The misuses of Turnitin and other text-matching software

Turnitin, and other text-matching software, is often used by postgraduate scholars and supervisors to check their work. This is very useful because the software can illustrate an over dependence on other people’s words and can help to ensure consistent referencing is applied. However, there is an increasing understanding that these programs check for plagiarism and that the percentage on the similarity index indicates levels of plagiarism. This 10-minute video shows why this is not the case. It clearly shows how the software can be used to great effect by scholars and supervisors to improve their writing but it is of only limited use to ensure that plagiarism is avoided.

Developed by Sioux McKenna – Rhodes University. Thanks to the postgraduate scholars whose work is used in this video.

Who might find this useful?

This video is an important resource for all supervisors and postgraduate scholars and should be viewed relatively early in the journey to ensure that it is understood that Turnitin and similar software provides very useful writing development opportunities. It will also be of use to those who draft academic integrity policies or who sit on plagiarism committees.

Explore these additional resources

Turnitin has lots of uses in developing postgraduate writing.


Two excellent books on this issue are:

  • Sutherland-Smith, W. (2008) Plagiarism, the Internet and Student Learning: Improving Academic Integrity. New York: Routledge
  • Angélil-Carter, S. (2000) Stolen language? Plagiarism in writing. Harlow, UK: Longman.

All supervisors are encouraged to read these.