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Glossary of common terms
FCT Faculty Cases Team AHW Academic Honesty Workshop
ACO Academic Conduct Officer PAP Poor Academic Practice
SACO Senior Academic Conduct Officer AM Academic Misconduct

Turnitin (TII) is a software used by the University to highlight all of the places where a piece of work contains phrases, sentences or paragraphs which can be found in other sources. Turnitin has access to a wide range of material, including books, journal articles, websites and assignments submitted by students to institutions across the world.

You’ll find a list of ‘sources’ at the end of the Turnitin report. These are the documents or websites that Turnitin has found matches to. Turnitin lists the sources that the software algorithm thinks are the most likely original source of the material. However, it does make mistakes (see below ‘Turnitin has identified sources that I have not used’ for further explanation).

Turnitin does not interpret the matches that it finds , which is why academic judgement is applied in all investigations to decide whether the matches are a problem. Not all matches will be of concern to the Panel, and other matters additional to the highlighting in the TII Report may be discussed. Sometimes academics will have identified problems which are not shown in the Turnitin report. There is no acceptable threshold in terms of percentage matches as it depends on what content is highlighted rather than how much is highlighted. If a TII score is very high, it can suggest a heavy reliance on a source or sources but does not necessarily mean there is academic misconduct.

Turnitin is a tool to help support the investigation and the Panel will explain their interpretation of it at the meeting to guide the conversation. The academic staff who deal with academic conduct issues are experienced in reading these reports and can separate out useful information from the generic details.

For example, the following matches can usually be discounted as not indicating e evidence of an offence:

matches with the assignment coversheet and any standard forms that are included in multiple student assignments, such as declarations of honesty;

correctly compiled footnotes, reference lists and bibliographies

correctly referenced quotations

small fragments of wording that are likely to be used in many student essays on a specific topic.

There are some offences where some of the examples above might be relevant, but the TII highlighting alone is not reason for you to worry.

The overall similarity score is not always an accurate indicator of good or poor academic practice. It is possible to have a high similarity score where no matches are of concern, because everything is quoted and referenced correctly. Similarly, a score of under 10% might still include plagiarism if material that has been copied is not correctly integrated and referenced.

Not all suspected offences show up in a Turnitin (TII) Report. It is used to identify similarity to other sources within the TII database, but this is a technical support solution and not always 100% accurate. The percentage figure for matched text given by TII is often not relevant in our discussion of your case.

For example, a marker may have flagged over usage of material from a source that is not accessible to TII for analysis or noticed incorrect or missing references to a source not in your bibliography. In such a case if there is a major source not identified by TII at all, you can expect to be sent that along with the other documentation in advance of the meeting. Even where TII correctly identifies a source it sometimes fails to match all words from that source. For example, they may be out of sequence, or words may switch between US/UK spelling, or individual words may have been changed, etc. preventing TII from accurately analysing the information. In such cases, some of the non-highlighted words may also be of concern. Furthermore, TII sometimes allocates to different sources sections of words that come from the same source. Whatever the reason behind the matches, and regardless of the final similarity score, you can expect the Panel to fully explain during the meeting which elements are of concern within your report.

It is also possible that there may be suspicions of a different offence in your work, not pertaining to plagiarism, in which case the similarities in the TII Report may not be pertinent to the case in question. If this is the case, you can expect to be told about the alleged offences in your meeting invitation letter.

Turnitin automatically assigns each set of words that it finds online to the first source that its algorithms identify. This is not necessarily the source where you originally read the material. In particular, if Turnitin gives the source as ‘University of X’, we do not assume that you have read another student’s essay at that university. The most likely scenario here is that you and the other student have accessed the same source online. Often, TII gives a generic source like a publisher’s name, but the academics dealing with your case are usually able to identify more specifically which source is involved. Please note that there is no need for you to prepare for the meeting in detail. However, if you want to understand the TII report and the where the source material has been flagged, we recommend you google any passages of repeated or sustained highlighting to find the source for them, putting the words in quotation marks in Google to find the exact match.