I was writing answers for my assignment about corruption, I put an example I took from an article from the web and cited it in APA format. I found out that my reference has been tagged as plagiarism. The title of the article which I wrote in my references was flagged as plagiarism because they found the title in the news site I used in my reference and other sites which uses it as a reference. I have tried excluding bibliography, with no success.

Is there a way to not get flagged as plagiarism for this?

They found the news title on the site I referenced and flagged it as plagiarism: notice that in the reference I put the site's name (Kompas.com) and the plagiarized site is Kompas.com and other news site who refers to the article

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    In what context is this being flagged? A course assignment? A paper to a journal? Other?
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 23:34
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    Did the professor flag this? Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 23:40
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    (My sympathies... this kind of thing is a ridiculous, annoying, silly, and resource-consuming side effect of "the internet"...) Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 23:57
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    @paulgarrett: Hmm, I'm not sure that the internet really has that much to do with it. I'd rather say that this kind of thing is a ridiculous, annoying, silly, and resource-consuming effect (not only side effect) of some faculty who have so little self-respect that they think their job can just as well be done by a computer alone. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 0:23
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    You will find that professors either ignore hits from the bibliography, or remove it before running it through Turnitin. Don't worry about it. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 10:10

4 Answers 4


You obviously did not commit plagiarism. The phrase “flagged as plagiarism” is meaningless techno-babble that gives the appearance that you did something wrong, when you didn’t.

Explain the situation to the professor. If the professor is sane, he or she will override the automated check that “flagged” your submission for plagiarism. If the professor is unconvinced and still decides to penalize you, follow the procedures at your university for complaining about unfair treatment by a professor.

If that still doesn’t work, you have my sympathies. Your institution in such a scenario would not be worthy of the name “university”.

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    The screenshot is a turn-it-in report. All competent professors will go over their turn-it-in flags and do a brief scan. 0% is actually highly suspicious. Scores that are high are not necessarily bad, and if they can tell it is full of useless flagging then they'll just ignore it. If your prof is an idiot, you can actually challenge the plagiarism result and the professor will get told to not arbitrarily grad on the turn-it-in %.
    – Nelson
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 3:19

Automated plagiarism checkers make a lot of mistakes. They yield both false positives (your case) and false negatives (the more important case, actually). You can't stop it, but you can talk to your professor.

These programs just look for common word patterns between a submission and the test base. Maybe a bit more sophisticated than that but not much.

I hope and suspect that the professor would require a lot more evidence that you had copied the ideas of others than just what you indicate here. The outcome should be that you both get a good laugh out of it, but I don't know the person so can't predict.

The implication of the "rule" in force here is that every properly formatted, correct, citation is plagiarism. Absurd.

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    @ForaceKryr: The grading scheme contains a rubric about plagiarism, and a grade is assigned in this rubric? As in "You should have plagiarized a bit less, so you only get a C+ in this rubric"? That would be ridiculous enough - but then the grade is given based on a percentage computed by some computer tool?? You certainly have my sympathies. Some things are so absurd that the dramatists have invented a specific genre to describe them... Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 0:17
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    I idly wonder whether this professor is applying enough "independent professional judgment" to comply with section 9 of the Turnitin EULA. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 9:31
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    It's not "unfortunate" it's unprofessional. Turnitin scores of less than 10% are rare (< ~15% including inline references). To get less than 5% you'd have to write about a different topic, and you probably wouldn't hit zero if you just wrote your name. For comparison, when marking here, anything under 20% may be disregarded without comment (the highlight can be useful for finding single blocks). Over 20% warrants further investigation, but rarely action beyond a gentle warning (especially as students working in their 2nd/3rd language are likely to use common phrasing)
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 10:27
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    @ChrisH It's not about merely against policy, it's just an absolutely ridiculous, completely unacceptable, non-academic way to assess. There is no defense of it at all. An instructor who assigns a grade based on how well students can dodge turnitin is either completely incompetent or so lazy that they might as well be. Either that or the student is completely misunderstanding how they are being graded.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 15:28
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    @BryanKrause I agree with your assessment. I suspect there may be both a dreadful assessor and a misunderstanding (easily done when the assessment is so bizarre). But a student stating "that's ridiculous, unacceptable" won't get as far as "that's against published policy" (e.g. here marking schemes must: be focussed upon learning outcomes; be appropriate...; allow staff to provide academic feedback. Among other points, but these would all be breached by a scheme that takes a garbage number from garbage software and uses it to lower marks)
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 15:39

Here is how me and my colleagues use plagiarism checkers: we get a list of submission and their "plagiarism score":

  • Anything scoring below a certain threshold, we don't even bother. After all, we expect references, titles, and some definitions to get flagged.

  • If your score is high, we will look at the report. Often, it is someone with many references, or a properly quoted paragraph, which are both examples of false positives.

Plagiarism checkers are dumb as a box of owls. Their number means nothing, and needs to be inspected. They usually don't understand the context well enough to distinguish plagiarism from quotes, more so in languages other than English.

Literal copies, aka copy and paste (c&p) plagiarism or blatant copyright infringement, or modestly disguised plagiarism cases can be detected with high accuracy by current external plagiarism detection software if the source is accessible to the software.

And frankly, they are not that hard to defeat, even for a lazy student (for example, Google Translate back and forth through an intermediate language); but even without the checker, when a paragraph is written in a different "voice" it stands out a lot. For example, the previous paragraph, was copied from the Wikpedia page on plagiarism detection, and I think will jump to most people: it both has a different style, and the content doesn't exactly fit with the rest of the flow.

(In case it wasn't obvious: I am not very impressed with the performance of plagiarism checkers).

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    It's true that copypasted paragraphs stand out; but this is only evident when the professor has a much better English language expertise than the student. While this is common, it is not always the case. Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 9:48
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    These detectors are even more pointless now turnitin are selling themselves as a service to students so they can pre-tune their plagiarised work to avoid detection. They're a thoroughly unethical company playing both sides against the middle. Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 10:08
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    Upvoted, especially for the meta-example. :-) Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 11:26
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    This is in fact how me and my colleagues are instructed to use the plagiarism checker. Not as an automatic decision process, but as a tool that might flag up possible problems. If it does, we need to check them ourselves. An example is previous assignments by the same student. Trying to sell the same or similar work in two different courses --> not good. Have a continuation of a project from the previous semester (e.g. where you did lit review one semester, practical work the next)? Some (a lot of?) overlap is obviously expected. And these would get flagged up all the same.
    – penelope
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 14:47
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    @bubba owls are actually pretty dumb. Look at the skull, most of the volume is taken by the eyes, which leaves a small brain, most of which is just the visual cortex. They really don't have much brain left for learned behaviour. Just like plagiarism checkers. (CC @user21820).
    – Davidmh
    Commented Sep 20, 2021 at 6:39

These automated tools only flag similarity to other sources; they cannot determine whether such similarity constitutes plagiarism, since they take no account of how the material is presented. Provided that you have referenced all sources properly and made it clear when you are quoting content or paraphrasing ideas from them, it is not plagiarism.

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