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Turnitin Plagiarism Detection Software

The University of Tampere uses the Turnitin plagiarism detection software to check the originality of all Master's theses, doctoral dissertations and Licentiate’s theses.

Turnitin is available on the Moodle platform. Your supervisor will add you to his or her Moodle platform for Turnitin.

Turnitin can also be used in other study modules than theses. It is especially meant to be used in courses to teach and learn about proper referencing.

Information and Instructions

The purpose of using the Turnitin software is to enhance the quality of instruction and learning, as it gives both students and instructors feedback on how the students reference previous studies in their coursework. The software compares uploaded texts to a large database consisting of materials freely available online, students’ coursework from the educational institutions that use Turnitin, and of data that has been indexed in the software by different publishing houses.

If the programme discovers extensive similarities between the student’s work and the texts in the comparison database and if the referencing in the student’s thesis or paper has not been properly done, the report the Turnitin software produces may indicate that the student has plagiarised parts of his or her coursework.

Plagiarism is forbidden by the University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies.

To use Turnitin successfully, both the students and instructors need to be familiar with

  • the use of Turnitin on the Moodle platform (please see the video below)
  • the interpretation of the report produced by Turnitin (please see the video below)
  • the ethical principles of studying at the University of Tampere

NB! Students can only submit their own texts to Turnitin. Every student has the right to use Turnitin independently before the instructor uses the software to check the student’s thesis or other coursework for plagiarism.

Video on the principles of using Turnitin
Video on how to upload your text

Video on how to interpret your Turnitin report

Video on Turnitin in advanced studies

FAQ on Plagiarism and Turnitin

This page contains answers to frequently asked questions about plagiarism and the Turnitin software, which is used by the University of Tampere to check the originality of students’ coursework. The topics of this FAQ have been divided into general ethical principles and instructions about using the Turnitin plagiarism detection software.

Some questions concern only doctoral dissertations or Master’s theses.

General ethical principles

Question: What constitutes academic fraud or plagiarism?

Answer: Academic fraud or plagiarism is “presenting someone else’s text, picture, figure, graph, software or other similar presentation, or a part thereof as one’s own in a coursework, exam or thesis (University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies, Section 23). Paraphrasing (e.g. by using synonyms, changing the word order of sentences or translating from one language to another) without proper citation also constitutes plagiarism.

Question: Why is academic fraud or plagiarism forbidden?

Answer: According to Section 23 of the University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies “academic fraud is strictly prohibited. Fraudulent acts and disregard of good academic practices are offences against the University regulations and the rules, values and norms of the science community”. When a student engages in fraudulent behaviour, he or she misleads the instructor or other members of the scientific community into believing that a text that he or she has submitted for assessment is his or her own. All fraudulent behaviour seriously violates the trust between instructors and students. Fellow students often find academic fraud undertaken by other students very unfair.

Question: Why does the University of Tampere use an electronic plagiarism detection software?

Answer: All Finnish universities have purchased an electronic tool to be used in instruction on sound scientific practice and identifying violations of academic integrity. At the University of Tampere, the Rector made the decision to use the Turnitin software on 5 December 2013. Turnitin extensively and coherently seeks similarities between texts submitted to it, texts that are available online, and texts contained in Turnitin’s own database. Turnitin is far more efficient than any regular internet search engine.

Question: What is the electronic plagiarism detection based on?

Answer: Turnitin does not detect plagiarism, only similarities between texts. The Turnitin Originality Check Tool compares the character strings in the texts submitted to it with materials published online, students’ coursework that has been submitted to Turnitin previously and data that has been separately indexed in Turnitin (by publishing houses). The algorithm the software uses is not public knowledge. Other means than Turnitin can also be used to detect plagiarism.

Question: Do students need to be worried that they might unwittingly commit acts of plagiarism?

Answer: At the start of their studies, students are not expected to know how to use sources or reference other authors’ texts according to academic conventions. Writing scientific texts is practiced throughout the studies. The right to make mistakes is a part of learning. Students themselves have the right to use Turnitin first in all courses where the software is used. However, after the student has officially submitted his or her thesis or other coursework to the examination process, he or she is fully responsible for its integrity. The student should consult the instructor of the course if he or she is unsure about how to continue with his or her coursework.

Question: What happens if a student is suspected of committing an act of plagiarism?

Answer: According to Rector’s Decision on 5 December 2013, the University of Tampere “intervenes in all cases of fraudulent study, teaching and research practices and processes all such cases according to the stipulations provided by the norms and guidelines”. Each suspected case of fraudulent study practice is thoroughly investigated. After the investigation, the instructor responsible for the study module in question, Dean or Rector decides about the necessary actions.

Question: What are the consequences of fraudulent behaviour?

Answer: Documents related to proven cases of fraudulent behaviour are archived in Tweb, the University’s official document management system. When decisions about possible sanctions are made, the willfulness and seriousness of the case are estimated. If a student is found to have behaved fraudulently, he or she is usually asked to redo the coursework. The rector can give the student a caution and, in more serious cases, the Board of the University can expel the student for a fixed term. The Administrative Court of Finland can also decide to rescind a previously awarded degree.

Question: Can coursework be checked with Turnitin after it has been submitted?

Answer: Turnitin is always used to check the coursework of all the students or none of the students in the same course. If an individual student is suspected of fraud, the investigation is processed without using Turnitin. Students must only submit their own texts to Turnitin.

Doctoral dissertations and Licentiate’s theses

Question: When should the dissertation manuscript be submitted to originality checking?

Answer: According to Rector’s Decision on 5 December 2013, the official originality check should be conducted at the end of the supervision process, i.e. at the time the manuscript is submitted to pre-examination (after the possible review of the supervisory group or postgraduate committee). The doctoral student and the supervisor decide together when the dissertation manuscript is at a point that the official plagiarism check can be conducted. If the student is unsure about his or her text, he or she should submit the manuscript to Turnitin once more and ask the supervisor to assess the text.

Question: How does the supervisor know when and how the dissertation manuscript should be officially checked by Turnitin?

Answer: When the doctoral student has submitted that version of the dissertation manuscript he or she intends for the official originality check, he or she asks the supervisor to conduct the check. The supervisor’s Moodle platform contains a certificate form about the check, which the supervisor fills in after the checking has been conducted. The supervisor then prints and signs the form. The faculty needs this form before it sends the dissertation manuscript out for pre-examination.

Question: Can Turnitin be used to check the originality of other texts than doctoral dissertations?

Answer: The Moodle platform intended for the supervision of doctoral students and originality check of dissertation manuscripts should not be used for other purposes. When the dissertation manuscript has been submitted to Turnitin on this Moodle platform at the end of the supervision process, the student must not submit any other texts to Turnitin via the same platform because a new report will delete the old report. If a doctoral student needs Turnitin to check the originality of other texts, he or she should contact IT Services and request access to another Moodle platform.

Question: What kind of information about the Turnitin check will be noted in the doctoral dissertation or Licentiate’s thesis? How is this information added?

Answer: The following text will be added in the doctoral dissertation or Licentiate’s thesis: “The originality of this thesis has been checked using the Turnitin OriginalityCheck service in accordance with the quality management system of the University of Tampere”. If the dissertation is published by the University of Tampere, the University Library will add this text automatically. The student adds the text in the Licentiate’s Thesis him/herself. It is also the student’s responsibility to add this text to dissertations published elsewhere than at the University of Tampere.

Question: Is the doctoral dissertation and manuscript drafts saved in the Turnitin database?

Answer: During the supervision process, Turnitin is used in the supervisor’s Moodle platform and the texts fed in Turnitin are not saved. The doctoral dissertation is not saved in the Turnitin database until it is published online and Turnitin reads it, or it is indexed in the Turnitin database by the publisher.

Question: If the dissertation consists of previously published articles, should they be submitted to Turnitin for originality check?

Answer: The originality of the whole manuscript is checked by Turnitin. In such cases, the article manuscript and the data found by Turnitin usually fully correspond to one another. However, the check may also reveal plagiarism retroactively, and the check also helps to detect other cases of plagiarism that concern a previously published article undertaken by other people.

Question: Can dissertation manuscripts or parts thereof that have multiple authors be submitted to Turnitin?

Answer: When the input of the doctoral student in some text is so significant that the supervisor considers it suitable to be used as a part of a doctoral dissertation, the doctoral student submits the text to Turnitin without having to consult the other authors in the matter. However, the University of Tampere highly recommends that the doctoral students tells the other authors that the text they have co-authored will be checked by Turnitin.

Instructions on using the Turnitin plagiarism detection software

Question: Where can I find the Turnitin tool?

Answer: At the University of Tampere, Turnitin is used via the Moodle platform. Use your Basic User Account and password to sign in. If your supervisor has added you to the Moodle area, you can see the course platform under the heading ‘My Courses’ on the front page of Moodle. If you cannot see the relevant area, please ask your supervisor to add you to it.

Question: Does the supervisor always see the text I have submitted and its Turnitin report?  Does he or she get a notification when I submit my text?

Answer: The supervisor is able to see your text and the report concerning it whenever he or she wants. The supervisor does not get an automatic notification so you should contact him/her if you want supervision or that he/she should take a look at the report.

Question: Can the other students see my manuscript and its Turnitin report?

Answer: Students can never see each other’s texts or any reports that concern other people’s texts. Neither can they obtain any information about the similarity percentages detected in other students’ texts.

Question: Can I submit a second version of my text to Turnitin right after the previous one?

Answer: There are two Turnitin tools in the advanced studies area. At ‘Create a report about your manuscript’, you can submit the same text to Turnitin several times. A previous report will always be replaced by the latest version.  However, you can only obtain one report per day. If you upload a second version of your text on the same day, the report will remain in the ‘Pending’ status and the new report can only be seen after 24 hours. The other Turnitin tool in the advanced studies Moodle ‘The official plagiarism check’ should only be used when you and your supervisor both agree that the manuscript is completed. NB! It is only possible to submit the manuscript in this tool just once.

In the Turnitin for doctoral studies there is only one Turnitin tool ‘Turnitin: upload text and see the report’ where you can upload your text several times during the writing process. When you and your supervisor both agree your manuscript is ready for pre-examination, please upload your text one more time and tell your supervisor that he/she can check out the report. After this, you can no longer upload your texts in Turnitin because a new text always deletes the previous version.

Question: I would like to submit a new version of my text, but I would like to save the previous Turnitin report before it is overwritten.

Answer: There is an icon of a printer at the bottom of the report screen. By clicking the icon you get to save and print the report before you upload a new version of your text.

Question: I uploaded my text to Turnitin, but the similarity index does not show a percentage. Instead, it shows the text ‘Pending’. How do I get to view the report?

Answer: When the similarity index shows the text ‘Pending’, Turnitin is in the process of generating a new report. This can take anything from a few minutes to tens of minutes. The percentage will upload automatically and replace the text ‘Pending’ when the new report is ready. Try selecting the ‘Refresh Submissions’ button to refresh your browser and the programme will check immediately whether the new report is complete.

Question: I received an e-mail from Turnitin after I submitted my text. What does this mean?

Answer: Turnitin sends you an e-mail after you have submitted your text. The title of the email is ‘This is your Turnitin Digital Receipt’. Every draft submitted to Turnitin is given an individual identification code even if the work is not saved in the comparison data.

Question: Why is the percentage of similarities so large in my report?

Answer: When the report is complete, Turnitin reports the percentage of similarities between your text and other texts. The percentage is always different in each case and there is no target percentage students should strive for. A smaller number is not better than a larger one because the percentage also includes all correctly made references, direct quotes and the names of works. This means that the number can be quite large and it still does not mean that the student has plagiarised his or her text. The report and the similarities must always be interpreted.

Question: What are the colour codes used in the similarities?

Answer: The colours do not mean anything as such. The different sources have just been marked with different colours so that they can be more easily distinguished from one another.

Question: Where can I find the template for the certificate my supervisor should sign after my work has been checked by Turnitin?

Answer: The certificate template, which the supervisor must sign, is available on the same Moodle platform in which you have uploaded your work. However, it is only visible to the supervisor and not the student.

Question: The certificate form asks for the ID number of my dissertation. Where can my supervisor find this number?

Answer: You can find the ID in the ‘Paper ID’ column of the student’s submission. The ID number can also be found via the Info button of the report view, which is on the left side of the lower edge of the page.

Question: Should the dissertation manuscript and its Turnitin report be attached to the certificate on the Turnitin originality checking?

Answer: The certificate form should be delivered to the Faculty’s administration., but attaching the manuscript or the Turnitin report is not necessary. The ID number on the certificate identifies the manuscript the certificate concerns.

Question: How is Turnitin used with Master’s theses?

Answer: The following steps should be taken:

  • The supervisor adds the students he/she supervises in the Moodle area.
  • During the writing process, students are free to use the Turnitin tool found in the first part of the Moodle area (‘Create a report about your manuscript’).
  • When the supervisor and student both agree that the manuscript is completed, the student uploads the manuscript to the Turnitin tool found in the second part of the Moodle area (‘The official plagiarism check’).
  • The supervisor checks the ensuing report and signs the certificate form found in the area (‘FOR THE SUPERVISOR: The certificate about the plagiarism check’).
  • The supervisor delivers the signed certificate to the person in charge of Master’s theses in the faculty and tells the student that he/she can submit the thesis to NettiOpsu for printing, the examination process, the library’s collection and archiving.

Question: How is Turnitin used in the case of Licentiate’s theses and doctoral dissertations?

Answer: The following steps should be taken:

  • The supervisor adds the students he/she supervises in the Moodle area.
  • During the writing process, students are free to use the Turnitin tool found in the first part of the Moodle area (‘Turnitin: upload text and see the report’).
  • When the supervisor and student both agree that the manuscript is completed and ready to be sent to pre-examination, the student once more uploads the manuscript to the Turnitin tool found in the first part of the Moodle area (‘Turnitin: upload text and see the report’).
  • The supervisor checks the ensuing report and signs the certificate found in the Moodle area (‘The certificate for originality checking’).
  • The supervisor delivers the signed certificate to the person in the faculty who is in charge of Licentiate’s theses and doctoral dissertations. The manuscript can then be sent to the pre-examiners.

Question: My supervisor and I both agree that my manuscript is ready for pre-examination. Should I upload my manuscript to the same Turnitin tool that I used during my writing process to check the different versions or is there another platform or Turnitin tool I should use for work intended for pre-examination?

Answer: The same platform and Turnitin tool is used during both the writing process and for the version that is intended for pre-examination. You can independently use the Turnitin tool available on the platform during the writing process and check the different versions of your text. This is the same tool you must use after you have agreed with your supervisor that your dissertation is ready for pre-examination. After you have submitted the version intended for pre-examination in Turnitin, please ask your supervisor to check the report. After the check, the supervisor signs the certificate and passes the work on in your faculty. It is only after this that your work will go on into the pre-examination process.

Question: My doctoral dissertation consist of a summary and four different articles. Can I submit them as separate files to Turnitin?

Answer: You can submit your work in several files. However, you can submit a maximum of 5 files.