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Every modern student who went to college knows that Turnitin is there basically to make your life a living hell. But what can Turnitin detect, really? Is it so smart that we, students, don’t stand a chance against it? How does this thing even work to catch us in the act?

What’s the Deal with Turnitin?

Turnitin is a plagiarism detector that is web-based. It was created for educational purposes by iParadigms LLC in 1997 – which makes it even older than we thought. A high school or a university will generally have to buy a license to use the website. So, can Turnitin detect plagiarism? Yes and no. Turnitin doesn’t catch plagiarized ideas – it only catches strings of similar texts. The general idea behind Turnitin was to check for matching text that is not original and is in any way plagiarized. It will identify the sources and then the hammer of justice can be delivered upon the culprit. Thumbs up for them, though; because whether we like it or not, it was created for the benefit of students. It was to help them improve their own writing, without copy-pasting something off the Internet.

Every respectable school or university will ask students to submit their essays to Turnitin, to avoid plagiarism. You can imagine that this wasn’t pleasant for them, and they even went to the point of refusing to take the ‘test.’ They would try to appeal to the teachers, feign hurt because ‘requiring this check would mean they’re thought capable of plagiarism.’ Boo-hoo.

How Turnitin Detects Plagiarism?

As mentioned, Turnitin will look through the text and dissect it phrase by phrase for unoriginal content. This is all so that students cannot use cited books or papers that were written and submitted before. Now the million dollar question: can Turnitin detect other students’ work? Unfortunately for you, it can. Turnitin has the memory of an elephant – and once a paper goes through it, it cannot be erased from the database. Turnitin can scan its own database, and it also has partnerships with the databases of other large academic institutions.

This means that the plan to take a paper written by a senior who just graduated is not an option anymore. Turnitin will match the strings of ideas in each text and compare it with other essays stored from other students. If your essay has a twin – it’ll know. The only thing it will detect is similar word structures, though. It will have no power against carefully rewritten essays. So if you want to beat it the smart way, take that paper and write the same thing using different words. It’s still plagiarism, but Turnitin won’t find it. So another question would be: can Turnitin detect copy and paste?

What Can It Detect?

To answer your previous question: yes, Turnitin can definitely detect copy and paste. If your paper has content copied from elsewhere that was not properly referenced, Turnitin will find it. It’s like a really smart detective that can catch anyone cheating in the act. So if you ask us “can Turnitin detect books?” then the answer is yes. Turnitin can detect published books as fast as you can say ‘plagiarism.’ If you decide that you are ‘smart’ enough to copy a text from a book and claim it as your own writing, you might feel a bit of embarrassment later on. If you do not follow any guidelines for proper citations (such as MLA, APA or Harvard) and blindly copy and paste everything, you can be sure that Turnitin will catch on.

Another technique that students seem to be using is turning in their old essays. They ask themselves ‘Can Turnitin detect my own work?’ and they will take an old paper from another course and hope it sticks. If it’s carefully rewritten, you might be able to confuse Turnitin. However, if the paper was previously submitted for anti-plagiarism scan, you can bet everything you have that Turnitin will remember that. So the next time you’re thinking ‘It’s not plagiarized if I wrote it,’ think again. Turnitin doesn’t like recycled works either.

This is how Turnitin works to catch you. For all the trouble that is worth, it would take less time to actually write the paper than to find ways to plagiarize.

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