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Understanding the Similarity Score for Students

The Similarity Report

Turnitin does not check for plagiarism. What we actually do is compare your submissions against our database and highlight wherever your writing is similar to one of our sources. Our database includes billions of web pages: both current and archived content from the internet, a repository of works other students have submitted to Turnitin in the past, and a collection of documents, which comprises thousands of periodicals, journals, and publications.

The Similarity Report provides a summary of details, including the sources matched to your submission, to use as a tool to determine if the matches are acceptable. When a Similarity Report is available for viewing, a similarity score percentage is made available.

The Similarity Score

The similarity score is the percentage of matched text your submission contains. We calculate this by dividing the total words in a submission by the amount of words matched to outside sources.

It is likely your submission will match against some of our database. If you've used quotes and references correctly, that will still be highlighted as a match.

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In this guide:

What do the similarity score colors indicate?

The color of the report icon indicates the similarity score of the paper. The percentage range is 0% to 100%. The possible similarity ranges are:

  • Blue: No matching text
  • Green: One word to 24% matching text
  • Yellow: 25-49% matching text
  • Orange: 50-74% matching text
  • Red: 75-100% matching text

Similarity Reports that have not yet finished generating are represented by a grayed out icon in the Similarity column. Reports that are not available may not have generated yet, or assignment settings may be delaying the generation of the report.

Overwritten or resubmitted papers may not generate a new Similarity Report for a full 24 hours. This delay is automatic and allows resubmissions to correctly generate without matching to the previous draft.

How do I keep my score under a certain percentage?

Your instructor may specify a range for acceptable scores. Before submitting, ensure your work contains enough of your own original writing compared to quoted material to fall within your instructor's accepted range. 

Consult your syllabus, follow assignment instructions, contact your instructor directly, or review your institution's overarching policies on what counts as an acceptable similarity score before you submit. Every school, instructor, or assignment could very well have a different amount of matching text that is considered acceptable.

How does Turnitin identify student collusion?

Collusion is typically identified when a student's work matches with another student's submission on the same assignment or to previously submitted papers. Consider the following scenario:

Eric acquired a copy of his classmate Jane's paper. Eric submits Jane's paper as his own and receives a similarity score of 25%. Jane, who originally wrote the paper, submits her work a few days later and receives a 100% similarity score.

Turnitin can identify that collusion has taken place in this scenario by running a final similarity check against all submitted assignments after the due date. This ensures that every student is subject to the same level of scrutiny, regardless of when they submitted their assignments.

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