Turnitin Similarity Report

I have been supervising dissertation students recently at several institutions.

One thing that has been mentioned several times is the interpretation of the Turnitin Similarity Report. One student showed me her Turnitin report in which she had received a similarity score of 32%. She was worried as she had been told that anything above 20% was problematic. I looked at her work and found that most of the 32% similarity was made up of typical EAP phrases. Examples are “questions have been raised over the ,,,”, “… have received very little consideration” and “this evidence leads us to reject the hypothesis that…” These are kinds of phrases that EAP students are expected to learn and use and are covered in books such as Jeanne Godfrey’s The student phrase book (Godfrey, 2013) and John Morley’s online Academic Phrasebank.

The other extreme is the student who received a similarity score of 14%. She was happy with that, but when I looked at her text, I found several examples of what I would consider to be plagiarism – sentences taken from a published writer without any reference. I did not consider this to be acceptable.

It is therefore important to look further that the Turnitin Similarity score and see exactly what has been identified as similar.


Godfrey, J. (2013). The student phrase book. London: Palgrave.

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