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I am preparing my article to submit to a journal. The journal requires a maximum of 15% similarity including bibliography. My paper has 6% similarity without bibliography but 18% with bibliography according to Turnitin. I tried my best to reduce the similarity to 15% but it is now impossible. Because, except bibliography section, Turnitin only getting similarity in very few words scattered around the article, not even a complete sentence. After discussing it with some colleagues as well as some internet searches, the only solution is to exclude the bibliography while checking it in Turnitin. I contacted the journal but they said the bibliography must need to be included while generating the similarity. Please, have a look to the image below, do you think it's fair? I mean, I cannot paraphrase a reference and I have to use it as it is.
Please have a look
Is there any way to reduce similarity in the reference section/bibliography? Thank you.

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  • 49
    Whoever is running that journal seems to be incompetent, so why not go for a more reasonable journal instead?
    – Arno
    Mar 28 at 18:16
  • 31
    I would refuse to submit to a journal that requires me to submit to Turnitin. I'm not a freshman in a hundred-person lecture. It's childish. Mar 28 at 19:24
  • 6
    Honestly, if they want to run a plagiarism check, sure, but we basically already do everything for a journal, and now they want us to send in clean plagiarism checks? Jesus. Mar 28 at 19:38
  • 23
    How ironic that, judged by the bibliography, the paper seems to be about plagiarism detection.
    – henning
    Mar 29 at 8:25
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    @henning It's also very ironic that a plagiarism detection tool flags a bibliography as problematic: "you see, it'd be much better if you removed those citations"... Mar 29 at 8:28

3 Answers 3

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You could:

  1. Cite fewer references. That will make your bibliography shorter relative to the rest of the paper, and reduce the overall similarity. However, you've probably chosen the sources you have because they are relevant to your paper; reducing the number arbitrarily to meet this arbitrary threshold would then make your paper worse. Removing any citations that are key to the paper or leaving in citable content without a citation could be considered academic misconduct.

  2. Make the rest of your paper longer. That will make your bibliography shorter relative to the rest of the paper, and reduce the overall similarity. You could make all your language less concise, or add further speculation and opinion that is entirely your own. Presumably, you've already included an appropriate amount of discussion, so this would probably be adding non-useful content or make your paper overall worse to read.

  3. Cite references that no one else has cited before and remove ones that have been cited before, so that those references don't show up in the similarity check. Of course, leaving out important references could be considered academic misconduct or plagiarism, and presumably you've already chosen the references that fit your paper best, so this would make your paper worse.

  4. Cite incorrectly. Use the wrong date, misspell the author names, use non-standard abbreviations for journals, wrong page numbers, arbitrary punctuation. These changes will make your bibliography look less like the bibliography of other papers that have cited the same sources. They will also make it difficult for people to follow your references and constitute academic misconduct for willfully citing incorrectly. This would make your paper worse.

Services like "Turnitin" are only appropriate to be used as "flags" for a human to check against, to alert them to the most blatant examples of plagiarism. There is no minimum percentage that means a work is not plagiarized; there is no maximum percentage above which all work is plagiarism. An automated tool like this is just a helper. If the journal is using "Turnitin" this way, they are misusing the service in an absolutely asinine fashion, and encouraging authors to make damaging changes to their manuscript in order to comply with this fatuous criterion. To me, this seems more than sufficient reason to submit somewhere else. You do not want your work associated with incompetence. This is not a normal requirement, so it is not something you need to tolerate.

If you have high confidence in this journal otherwise, it is possible you are corresponding with merely one person who does not have any idea what they are doing. You could consider escalating to someone else at the journal to let them know that this person is making them look silly, but if it were me I don't think I would bother.

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    In regards to the "cite incorrectly" option -- a competent journal will run a reference check when making the page proofs, and ask you to fix any errors. I would love the irony of passing the turnitin check by misspelling references, then have the journal ask you to make corrections which cause the plagiarism filter to go off. (I actually assume they wouldn't rerun the plagiarism check at the proof stage, so this strategy would actually work without setting off the filter, but if anything that's just another example of how absurd this measure is).
    – Andrew
    Mar 29 at 21:22
  • @Andrew Somehow, if this journal actually exists and isn't made up, I do not think they approach that level of competence.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 29 at 21:23
  • Agreed, just couldn't resist commenting on the logical paradox.
    – Andrew
    Mar 29 at 21:24
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I fully agree with the other answers that this demand is fully nonsensical.

That said, if you're still determined to submit to this journal, from the screenshot you provided, one possible "hack" could be to change your citation style (unless that too is reglemented). One which includes the first names of authors, for instance, could possibly dilute the matches a bit, possibly to be used in conjunction with the other techniques to whittle down those percentages.

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I don't know how the algorithm works, but adding additional references might reduce similarity. Adding material to the paper with or without additional non-overlapping biblio material will almost certainly reduce it. Unfortunately it may not improve the paper, of course.

But also note that most such algorithms are pretty stupid. If you are quoting material extensively, similarity goes up. If you paraphrase (with citation, of course) it probably goes down. If you bring down overall similarity then the bibliography won't be an issue. But these tricks don't necessarily improve the paper either.

But if the journal is overly dependent on such superficial measures without human evaluation (review), then I question its reputability.

And, also give a thought to what you say in the paper itself. Does the similarity actually indicate a problem or not?

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