Can Turnitin Detect Paraphrasing? (Pros & Cons, Methods)

Imagine this scenario: You’ve spent hours researching and writing an essay, but you’re concerned about unintentionally plagiarizing someone else’s work.

You may have heard of Turnitin, a widely used plagiarism detection tool, and wonder if it can detect paraphrasing.

Yes, Turnitin can detect paraphrasing to some extent. It compares submitted texts against a vast database and analyzes similarities in wording, phrasing, and sentence structure. It can identify both direct and hidden paraphrasing techniques. However, it has limitations and may not catch every instance of paraphrasing, especially if the rephrasing is extensive or non-academic sources are used.

In this article, we will delve into Turnitin’s functionality, its ability to detect paraphrasing and explore the pros and cons of using this tool.

Additionally, we will provide alternative solutions to help you navigate the realm of academic integrity effectively.

Turnitin Plans and Pricing

The table below is a summary of the plans and pricing of Turnitin, along with the recommended users for each plan:

PlanFeaturesRecommended UsersPricing
Turnitin BasicPlagiarism detectionIndividual students, researchers, freelancersFree (limited features)
Turnitin FeedbackPlagiarism detection, Feedback commentsTeachers, educatorsVaries by institution/school (contact sales)
Turnitin GradeMarkPlagiarism detection, GradingTeachers, instructors, professorsVaries by institution/school (contact sales)
Turnitin Revision AssistantPlagiarism detection, Writing supportK-12 educators, writing instructorsVaries by institution/school (contact sales)

Note: The pricing for Turnitin plans varies depending on factors such as the educational institution, organization, or licensing agreements.

How Does Turnitin Work?

Turnitin is a powerful tool used by educational institutions to identify instances of plagiarism.

It works by comparing submitted texts against a vast database of academic sources, previously submitted papers, and internet content.

Turnitin primarily focuses on detecting similarities in wording, phrasing, and sentence structure to determine potential instances of plagiarism.

How Turnitin Identifies Direct Paraphrasing:

Turnitin has the capability to detect direct paraphrasing, where words are substituted or sentence structure is rearranged without adding original ideas.

The tool’s algorithms can identify similarities in sentence structure, wording, and grammar patterns, which are indicative of potential paraphrasing.

For instance, if two papers contain identical sentences with only a few words changed, Turnitin will flag them as potential instances of direct paraphrasing.

Detecting Hidden Paraphrasing Techniques:

Turnitin’s algorithms are designed to detect more sophisticated paraphrasing techniques as well.

These techniques involve using synonyms or rephrasing sentences while maintaining the original meaning.

The tool can identify patterns in the usage of synonyms or detect similarities in sentence structures, even if the wording is different.

For example, if a sentence is rephrased but retains the same structure and ideas, Turnitin can still flag it as paraphrasing.

Limitations of Turnitin in Detecting Paraphrasing:

Despite its effectiveness, Turnitin has certain limitations in detecting paraphrasing.

Subtle paraphrasing techniques that involve extensive rephrasing or the use of non-academic sources may go undetected by the tool.

This is because Turnitin’s focus is primarily on textual similarities rather than analyzing the underlying concepts or ideas. Hence, it is crucial to understand that Turnitin may not catch every instance of paraphrasing.

Tips for Effective Paraphrasing:

To avoid plagiarism and detection by Turnitin, here are some tips for effective paraphrasing:

  1. Understand the original content: Gain a thorough understanding of the source material before attempting to paraphrase.
  2. Change sentence structure: Rearrange sentences and alter their structure to present ideas in a fresh manner.
  3. Use different words and synonyms: Replace words and phrases with suitable synonyms to convey the same meaning.
  4. Add personal insights: Inject your own thoughts and insights into the paraphrased content to demonstrate originality.

Alternative Tools for Detecting Paraphrasing:

While Turnitin is widely used, there are alternative tools available that specialize in identifying paraphrasing.

For example, Unicheck and Grammarly offer comprehensive plagiarism detection features.

Unicheck utilizes machine learning algorithms to identify paraphrasing techniques effectively, while Grammarly provides real-time suggestions for avoiding plagiarism and improving writing quality.

Exploring these alternatives can provide additional support in maintaining academic integrity.

How Turnitin Compares To, Grammarly Business, and ProWritingAid

FeaturesTurnitinOriginality.aiGrammarly BusinessProWritingAid
Plagiarism Detection
Paraphrasing Detection
Grammar and Spelling
Writing Style Suggestions
Feedback and Comments
Document Format Support
Multiple Language Support
Real-Time Suggestions

Note: Checkmarks indicate the presence of the respective feature, while “❌” indicates the absence of the feature.

Turnitin is a powerful tool for plagiarism and paraphrasing detection, but it lacks grammar and spelling checking as well as real-time suggestions for writing style. and ProWritingAid offer comprehensive checks for plagiarism, paraphrasing, grammar, spelling, writing style suggestions, and real-time feedback.

Grammarly Business offers a combination of grammar, spelling, and writing style suggestions but lacks plagiarism and paraphrasing detection.

All four tools support various document formats, multiple languages, and integrations.

Pricing for each tool is subscription-based. Consider your specific needs to determine which tool best suits your requirements.

Academic Policies and Consequences:

Academic institutions have strict policies regarding plagiarism, and the consequences can be severe.

Plagiarism undermines the principles of integrity and academic honesty.

Penalties for submitting paraphrased content detected by Turnitin can range from receiving a failing grade to academic probation or even expulsion.

It’s vital to prioritize originality and cite sources properly to avoid these repercussions.

Educational Approaches to Paraphrasing:

Recognizing the significance of proper paraphrasing, educational institutions actively promote effective techniques to students.

Educators play a crucial role in teaching students how to paraphrase ethically and avoid plagiarism.

Writing centers, online guides, and workshops are valuable resources that offer assistance in paraphrasing and reinforce the importance of original work.

Pros and Cons of Using Turnitin for Paraphrasing Detection:

Identifies direct and hidden paraphrasing techniquesLimited ability to detect subtle paraphrasing
Promotes academic integrityRelies heavily on textual similarities
Widely used and trusted toolMay not capture all instances of paraphrasing
Provides feedback for studentsRequires internet connectivity

Should Students Paraphrase?

Yes, students should practice paraphrasing under certain circumstances.

Paraphrasing is an essential skill that demonstrates comprehension, critical thinking, and the ability to express ideas in one’s own words.

Here are some circumstances in which paraphrasing is appropriate and encouraged:

  1. Clarifying complex ideas: Paraphrasing allows students to simplify and restate complex concepts in a more understandable manner. This is especially helpful when explaining difficult topics or breaking down technical information.
  2. Incorporating sources in academic writing: When conducting research or writing academic papers, students should paraphrase to integrate information from various sources. Paraphrasing helps avoid excessive direct quotations and allows students to present the ideas and arguments of others in their own writing style.
  3. Demonstrating originality: Paraphrasing is a way for students to showcase their own interpretation and analysis of a topic. By paraphrasing, students can add their insights, perspectives, and critical thinking to the information they gather from different sources.
  4. Avoiding plagiarism: Paraphrasing is an effective way to avoid unintentional plagiarism. By rephrasing ideas in their own words, students can properly attribute sources while demonstrating their understanding of the material.

It’s important to note that paraphrasing should always be accompanied by proper citation and referencing.

Students should acknowledge the original source whenever they paraphrase or use ideas from external material.

Additionally, paraphrasing should be done in a way that maintains the accuracy and integrity of the original information.


Turnitin is a valuable tool for identifying instances of paraphrasing in academic work.

It can detect both direct and hidden paraphrasing techniques. However, it is essential to recognize its limitations and understand that Turnitin may not catch every instance of paraphrasing.

When you employ effective paraphrasing techniques, utilize alternative tools, and adhere to academic policies, as a student, you can maintain your academic integrity while producing original and well-cited work.

Remember, the goal is not just to avoid detection but to foster a culture of ethical writing and critical thinking.