High Turnitin percentage. “How much plagiarism is acceptable?” or “What Turnitin percentage is acceptable?” These are two of the questions I am asked all the time.
First of all it should be made clear that no plagiarism is acceptable. So really the question is – When does matching text get seen as plagiarism?
When I did my research for this post I was soon struck by two things. First most people agreed that no plagiarism is acceptable as a matter of principle. But, second there was also a practical issue of what point you were likely to get questions raised. What is the ‘magic’ number?
Due to the volume of academic papers being marked, teachers, lecturers and examiners rely on computer programmes to flag up papers which may have a plagiarism problem. The institutions (schools, colleges, universities etc.) may give guidelines to markers on plagiarism but they do not announce a percentage figure. This means that each marker may have a slightly different approach.
This means that the only absolute answer to the question of what is acceptable is … Zero. However, in reality zero is very rarely achieved. So it is more practical to suggest that under 10% you are unlikely to have a problem. Between 10% and 20% may give the marker concern but their attitude may depend on whether the matching text comes from one or many sources – if it all from the same source then it is more likely to be seen as plagiarism. Also, if you appear to have copied the main idea in your paper and presented it as your own then that would look particularly bad.
Above 20% and you are certainly taking serious risks.
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