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Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct


All students should be aware that any work submitted for assessment purposes may be submitted to Turnitin UK software for screening.

The University subscribes to Turnitin UK text-matching software.  The method of use for this software will vary depending on the subject method and course; some courses will screen all work, while some may undertake random checks or only screen particular pieces of work where concerns have been raised. 

These pages have been designed to give students an understanding of the way the University does, and does not, use Turnitin.  Full details are available in the University's Policy on the use of Turnitin text-matching software (effective from 1 Oct 2016).

What Turnitin does

Turnitin compares the text of submitted work to sources in its database, which is made up of internet content, selected journals, and previous student submissions.  The software then provides an originality report, which identifies the extent of matched text by highlighting the matches and providing an overall percentage match.  What Turnitin cannot do is to then interpret this report.  The matched text can often include a number of entirely innocent matches, such as entries in the bibliography, the essay title used by all students, or small matches like "the University of Cambridge".  Reports will be scrutinised by an academic member of staff, who will review the report to determine whether the matches may indicate wider concerns around poor scholarly technique or an attempt to gain unfair advantage, and whether any further action should be taken.

Consent to submit

Participation in a course at Cambridge is deemed as acceptance of the University's right to apply specialist software (like Turnitin) to your work for the purposes of plagiarism education and detection; the University's Statement on Plagiarism includes this consent. However, you do retain the right to remove your work from the Turnitin comparison database after it has been checked.  We hope that you will choose to keep your work within the database, so as to maximise the effectiveness of the software and to protect your work from future attempts to plagiarise it.  If you would like to make such a request, please contact your course administrator in the first instance.

Consequences of matched text

As above, Turnitin can only show the extent of matched text; it cannot make any judgement about the seriousness of the matches, and whether these may indicate poor academic practice or an attempt to gain unfair advantage.  Under the University's definition, plagiarism does not require intent to deceive - in other words, it is still plagiarism even if you didn't deliberately intend to copy someone else's work.  It is your responsibility to understand and demonstrate good scholarly technique; see our pages both on Students' responsibilities and Resources and support, to help you understand what is expected of you.  If you are in any doubt, contact your Tutor or Director of Studies. 

If matched text is identified, the Examiners (or Chair of Examiners, or Degree Committee, as appropriate) will follow University procedures and undertake further investigation.  You may be called for an interview or viva voce examination, and further disciplinary action may be taken.  For more information see our pages on Procedures and policy for investigating plagiarism, and our Turnitin FAQ section.