Can Turnitin Detect Rewording?

Written by Azlan Updated at Sep 22, 2023 Reading time: 5

Can Turnitin Detect Rewording?

Turnitin is a popular plagiarism detection software used by many educational institutions. It compares submitted assignments against its extensive database to check for matching or similar text, allowing instructors to identify potential plagiarism. One common question is whether Turnitin can detect reworded or paraphrased content or only verbatim copied text. The answer is that Turnitin can detect some rewording through its pattern-matching algorithms, but its ability has limits based on how extensively the text has been rewritten.

How Turnitin Detects Rewording

Turnitin's plagiarism detection works by comparing text strings to the vast amount of textual data stored in its database. It utilizes pattern recognition to look for matching word patterns and sentence structures between a submitted paper and existing sources, not just verbatim text matches. So, if a student simply rewords or paraphrases content by changing some vocabulary or sentence formations, Turnitin can often still identify the underlying similarity to text in its database. This allows it to match moderately reworded content back to the source it was derived from in many cases.

Turnitin's expansive database contains millions of internet sources, archived student papers, periodicals, journals, and published works. This allows its algorithm to compare text to a vast repository of existing material. However, there are limits to Turnitin's capabilities. As reworded content differs more extensively from sources, Turnitin becomes harder to match. Significant paraphrasing, using alternate structures and word choices, decreases the pattern similarities that Turnitin looks for. Heavy summarization and concise rephrasing make detection more difficult. The reworded text also avoids detection if the source it was derived from is not contained in Turnitin's database.

Limitations of Rewording Detection

While Turnitin can identify moderate levels of reworded content through pattern recognition, its detection capabilities have defined limits:

  • Extensive paraphrasing and thorough summarization make detection significantly harder, as the text differs more substantially from the sources.
  • Changing sentence structure sequencing and word choices decreases similarity matches.
  • Using alternate vocabulary and phrasing avoids verbatim text matches.
  • Turnitin must identify disguised reworded text if the source is not in its database repository.
  • Short-reworded phrases and sections are harder to identify than long verbatim passages.
  • Rewording non-textual content like graphics, formulas, and data is more difficult.
  • Truly original writing and thought that is void of any reworking escapes detection.

In summary, moderate rewording can often be detected. Still, heavy paraphrasing and summarization that significantly modifies the original text make identification much easier for Turnitin's algorithms, especially with a source match in its database.

Best Practices for Rewording

Since Turnitin can detect some levels of reworked content, what methods should students use to paraphrase while avoiding plagiarism concerns properly? Here are some recommendations:

  • Avoid close rewording by altering sentence structures and vocabulary usage. Change the flow and linkage of ideas.
  • Use paraphrasing as an opportunity for the deeper critical assessment of sources, not quick alteration at a surface level.
  • Summarize content in your own words instead of just rewording sentences. Synthesize ideas thoughtfully.
  • Cite sources properly so that paraphrasing is not misconstrued as plagiarism. Attribution avoids confusion.
  • Check rewritten sections carefully against sources to ensure proper paraphrasing.
  • Seek feedback from instructors if concerned about potential rewording detection.

Proper paraphrasing requires time and skill to present ideas in a new light. Students should use rewording judiciously, cite sources appropriately, and follow academic integrity principles. While Turnitin detection is not foolproof, responsible rewording practices can minimize plagiarism concerns.

What Impacts Turnitin's Ability To Detect Paraphrasing

Several key factors influence Turnitin's ability to detect paraphrasing:

Quality of The Content

The quality of the rewritten content impacts Turnitin's detection capability. Light paraphrasing by just changing a few words is easier to catch. Heavy paraphrasing using completely new vocabulary and sentence structures is harder to identify. Summarizing the main ideas while expressing them in your own words avoids detection.

Length of The Passage

Even with some rewording, long passages are easier for Turnitin to detect through text pattern analysis. Short phrases and sentences, even if partially copied, are much harder for it to identify as unoriginal.

Plagiarism Setting in Turnitin

Instructors can set the plagiarism detection sensitivity in Turnitin. Lower sensitivity spots only verbatim copying, while higher sensitivity catches more paraphrasing. However, excessive sensitivity can flag properly referenced content.

How Turnitin Catches Rewording

Turnitin compares text strings to its database, looking for word patterns and structural matches, not identical text. Moderate paraphrasing by changing some vocabulary and sentence structure can often be detected by identifying similarities. But Turnitin needs to work on heavy paraphrasing using completely new phrasing and sentence patterns. It also only matches rewritten text if the source is in its database.


Q: Does Turnitin detect paraphrasing?

A: Turnitin can detect some paraphrasing, especially if it closely resembles the source. Heavy paraphrasing is more challenging to identify.

Q: Can Turnitin identify if the content is reworded?

A: Turnitin often identifies if the text has been reworked from another source by matching word patterns and sentence structures. However, extensive paraphrasing avoids detection.

Q: How do you safely reword to avoid Turnitin detection?

A: Proper summarization and citation avoid the appearance of just rewording to beat Turnitin. Wholesale reworking specifically to avoid detection could still be considered dishonest.

Q: What rewording percentage is considered safe?

A: There is no ideal percentage. The focus should be properly paraphrasing and citing sources, not minimizing detection. As long as rewording represents your work, the percentage is less concerning.

Q: Does rephrasing and summarizing avoid plagiarism?

A: Simple rephrasing only allows plagiarism if the ideas are copied. True paraphrasing through summarization and integration of your analysis avoids concerns.


Turnitin can identify varying levels of reworked content through pattern recognition, but its detection capabilities have limits. Proper paraphrasing and citation practices remain critically important academic skills for students. Avoiding extensive rewording and the disguise of plagiarism should be the goal, not simply avoiding detection. A thoughtful, ethical approach allows students to paraphrase effectively without raising plagiarism concerns. Extensive reworking specifically to beat Turnitin could still be considered academically dishonest by instructors.


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