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Turnitin is a web-based service that can compare text in uploaded student papers to a database of compiled electronic academic materials in order to highlight any matching or possibly unoriginal text in the student paper. Instructors (and students, if authorized) can then use the information provided by the tool to identify whether sources have been used appropriately and cited correctly. can be used as both a plagiarism detection tool and as an instructional tool to help students learn to use sources correctly, paraphrase, quote appropriately and to cite where needed.

Students may find the Turnitin Originality Report to be useful in helping them to identify situations where they have included too many quotes or have missed important citations. Faculty may use the Turnitin Originality Report to teach students proper citation and to detect and highlight the need for proper referencing.

How does Turnitin work?

TurnItIn uses an extensive database of materials, including over 24 billion web pages, 300 million student papers, and millions of published books and articles. This database is updated constantly with new content.

When a paper is uploaded into the turnitin repository, it is compared against the turnitin database, and an Originality Report is generated which summarizes and highlights potentially unoriginal content (text that has matched against one or more sources in the TurnItIn database).

If students upload their own papers, they can see their originality report themselves (for only their own paper, not other students’). The instructor can also choose to allow students to run the report, make changes to their paper and re-submit. If the instructor uploads the papers, students do not have access to the resultant originality reports.

TurnItIn does not provide a judgement regarding whether sources are appropriately cited. It is the responsibility of the user to analyze and interpret the data provided in the Originality Report.

Scope of Search

Papers submitted to Turnitin through Originality Check are compared against an extensive and continuously updated collection of electronic materials. The repositories used for comparison contain more than 24 billion active and archived Web pages, over 300 million student papers submitted to Turnitin since 1996,  and thousands of periodicals, journals, and various books.  However, Turnitin does not search all periodicals and journals related to public health.  Therefore, it is possible that a student could plagiarize a source that is not found in the Turnitin database.  

Why use Turnitin?

In an instructional situation, Turnitin Originality Check provides several benefits. This tool helps prevent plagiarism by holding students accountable for correctly citing their sources. Text found in students’ papers that matches text in the Turnitin repositories is color coded in an Originality Report. This report provides efficient verification of citations and a time-saving way to investigate student originality, as well as documentation of potential plagiarism. Matching text documented in the Originality Report can also be reviewed by both instructors and students to evaluate citation methods which can provide a learning opportunity that encourages more accurate citation creation.

Limitations of Turnitin

Faculty/instructors should be aware of the nuances of Turnitin and how items that are “flagged” as potential sources of plagiarism must be individually evaluated and verified. All faculty/instructors should become comfortable with the interpretation of information provided the Turnitin report.

Turnitin does not distinguish between plagiarized text and correctly quoted text - it considers both instances to be a “match” to something in the database. It is the responsibility of the instructor to determine if matching text is correctly cited. You can set up an assignment to ignore quoted text, but you should still make sure that any matches are evaluated regarding proper referencing.

Conversely, just because Turnitin does not find text to be a “match”, that is not conclusive evidence that the text is original. Turnitin does not have access to PubMed and other public health resource databases (any for-fee journals or password-protected websites), therefore faculty/instructors (and students) should realize that not all potential sources for plagiarism will be referenced. Turnitin can also not identify instances of plagiarized ideas that have been paraphrased without appropriate citation.

JHSPH Policy

Faculty/instructors who choose to use Turnitin in their course, must inform students as to how they intend to use it and must include that information in the course syllabus. This information should be available to students at the beginning of the course.

In both CoursePlus and the online course system, there is a section of the syllabus that may be added that includes the following text:

Students agree that by taking this course all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. Use of the service is subject to the Usage Policy posted on the site

If faculty/instructors are to use Turnitin, they should apply its use uniformly for all students on any assignment. It is not acceptable to run only a subset of student papers through TurnItIn.

As an educational tool, faculty may instruct students to submit their papers to Turnitin for plagiarism detection. Only one submission and evaluation of an assignment is permitted within a 24 hour window.

Students should be informed that when a paper or assignment is submitted to Turnitin, either by the faculty/instructor or the student, that submission becomes part of the permanent master Turnitin database to which any future submissions will be compared for plagiarism checks.


  • Consider using Turnitin as a teaching tool in addition to its use as a deterrent or surveillance tool. Use originality reports to teach students how and where to cite.
  • Where appropriate, allow students to submit drafts to Turnitin so that they can check their own work against the Turnitin database, and revise their work to remediate any potential violations.

Getting Started with Turnitin Originality Check

Account Access

For faculty who would like to request a Turnitin account under the JHU license, please email your request to CTL Help -

Logging In

Once you have an account, go to and enter your user name and password. 

Getting Started

This QuickStart guide for instructors has instructions for setting up classes and assignments as well as running Originality Reports.

(Note: if you have gone through the process of obtaining a user account from CTL Help, you can skip Step 1 of this guide)

This QuickStart guide for students walks students through creating an account, uploading their papers, and viewing Originality Reports (if available).


The following resources are provided for additional training and information regarding Turnitin.  Detailed user guides, tutorial videos, and other documentation are available via the links below, and on the website. 

User Guides

Faculty User Manual

Student User Manual

Tutorial Videos

Several tutorial videos are available on Turnitin's help site: 

Training Sessions

The Center for Teaching and Learning and the Office of Academic Integrity will be offering training on Turnitin at the beginning of most academic years. Notices will be distributed with dates and specific registration instructions. 

Next Training Session: TBD

Plagiarism-Proofing Your Assignments

While helping students understand situations in which they may have plagiarized, and preventing cases of unoriginal work using a tool like Turnitin are important, it is also important to design  your assignments so that there is less potential for plagiarism.  The following handouts provide some tips on creating assignments, discussing the purposes for referencing with your students, and encouraging good scholarship. 

What to do in cases of suspected plagiarism

If, after you review the results of an Originality Report (or based on other research or information), you suspect that you have found a case of plagiarism, you should contact the Office of Academic Integrity (director Jon Vernick).  The School's policy on Academic Ethics (linked below) includes several options for first-offense situations of plagiarism, and the Office of Academic Integrity is available to provide you with details and options.  

Academic Ethics Code (on portal)