, or using a similar reference list. Significant matches will occur in assignments using established phrases or terminology, or where assignments require the inclusion of extracts of text being discussed. 

11. What is an acceptable percentage of matching text? 

The overall percentage is an accumulation of all the individual percentage matches, regardless of whether they are inconsequential or substantial matches. So there is not really an acceptable percentage as such, because this value can be arrived in different ways. For instance, numerous small matches can result in a large overall percentage which is relatively unimportant, but a small overall percentage may be the result of one or two copied paragraphs and this is more significant. Therefore you should examine all the matches and understand why Turnitin has highlighted them. It is possible to reduce the overall percentage by excluding quoted text, small matches and the reference list. 

12. What is the originality report? 

After submitting a paper to TurnitinUK, the system analyses the text for matching sources. The originality report displays these sources and the sections of text in the submitted paper, and returns an overall percentage of the paper which matches the sources. It is very important that you understand how to interpret the originality report so that you understand how TurnitinUK has arrived at the (crude) percentage value. 

13. What should I do if I have sentences or paragraphs of matching text? 

The best option is to remove the quote, and write the information in your own words. This is preferable to a quote, because it shows the marker that you understand the point being made. If you want to keep the author’s original words, then ensure that you have presented the matching text as a quote, and cited your source. This may still show up as a match (depending on the specific Turnitin settings that are in place) but it is not a problem if it is correctly presented and cited. 

14. Who has access to my submitted papers? 

Details are available in the data protection information.  

15. Why do I have to agree to an End User Licence Agreement (EULA)? 

Turnitin is a third party service and Edinburgh Napier University has licensed the service for use by all staff and students. Since students upload papers to the service, they are in effect end-users of the service, are therefore required to confirm agreement to the terms set out in the EULA. There are certain licence requirements for students under the age of 18 who should speak to their programme or module leader before using the service. 

16. Why does my text match sources that I have not used? 

Turnitin does not identify the exact source of text that you have used. It simply highlights that there is matching text, and lists all the sources using that text. There are usually multiple sources because websites replicate information from other websites, or an author of a piece of work will often use quotations from journals and websites and so these will all be listed as matching sources. 

17. Why is my report still ‘pending’? 

The similarity shows 'pending' while Turnitin is generating the report.  

Reports are usually processed within a few hours but if it remains pending for several hours then please note: 

  • if you have resubmitted a paper then this takes 24 hours to produce a new report. 
  • some tutors only permit access to the Turnitin report on the assignment due date, and so the report will remain at pending until then.  
  • the submitted paper may be in a non-standard file format, eg. the paper was created in Mac Pages and saved as a Word file. It is recommended that papers are submitted in their native format. 

IT Services are unable to speed up the report process because Turnitin is an external service to which the University subscribes. Remain patient and don't resubmit a paper as this will delay the report for a further 24 hours. 


Turnitin Data Protection

This system is designed to help students check whether they have inadvertently committed plagiarism. If Turnitin detects an unreferenced match between a student’s work and another source, the tutor in question, or an Academic Conduct Officer (ACO), will decide if that match represents plagiarism. Turnitin is used extensively at the investigation stage, and it is for this reason that students may be asked for a digital copy of their work. Students’ work is treated confidentially, under the principles of the UK Data Protection Act, as described further below. 

1. Data protection – Turnitin feedback studio 

During online registration, students are required to indicate that they have read the Data Protection Statement. This document includes the following statement: 

Throughout your studies at the University, staff may use the online services of Turnitin®UK, a text matching service for assessment and referencing practice and/or Feedback Studio, an essay marking tool. More information on both services is available on the myNapier Academic integrity and referencing pages. 

Therefore, the potential use of Turnitin Feedback Studio is highlighted at the earliest opportunity. Details of the data protection implications are provided below. 


2. How long will my assessed work be kept on Turnitin Feedback Studio? 

Submitted papers are permanently stored in the Turnitin student papers UK database, which provides for text comparisons. Submitted papers and the originality reports are only available to the module tutors, and are not available for viewing by other students. 

When investigating a case of plagiarism, a tutor from another module or university may ask your module tutor to supply your paper for comparison. Your module tutor can agree or decline this request. If they agree, then only an anonymised copy of your paper is provided to the other tutor. Your personal data is not included. 

Comments or grades added to Feedback Studio for your submission will remain in the system indefinitely, unless your tutor deletes the mark or the paper. If you would like to keep a copy of your assignment, grades and feedback, you can save or print a PDF version. 


3. How will my personal data be used? 

Your assignment may be submitted to Turnitin in one of two ways, either by your tutor or directly by you. 

By students: when you initially submit a paper to TurnitinUK, you are doing so when already logged into Moodle. Therefore, your full name, student number and University email address will be stored in Turnitin automatically. Subsequent submissions of papers are then stored alongside this personal data. 

By tutors: they will do so using all, or a selection of, your first and last initials, student email address, course details and institution. 

You should be aware therefore that your personal data will be stored in the Turnitin UK database indefinitely. This data is available to a section of university staff with access to all Moodle modules (see Moodle Privacy Information for details). Matches to student papers in different modules are often due to students submitting papers to another module by mistake, and tutors are able to view these matches via Turnitin even if they do not have access to the module. This helps tutors to establish quickly that there has been no intentional plagiarism. However, tutors may use the evidence enabled by this setting in cases of suspected academic misconduct. 

The identity of students who have submitted work to the service will not be revealed to other institutions either by Turnitin or Edinburgh Napier University. If you have any concerns about the use of your personal data for these purposes or how the service will work, please speak to your module leader in the first instance. 


4. What are my rights under the Data Protection Act? 

As the data subject, you have the right to see what personal information is held about you in relation to these or any other services that store your personal information. You also have the right to object to the way your personal data is being used by these services. However, you should note that this right is limited to processing which you feel is likely to cause substantial and unwarranted damage or distress to you or another person, and is not, therefore, a general right to withdraw your data. 


5. Where is TurnitinUK hosted? 

TurnitinUK is managed by iParadigms Europe, Ltd. which is based in the UK, but the service is hosted in the United States by iParadigms, the parent company of TurnitinUK. In order for the University to make use of the service, it will be necessary, therefore, for personal data relating to you to be transferred to the United States. The company processing your data is committed to retaining confidentiality for students, and are bound by terms of contract to abide by the Data Protection Act 1998. 


6. Who owns the copyright to the work I have submitted? 

iParadigms, the parent company of TurnitinUK, has no interest in acquiring the intellectual property rights for the content submitted by you. The University does not normally claim ownership of work produced by undergraduate students. However, the University reserves the right to require any student engaged in research or development work to assign to the University all rights to that work. The copyright of papers is not altered by submission to TurnitinUK. For further information on this, please consult the University’s Intellectual Property Policy.