Q: My orginal research got 100% similarity on Turnitin. What should I do?

Detailed Question -

I (with another two authors) carried out an original research paper. On 17th September 2023, I checked its similarly on turnitin and it was 13%. Then I submitted it to journal X and got rejected, again submitted it to journal Y and rejected. Then I was busy for a long time (few months). Therefore, I could not have time to submit it another journal. However, last month February 2024, I submitted it and it went under review and still under review after first revision. Today when I working another file checking, I have checked that file also but unfortunately I have got 63% similarly.

1 Answer to this question

Hello and thanks for reaching out. I admit that I found it a bit difficult to understand your question, but I hope I can provide some clarity and insights that will help you resolve the issue you are facing.

Your question in the title mentions 100% similarity. However, you mention that the initial file showed 13%, similarity, and after the first revision, the file showed 63% similarity (I assumed that you were referring to that file and not the other one you are working on). It is surprising that the same file would show such varied similarity values, but I assume that extensive changes might have been made at the revision stage.

Now, let me explain how Turnitin and other similarity checking/plagiarism detection tools work. Users upload their written work to Turnitin, which compares the submitted work against a vast database of academic materials and identifies similarities between the submitted work and the content in its database. After the comparison, Turnitin generates report that highlights any passages that match content in its database and provides a similarity score (expressed as a percentage). The similarity percentage represents the proportion of the document that matches other sources in the database.

How to interpret Turnitin’s report

The interpretation of the similarity score varies depending on the context. In academic settings, similarity scores below a certain threshold (e.g., 10–20%) may be considered acceptable, as they may reflect common phrases, quotations, or properly cited material. Higher similarity scores may indicate potential plagiarism or insufficient citation. You would have noticed some (if not all) of the following colors in your report. They indicate different levels of text matching.

Blue: No matching text

Green: One word to 24% matching text

Yellow: 25–49% matching text

Orange: 50–74% matching text

Red: 75–100% matching text

What to do when you get a high similarity percentage

1. Carefully review the report to identify the sources of similarity: Ensure that any quoted or paraphrased material is properly cited and attributed to the original source. Revise your work to include proper citations, paraphrase or rewrite passages, or remove content that excessively matches existing sources.

2. Seek guidance: If you are unsure about the extent or nature of the similarities, please consult all the coauthors to check that proper citation practices were followed. You may seek guidance from your supervisor or mentor for any next steps that might be needed.

3. Explain in a cover letter: If you believe that the high similarity score is due to legitimate reasons (e.g., common terminology in your field, widely accepted methodologies/protocols, or self-plagiarism from your previous papers), you may provide an explanation in a cover letter to the journal editor, clarifying the circumstances.

In your case, as your paper is under revision, you will have to wait till you get a response from the editorial office. If it is accepted with minor or major revisions, be sure to follow steps 1 and 2 mentioned above. If the paper is rejected on the grounds of high similarity, you may try step 3. If that does not work, be sure that you address the sources of similarity before submitting to a new journal again.

Understanding journal policies regarding Turnitin reports

Many journals require authors to submit Turnitin reports. Journal policies regarding these reports and similarity percentages vary. Some journals may have specific thresholds for acceptable similarity scores, while others may evaluate each case individually, considering the nature and context of the similarities. A high similarity score does not automatically constitute plagiarism; the score highlights any matching areas in your paper so that the editor/reviewer can use this information to further investigate the reasons and decide if the match is acceptable or not. Therefore, high similarity percentages may trigger further scrutiny by editors and peer reviewers, but they do not necessarily lead to outright rejection.

Finally, I’d like to mention that your goal should not be to simply reduce the similarity score, but rather to ensure academic integrity in your work, i.e., understanding and respecting the original work of others and contributing your own original ideas.