IT Services

Turnitin FAQs

Turnitin FAQs

All tutors and students are requested to familiarise themselves thoroughly with the content of the following documents:

You are also encouraged to familiarise yourself with the contents of the Student conduct and the Useful resources pages.

Turnitin is an online tool available via the UM VLE that is used by academic staff to monitor potential plagiarism in students' work. Turnitin compares work against electronic sources including the Internet, books, journals and other students' work, and generates a similarity report indicating which parts of the work are unoriginal. Turnitin does not identify definite cases of plagiarism. It highlights possible matches. It is then up to the tutor to determine whether plagiarism has taken place or not.

Tutors should make arrangements so that students are allowed to submit a draft version of their work and view the corresponding Turnitin similarity report before they submit the final version for assessment purposes. The similarity report for the draft work should draw students' attention to important features of academic writing such as referencing, paraphrasing, etc. The Turnitin similarity report for the final work should not be viewable by students.

  • Tutors set up Turnitin Assignment activities (Draft and Final) in the relevant UM VLE areas. Turnitin is not accessible to students unless the tutors create the Turnitin Assignment activities in the UM VLE.
  • Students submit their work (e.g. MS Word or PDF documents) through the UM VLE. Step-by-step instructions are available to guide students through the submission process via Turnitin   for:
    • Taught Study-unit Assignments
    • UG Dissertations / FYP
    • PG Dissertations / Theses
    Students are allowed to submit a draft version of their work once before submitting the final version for assessment purposes.
  • Turnitin compares the students' work against electronic sources including the Internet, books, journals and other students' work.
  • Turnitin generates a similarity report indicating which parts of the students' work are unoriginal, together with a list of sources.
  • The tutors analyse the similarity report carefully as part of their decision-making process to determine if students' work may have been plagiarised.

The Viewing and interpreting a Turnitin similarity report guide is available to help tutors   and students   analyse and interpret Turnitin similarity reports.

Turnitin itself makes no decisions as to whether or not the work has been plagiarised; it simply highlights sections of text that have been found in other sources in a similarity report.

Turnitin helps detect potential plagiarism by comparing matching text in students' work against its databases (refer to FAQ5). Turnitin will not detect similarities from:

  • paper-based textbooks and journals (unless these are available online)
  • all password protected or subscription sites
  • graphical (non-text) materials such as charts, diagrams, equations, photos or other images. Tineye is free web based software that can assist with image / graphic plagiarism
  • source code for computer programming languages

Hence, students are encouraged to refer to their Faculty guidelines to determine how to avoid accidental plagiarism in these cases. Examiners may use other information / sources to determine whether plagiarism has occurred. If the examiner reports a case of suspected plagiarism, then the examiner will provide the Faculty / University Assessment Disciplinary Board with all supporting evidence and not just the Turnitin similarity report.

Turnitin compares UM submissions with work stored in the repositories of all universities and all countries who have adopted Turnitin.

Turnitin subscribes to several databases including:

Turnitin will match like for like against any content available in the Turnitin database. Taking Maltese as an example, the Turnitin database would contain all Maltese literature available on the Internet and Maltese papers / literary works that have been submitted by authors in Turnitin. This applies for other languages e.g. French, Italian, German, Russian, Greek etc.

Note that translating written content from one language to another also constitutes plagiarism. 

The copyright of work submitted to Turnitin remains with the original author or the University. It does become part of the ever growing database of material against which subsequent submissions are checked, thereby helping to protect the copyright of the work.

Work submitted by UM students through Turnitin cannot be viewed by tutors and students of other institutions even though the similarity reports will indicate matches with this work. In such cases, Turnitin enables tutors at other institutions to send an email to the UM tutors asking them permission to view the students' papers. UM tutors may release the students' papers at their discretion (refer to FAQ22).

Students' work is stored indefinitely. However, you can set a Turnitin Assignment activity to check students' work for plagiarism without having the submission stored in a repository. One has to keep in mind that in doing so, there is a risk that such work may then be resubmitted by other students and Turnitin would not detect plagiarism.

Use of Turnitin will be easier if tutors have basic VLE skills. Tutors who have never used the UM VLE, are encouraged to go through the Getting started with the VLE  guide. Tutors can also follow one of the training workshops organised by IT Services on the use of the VLE.

It is highly recommended that both tutors and students follow one of the training workshops organised by IT Services on the use of Turnitin.

Tutors can also follow the step-by-step Creating Turnitin Assignment activities guide   to help them create draft and final Turnitin Assignment activities for taught study-unit assignments and undergraduate dissertations. The Turnitin settings - Quick reference sheet   is also available. This includes a brief overview of settings to be applied when creating Turnitin Assignment activities.

Students can follow the Submitting through Turnitin   user guide. 

The Viewing and interpreting a Turnitin similarity report guide is also available to help tutors   and students   analyse and interpret Turnitin similarity reports.

The following file types are supported by Turnitin: 

  • Microsoft Word® (DOC and DOCX)
  • Corel WordPerfect®
  • HTML
  • Adobe PostScript®
  • Plain text (TXT)
  • Rich Text Format (RTF)
  • Portable Document Format (PDF)
  • OpenOffice (ODT)
  • Hangul (HWP)
  • Powerpoint (PPT)
  • Google Docs via Google Drive™

Turnitin does not detect similarities in files containing text that has been partially or wholly saved as an image and transferred to a MS Word or PDF file. In such cases Turnitin will either result in <1% similarity percentage or an error. Turnitin does not detect similarities from scanned documents.

There may be inconsistencies between the word count in the Turnitin similarity report and the default generated word count in the original Word document, PDF, etc.

For example, by default, Microsoft Word's word count includes words in textboxes, footnotes and endnotes. However, when the MS Word document is uploaded to Turnitin, the similarity report will indicate a lower word count, since Turnitin's word count will NOT include words in textboxes, footnotes and endnotes. Note that in MS Word, one can uncheck the Include textboxes, footnotes and endnotes option within the Word Count dialog box (available under the Review tab) to have a better indication of the word count in Turnitin.

Note that when an MS Word document is converted to PDF and uploaded to Turnitin, Turnitin's word count will not be able to distinguish between the main text, textboxes, footnotes and endnotes.

Each file that a student submits cannot exceed 100MB or 800 pages.

Some suggestions to reduce file size:

  • it is a good practice to upload PDF versions of your documents. MS Office 2010 and onwards has built-in features to save files to PDF
  • use the inbuilt crop and compression options in your MS Office software to reduce the size of images
  • use to further compress a PDF file. 

You may encounter one of these errors:

  • Unsupported file format - Turnitin supports the file formats enlisted in FAQ10. If you upload a different file type, it will not be submitted to Turnitin. In this case, you are required to save your submission as PDF or any other supported file, and re-submit your work to overwrite the original file.
  • File contains less than 25 words - If your document contains less than 25 words, it will not be submitted to Turnitin.

If you encounter a different error, or you are still experiencing difficulties submitting work through Turnitin, please contact the IT Service Desk.

The University of Malta guidelines on plagiarism  states that "[s]tudents are informed on enrollment, to submit electronic copies of work submitted for assessment, as well as a hard copy, if instructed to do so" (pg. 10). The University Student Discipline Regulations  states that "disobeying any reasonable instruction or direction given by a Staff Member" may lead to disciplinary action. Disciplinary action may be taken against a student who refuses to submit his/her work through Turnitin.

Turnitin produces a similarity report after comparing the students' work against electronic sources e.g. Internet, books, journals and other students' work.

The similarity report highlights any text in the students' work found to be matching with other sources, along with links to the original sources where matched text was identified.

Turnitin assigns a percentage to the students' work for similarity between 0% (no matches detected) and 100% (all text matched other sources), and assigns a colour coding for the work submitted according to the percentage. The percentage rating (reflecting the amount of content that has been matched) is also known as the similarity index.

A high similarity index does not automatically imply that a piece of work has been plagiarised because Turnitin does not discriminate between unacknowledged and correctly referenced text. The report will highlight quotes as "not original" regardless of whether students have referenced them correctly or not. Common terms, such as those contained in the title / question, footnotes etc. may also be highlighted.

Neither does a low similarity index imply that plagiarism has not occurred. Turnitin does not detect all plagiarism (refer to FAQ4 and FAQ5).

A judgement about whether or not plagiarism has occurred cannot be based simply on the percentage of matching text found. Tutors are therefore required to analyse and interpret the similarity reports carefully as part of their decision-making process to determine if the student's work has been plagiarised or not.

Depending on the document size and usage of the system, it may take twenty minutes to twenty-four hours to generate a report for viewing.

Tutors can set up a Turnitin Assignment activity to exclude quotes, or filter these out when viewing the similarity report (the latter is recommended). However, it is important to note that Turnitin will consider quoted material to be anything within double quotation marks only ("), anything within single quotation marks (') will not be considered a quotation. This means that a human eye will still be required to check that references are accurately given at the end of quoted text, at which point they can then be disregarded.

Turnitin checks for any inconsistencies within a submission and if something is identified as strange, it will flag it. A flag is not necessarily an indicator of a problem. However, it is recommended that tutors focus their attention there for further review.

Currently, there are two forms of flags available, Replaced characters and Hidden text. For more information, please refer to the Flags section in the Viewing and interpreting a Turniting similarity report - Tutor's guide  .

Note that flags are only available for tutors. 

No. Although students use the same Turnitin Assignment activity to submit, each student can only access and view his/her own submission.

Please note that the below procedures only apply if the recommended settings are applied as per the Creating Turnitin Assignment Activities   user guide. 

Draft Turnitin Assignment activity:

  • Tutors can delete the student submission by clicking the delete icon next to the student's submission in the Submission Inbox. The student can then submit the correct file.

Final Turnitin Assignment activity:

  • The student is able to make re-submissions in the final Turnitin Assignment activity. A re-submission automatically overwrites the previous submission uploaded by the student. After three (3) re-submissions, the similarity report will be processed 24 hours after the document is re-submitted.

Instructions to edit the due date are available in the tutor's quick guide Updating the due date of a Turnitin Assignment activity  .

Yes. You can either download single submissions by clicking the Download Submission button adjacent to the student's similarity index.

Alternatively, you can also bulk download all the students' submissions by ticking the checkbox at the top, next to the name identifier, and click the Download Original Files option. All submitted files will be downloaded in a ZIP file.

It is highly recommended that tutors allow students the ability to resubmit papers for a final Turnitin Assignment activity. The assignment must be set to either Generate reports immediately (students can resubmit until due date), or Generate reports on due date (students can resubmit until due date).

If the assignment is set to Generate reports immediately (students can resubmit until due date), the report that is immediately generated (i.e. before the due date of the assignment) does NOT include matches to other student papers within the SAME Turnitin Assignment activity. Before the assignment due date passes, the report only includes matches to existing student papers on the Turnitin database, journals and publications, and internet sources.

The similarity report is automatically regenerated for ALL papers in the Turnitin Assignment activity after the due date has passed, thus comparing the papers between students enrolled in the same VLE area. This may result in the similarity index (percentage), displayed at the time of submission, to be different to that which is displayed after the due date has passed. For example, if a student had collaborated with another student in the same assignment, there would be a match between those papers, so the percentage may increase for both students.

If late submissions have been allowed to be made after the due date of the assignment, the late-submitted paper will be added to the database immediately. The report generated for that late submission will be checked against every other paper already submitted to the assignment activity (i.e. the papers submitted on-time).

The assignment will NOT regenerate reports for the already-submitted papers just because a student submits late. Therefore, the reports for the papers which were submitted on-time, will not consider or include the late-submission in their assessments.

These requests need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The University encourages participation and cooperation wherever possible. However, if a tutor feels that the academic grounds for the request are not clear enough, they may choose not to disclose the paper, or to contact the academic making the request in order to find out more about the grounds for the request.

When responding to such requests, staff should be mindful of protecting the student's personal data and must only disclose the minimum amount of personal data required for the purposes of investigation.

Step-by-step instructions to help you submit draft and final versions   of your dissertation / thesis through Turnitin in the UM VLE are available.

In case of undergraduate students, both the draft and final Turnitin activities are created by the Dissertation Coordinator in the VLE dissertation study-unit area with the following naming convention:

  • Study-unit Code-Period-Occurrence-Year: Dissertation / FYP
  • e.g. ART4010-YR-A-2122: Dissertation

These VLE dissertation areas are available within the current academic year's category, e.g. 2021/22.

In case of postgraduate students, both the draft and final Turnitin activities are created automatically for each student in a dedicated VLE area generated in the name of the student. Supervisors may amend the due dates, as necessary. Postgraduate VLE dissertation / thesis areas have the following naming convention:

  • Student's Name - PG Dissertation/Thesis
  • e.g. Albert Abela - PG Dissertation/Thesis
Postgraduate VLE dissertation / thesis areas are available within the PG Dissertations category, as these are not associated with a particular academic year. From the My VLE areas block in the VLE Dashboard, click to expand the PG Dissertations category.

Members of the Board of Examiners can access the Turnitin similarity report through the UM VLE.

  • Undergraduate dissertations / essays are available in the common dissertation study-unit areas eg. EXA4010-YR-A-2122: Dissertation. These will contain the Turnitin similarity reports of submissions made by all students registered to the dissertation study-unit.
  • Postgraduate dissertations / theses are available in the designated student's dissertation area eg. Maria Cassar - PG Dissertation/Thesis within the PG Dissertations category.

Note that: 

  • Examiners will require a UM IT Account to access the UM VLE.
  • If you cannot locate the dissertation areas when signed in the VLE, please contact your faculty or departmental secretary so that your details will be entered in SIMS. You will then be able to access the dissertation areas within 24 hours.
  • If the Turnitin similarity report is not available in a PG dissertation / thesis area, contact the student's supervisor so that s/he asks the student to submit the dissertation / thesis through Turnitin.
  • If the Turnitin similarity report is not available in a UG dissertation VLE area, contact the faculty / departmental coordinator of undergraduate dissertations / essays so that s/he may create the Turnitin Assignment activities. Step-by-step instructions are available in Creating Turnitin Assignment activities - Tutor's Guide  
  • Step-by-step instructions to view and interpret a Turnitin similarity report   are available.

Yes, students can use any plagiarism detection tools of their choice to check their work. However, they should read the relevant terms and conditions before using any software, as some terms and conditions may give the plagiarism detection company rights to use their work in ways that they do not necessarily agree with (e.g. making the submission available for public use).