Turnitin guide for internal examiners

The university requires that all research degree theses must be analysed using TurnitinUK when submitted for examination.

To achieve this, a Blackboard shell has been created entitled 'RESTTfRS Turnitin for Research Students' which you can find in the module list of your Blackboard homepage.

If you do not have access to the blackboard shell 'RESTTfRS Turnitin for Research Students' please email your username to onlinetraining@dmu.ac.uk

It is the responsibility of the Internal Examiner to check the similarity report generated from their students submitted thesis and act on the result accordingly, as explained in the attached User-Guide.

Most staff are already familiar with TurnitinUK, but for those who are not, TurnitinUK is an academic plagiarism checker program. It highlights similarities of text within a written document that could be regarded as a possible plagiarism offence.

The program works by searching for identical text that has already been published in publically available sources, such as: academic journals, books, or documents available on the web.

From this search TurnitinUK produces a similarity report that shows where the matched similarities are within the text, and identifies the source to which they are matched too.Students are required to submit their thesis to the Thesis Submission option within 'RESTTfRS Turnitin for Research Students' on Blackboard within three days of submitting their written thesis to the Graduate School Office.

To locate the Similarity Report generated by TurnitinUK:

  • Locate the 'RESTTfRS Turnitin for Research Students' shell within the module list of your Blackboard home page
  • To view your research student’s report you will need to select the TurnitinUK assignment link. This is located in the Course Management /Control Panel area of the shell, and within Course Tools
  • Select TurnitinUK Assignments from the list• Select the Thesis submission link
  • Click on the heading ‘AUTHOR’; this will sort all the submissions alphabetically according to the student’s surnames. You can then locate the student whose thesis you are examining by using the next button, which is located to the right of the page.
  • When you have found your students name, move to the right along their row, and click on the SIMILARITY percentage that corresponds with the student’s name. The Similarity Report will then open in a new window.

Reading the Similarity Report:

  • The score shown top right indicates the overall percentage of matching text from other sources found within the thesis.
  • Student’s text is displayed on the left, and may be displayed with coloured highlighted text.
  • Coloured highlights indicate the sections of text that are identical to existing text.
  • Each highlight has a number; you can cross reference this number with the list on the right to identify the source document.
  • The percentage figures on the right indicate the proportion of the total document associated with each identified source.

Guidelines on plagiarism:

  • There is no threshold figure for the similarity score which reliably indicates evidence of plagiarism or not. In general terms, a figure below 20% is unlikely to indicate widespread plagiarism throughout the document, but even that does not discount the possibility of clear plagiarism in a small sub-section of the document.

  • The key is to look for the distribution of coloured highlighting of the student’s text. TurnitinUK operates by identifying any sequence of 7 words within the student’s text which have previously been published on a public domain, such as on the web or in a published article. Given the volume of published material, it is not unexpected that occasionally phrases within text submitted by students will coincide with those already in the public domain.

  • In such cases the highlighted text will consist of short sequences scattered throughout the student’s document. This is clearly linguistic coincidence and not plagiarism and students can therefore be reassured that although TurnitinUK has identified a degree of similarity between their work and published material, this would not be construed as plagiarism by an examiner.

  • If the sequence of words highlighted in the Similarity report extends to several sentences, or worse whole paragraphs or pages, then it is highly likely that the text has been copied from another source. In such cases, the first thing to do is to check the original source and to make sure that the student is not the author of the original source (e.g. when a student has already published parts of their research). Students cannot be guilty of plagiarising their own publications and in such cases there would be no accusation of plagiarism.

Choice of Actions:

  • If the original source is not the student themselves and has not been appropriately attributed in the student’s text, then it would be likely to be viewed as plagiarism by examiners. In such cases send a copy of the Similarity report to the Director of the Graduate School before contacting the External examiner. If your suspicion of plagiarism is confirmed then the examination process will be stopped and the Graduate School Office will advise on further action.

  • If you are satisfied that the thesis shows no evidence of plagiarism, either send a copy of the Similarity report to the External Examiner together with your conclusion or take a copy to the viva so that the External examiner is informed of the outcome ahead of the viva examination.

Saving a copy of the Similarity Resport:

  • Select the Print/Download icon located at the bottom left of the report screen.
  • Click on ‘Save’ and save the PDF file to an appropriate and retrievable location.
  • Please note, when the file is saved the cross references of text similarities are displayed as numerical footnotes with their references at the end of the document.

Additional information

Detailed instructions on how to locate, check, and save the Similarity report are avaliable within ‘RESTTfRS Turnitin for Research Students’, under the button ‘Supervisors Guide’.


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