What Percentage is Acceptable in Turnitin Report?

author By Mary Boies

Plagiarism is one of the biggest sins in higher education. If you are caught blatantly plagiarizing the works of others, you could be suspended or expelled from your university.

Plagiarism is a big deal in higher education because it is regarded as laziness and academic dishonesty. To prevent it, most universities and colleges check submitted essays and other assignments using plagiarism checkers such as Turnitin, Safe Assign, Copyleaks, and Unicheck.

Turnitin is the most popular plagiarism checker among the many plagiarism checkers used by universities worldwide. It is very popular because it checks submitted essays and papers against billions of articles, websites, books, and other publicly available works.

If you scan your paper using this software and it does not detect plagiarism, you can be confident that virtually no other scanner will detect plagiarism in your essay. It is just that good!

In this post, you will discover every crucial thing you need to know about Turnitin and how it works. The devil is in the details, so we better get started!

Does similarity mean high plagiarism?

Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. The similarity in your paper is simply an indication that a part of your paper is similar to something else already captured in the database of the plagiarism checker.

Sometimes the instances of similarity in your paper are minor. For example, when analyzing a book or a painting in an essay, you must refer to it by its title. This could be flagged as a similarity to a paper or a webpage already captured in the plagiarism scanner database. No professor will conclude that such similarity is plagiarism if the title is correctly cited. In other words, professors usually don't consider minor instances of similarity as plagiarism.

Sometimes instances of similarity in your paper are caused by quotes. For example, when you quote something from a research article, a textbook, or a webpage, it will most likely be flagged as a similarity instance. However, your professor will only consider such a similarity instance as plagiarism if it is not cited correctly. Simply put, similarity instances attributable to quotes are not often considered plagiarism as long as the right citation is given. 

As you can see above, there are instances of similarity that are not considered plagiarism. However, it is crucial to note that there are instances of similarity that are considered plagiarism. Usually, when your paper's similarity percentage is more than 10%, there is a cause for alarm. The 10% similarity is considered plagiarism if not attributable to correctly cited quotes, tables, book titles, and the like.

If you check your paper using a plagiarism checker and find that its similarity percentage is significant, you should investigate the incidences of similarity. If you believe your professor will consider them plagiarism, you should rewrite them and/or cite them properly.

What is the acceptable Turnitin percentage?

The acceptable Turnitin percentage for college papers is between 0 and 25%. Most professors consider college papers with a Turnitin similarity score of more than 25% non-original, and they also consider them not good enough. While the acceptable Turnitin percentage for college papers is between 0 and 25%, significant similarity incidences must be attributable to quotes, tables, statistics, and the like. To be safe, ensure that the similarity score of the paper you are submitting for grading is 5-10%.

To understand why the acceptable Turnitin percentage is between 0 and 25%, you must look at what the percentages mean. If your paper has a Turnitin percentage of 25%, it means 25% of it is similar to the material that is already published. If your paper has a Turnitin percentage of 0%, it means zero percent of it is similar material that is already published. Ideally, professors want students to submit papers with zero percent plagiarism (papers that are 100% original).

However, this is often impossible because of book titles, tables, figures, quotes, and the like. When these things are introduced into college papers, they are picked by plagiarism scanners as similarity incidences. Professors know this, which is why they allow papers with a Turnitin (similarity) percentage of up to 25%. However, this is only the case if the similarity incidences are correctly cited. Only minor similarity incidences do not need citation in the eyes of most professors.

Lastly, it is noteworthy that some professors are stricter than others. While most will accept a Turnitin score of up to 25%, the strict ones will only accept a Turnitin score of up to 10%. Therefore, you must be careful not to exceed your professor's acceptable Turnitin score if you want to get a top grade.

Interpreting Turnitin Colors Based On Similarity Index

Contrary to popular belief, Turnitin doesn't actually check for plagiarism in submitted papers, and it scans the submissions for similarities against the billions of essays, articles, webpages, and the like in its database.

When you submit a paper on Turnitin, the software will compare the text in your paper with the data it has in its database. Every part of your paper that matches what it has in its database will be flagged as similarity incidences.

After comparing your entire paper with its database, it will compute the total number of words it has marked as similarity incidences. It will then use this sum to calculate your paper's similarity percentage based on its total word count. So if your paper is 1,000 words long and it flagged 200 words as similarity incidences, it will calculate your paper's similarity percentage as 20%.

Now that you know how Turnitin finds the similarity percentage for your submissions, it is time to understand how to interpret its colors based on the similarity index. So this part is actually easy. After you submit a paper on Turnitin and it does its magic, it will list your paper alongside your previous submissions (if any). For this paper and all your other papers, it will present its information in a row that includes the paper itself, the similarity score, and the similarity report.

The similarity score will include the similarity percentage of your paper and color. The color is usually based on the range of your similarity percentage. If the color next to your paper's similarity score is blue, it means your paper has zero similarity (matching text). If the color is green, your paper has a similarity percentage of between 1 and 24 percent. If the color is yellow, your paper has a 25 and 49 percent similarity.

If your work's similarity score is orange, your paper has a similarity percentage of between 50 and 74 percent. Lastly, if your work's similarity score is red, your paper has a similarity percentage of 75 and 100%. The information below shows what each color means. 

Turnitin will mark the similarity score of your paper to show you the result of your work. If you did a good job creating a brilliant original paper, the blue or green color next to your essay would give you a rewarding, satisfying feeling. If you did not do a good job, the yellow, orange or red color next to your submission would tell you the work you need to make your work acceptable. Once you do the required work and resubmit your paper, you will feel good when its report shows a blue or green code instead of the previous color code.

Bad Turnitin Similarity Percentage

The acceptable Turnitin percentage for college papers is between 0 and 25 percent. The ideal Turnitin similarity percentage is zero, but this is usually very difficult to achieve, especially in well-researched papers. Such papers often include tables, figures, statistics, and quotes from published sources, and Turnitin usually flags these as similarity incidences resulting in a small similarity percentage even for original papers. However, while a small similarity percentage is expected and accepted by most instructors, it is not likely to exceed 25%. This is because most instructors consider anything with a similarity percentage of more than 25% unoriginal.

From the above statement, it is clear that any paper with a Turnitin similarity percentage of over 25% has an alarming Turnitin similarity percentage. This is because instructors consider papers with over 25% similarity unoriginal. In other words, instructors consider such essays unacceptable. Turnitin color codes its similarity reports based on the percentage similarity. Only submissions coded blue or green have under 25% similarity and can be submitted officially. Submissions coded yellow, orange, and red have over 25% similarity and are considered bad or unacceptable.

Causes of High Similarity Percentage

Several things could make your paper have a high similarity percentage; the most common ones are discussed below.

  1. Too many quotes. You should ideally have two or three quotes in your paper. If you include too many quotes in your essay, they will be flagged as similarity incidences by Turnitin, leading to your paper having a high similarity percentage. The good news is that you can quickly reduce a high similarity percentage in your paper if it is caused by too much quoting. All you need to do to delete or paraphrase the quotes.
  2. Double submission. If the paper you have submitted returns a high similarity percentage of between 90 and 100 percent, it is most probably because you have submitted it twice. When you submit your paper to Turnitin to check it before you submit it officially, you are supposed to delete it after you are done. If you don't, when your professor submits your work for checking, or you do it yourself, the result will be a high-similarity report.
  3. Long reference list. If you have a long reference list, it will most likely result in a high similarity score. This is because the Turnitin scanner will find many parts of it to be similar to other references and works in its database. The best way to reduce a high-similarity percentage due to a long reference list is to scan it again without its references list, which will reveal the paper's accurate picture.
  4. Common phrases. If your paper features a good number of common phrases, it will likely have a significant similarity percentage. This is because the Turnitin system will compare your essay against billions of papers. Therefore, it will most likely find many sources in its databases with the exact common phrases as your paper. To reduce a high similarity percentage due to common phrases, you should identify and rewrite common phrases in your paper.

Is reusing a paper I wrote plagiarism?

Yes, it is plagiarism. Specifically, it is called self-plagiarism. You cannot use another author's ideas without attribution, and you are supposed to attribute all the ideas you borrow for your essay correctly, and you should do this even when you borrow ideas or arguments from your own paper.

Self-plagiarism is described as reusing your own work and usually involves copying parts of your previous work to a new paper you are writing. The worst cases of self-plagiarism involve copying and resubmitting entire papers.

While self-plagiarism can help you to develop a new paper much faster, it is an act that most professors hate. They hate it because of three key reasons.

First, they hate it because it shows that the student is lazy. As a college student, you must put in the work to learn and improve, and copying your previous work for a new assignment shows you are lazy and not dedicated to your work.

Second, they hate it because it shows that the student has no new original thought or idea. As a college student, you must learn how to develop new original thoughts and arguments for your papers. Failure to do so will make your professors wonder

They hate it because it usually interferes with good flow and organization. It is generally clear to most of them that a paper or an essay includes parts that have been inserted.

Because professors hate self-plagiarism, you should not do it if you want to get excellent grades in your essays.

Reasons for A High Turnitin Similarity Index in A Paper

The following are the most common reasons for a high Turnitin similarity index.

1. Utilizing a single source for your research

You will most likely conduct research to find relevant information when assigned a paper to write. When doing this, you should ensure you find multiple sources for your paper. Because if you use just one source, information from it will appear several times in your essay. Some of these multiple appearances will be matched to the original source resulting in multiple similarity incidences and a high Turnitin similarity percentage.

To avoid a high Turnitin similarity index caused by a single source of information, you should find and use multiple sources in your paper.

1.      Failure to properly paraphrase

Most college students write college papers the same way. They research a topic, identify the best sources formation on the topic, paraphrase the information, and then edit the resulting paper. Paraphrasing is an integral part of writing college papers. Nevertheless, it is a skill that not many students have mastered. This usually leads to poor paraphrasing and the student submissions being found with many similarity incidents.

To avoid a high similarity percentage due to poor paraphrasing, you should regularly practice paraphrasing to master the skill. You should also regularly read tips to help you paraphrase better. Paraphrasing and reading about the skill will help you rewrite information much better to avoid plagiarism detection.

2. Using too many quotes

When writing a paper, you must do your best to use only two or three quotes. You must also ensure that the quotes are not more than three sentences long. This is because using many quotes, especially in a short essay, will return a high Turnitin similarity percentage.

A quote will almost always be flagged as a similarity incident. This is almost always the case, especially if the quote is famous or popular. Imagine multiple chunky quotes in a paper; they will undoubtedly result in a high Turnitin similarity index.

To avoid a high Turnitin percentage because of too many quotes, you should use only one quote (if necessary) in a short essay and three quotes (if necessary) in an extended essay.

3. Copying and pasting content found online

When writing an essay, you must not copy-paste information from any source. Instead, you must do proper research and use the correct information to develop your paper nicely. If you do, it is unlikely that your essay will have any significant instances of similarity.

You will be discovered if you do not do good research and copy-paste information without paraphrasing. Your professor will discover that you are cheating because the plagiarism checker will flag the entire copy-pasted part of your paper as a similarity incidence.

To avoid a high level of similarity in your paper due to copy-pasted content, you better make sure you do not copy-paste any content you find online.

Is it possible to reduce the high Turnitin percentage? How?

Yes, it is possible. Follow the information below to find out how.

  1. Paraphrasing. This is one of the best ways to reduce a high Turnitin percentage. Paraphrasing means rewriting, and you will reduce your paper's Turnitin percentage by rewriting its similarity incidences.
  2. Summarizing. Summarizing is like paraphrasing, and summarizing information will help you avoid or reduce similarity matches in your paper.
  3. Multiple sources. Increasing sources in your paper will help to diversify its sources of information, and it will also help to reduce its similarity index.
  4. Proper attribution. Sometimes similarity incidents cannot be paraphrased or summarized. They need to be presented as is and properly attributed. So make sure you do this for

Final Remarks!

Attaining a similarity score of 0% feels magical; it's achievable if you pay attention to how you paraphrase, summarize, and rephrase content consumed from other sources. However, there are instances when the score is slightly higher due to unavoidable phrases or content. For instance, scientific terms, names of books, paintings, or short stories. In this case, always strive to understand the plagiarism or similarity score before submitting your assignments. Note that what’s accepted in one institution might be unacceptable in another; the acceptable similarity limit varies within institutions.

Turnitin is one of the leading plagiarism checkers in the world. Many colleges and universities use it to detect plagiarism in academic writings submitted by students. Therefore, if you use it to check your work and find low or zero plagiarism, you can confidently submit it. If you detect plagiarism, you must rewrite or do proper citations before submitting your paper. We can help you to rewrite or do proper citations before submitting your paper, and we can do this at a competitive rate. Try us today to make sure your work is perfect before submission. We also have essay writers you can hire to write non-plagiarized essays for you; try out our custom writing services.


Is there anything like good plagiarism?

There is no good plagiarism. However, there are levels of similarity that are tolerated. Most professors worldwide agree that a similarity percentage of up to 25 percent is acceptable.

Can my professor tell that I bought an essay online?

No, they cannot unless you leave indicators (trail) for them to suspect that you did not write the essay. If you buy an essay online, keep it to yourself. If you don't and you tell your professor, you could be suspended or expelled because it is considered academic dishonesty. Besides, it is also good to download the paper and use it as a personalized sample when writing your own essay.

How can I reduce Turnitin or SafeAssign similarity?

The best way to reduce Turnitin and SafeAssign similarity is to rewrite the highlighted similarity incidents. Rewriting the similarity incidents carefully will help you reduce your paper's similarity to less than 10% or even 5%.

Are references counted as part of the plagiarism?

References are usually not counted as part of plagiarism.; they are ignored.

Is 6% bad Turnitin percentage?

No, it is not bad and within the acceptable Turnitin similarity range (1 word to 25 percent).

Is a score above 25% a bad Turnitin percentage?

It is nearly bad but still considered acceptable by some professors and colleges.

Can one plagiarize themselves by using a previous paper they wrote?

No, they cannot. Plagiarizing yourself is called self-plagiarism, which is considered academic dishonesty, just like standard plagiarism.

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