I am checking plagiarism of my master thesis. It comes out 32 percent. So upto what level of plagiarism is accepted?
My master thesis is on the topic of homomorphic encryption in Cloud and I uses turnitin online service for plagiarism checking.
Edit: I apologize that I do not included the detail that plagiarism level comes out 32 percent when I include my research paper as it is in my thesis. The paper are going to publish in IEEE conference. If I exclude this research paper, The plagiarism level is 12 percent.I also posted question related to it on academic stack exchange and if anyone interested, you can check the link
Can research paper information be used in thesis writing?

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    None, if it's real plagiarism. If it refers to standard definitions (vector space) or references, this may indicate false positives. Anything else should be close to 0. Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 11:14
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    What do you mean "it comes out 32 percent?"
    – Cape Code
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 12:35
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    The acceptable "plagiarism level" of any academic work is 0. Why would you need a software to test your own work? You know if you plagiarized or not... If you're question is "What is the maximum level of detectable plagiarism that will not get me expelled?" I think this website is not meant to give that kind of advice.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 12:44
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    vivek also asked about including his/her own research in his/her thesis (academia.stackexchange.com/questions/72676/…), perhaps "32%" is due to turnitin detecting his/her previously published research.
    – user2768
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 13:03
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    You should include that detail here because it's very, very, very relevant to this question. See all the people saying that 32% seems very high (this answer, this comment)? They would think differently if they knew that it was 12% before you added your published paper. As a question-writer, you really need to give people all the information that they need in order to answer your question.
    – ff524
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 4:41

2 Answers 2


The turnitin tool is saying that it thinks 32% of the text of your thesis could have been taken from other sources.

The software is a very blunt tool, and often has difficulty recognizing common turns of phrase and specialized terminology (e.g. I've seen "Without loss of generality we can assume that" and "Traveling Salesman's Problem" flagged.) It also doesn't recognize situations where there's a direct quote (properly delineated and cited) from another source.

Thus it's necessary for a human to review the report generated by the software to see what's going on. Without seeing that report, no one can give you an authoritative answer to your question. However, in my experience, I've never seen a paper with this high a score that didn't have significant problems.

To directly answer your question, no amount of plagiarism is acceptable in a master's thesis.

  • 1
    To add to your observations, when I sat on my department's academic misconduct committee, I had to reviewed the turn-it-in reports for all assignments in our department. I have also never seen a paper with a similarity index in excess of 30% that didn't have problems (although some did properly attributed the large block quotes and therefore did not plagiarize).
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 13:32
  • I have had a report over 30% that was basically fine. It was a fairly short assignment, and about 20% of the flagging was made up of tiny snippets.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 6:39

To answer a now-included question: there is no computer tool that can correctly identify all plagiarism. To decide whether you have plagiarised, you need to answer the question 'have I included text, images or ideas that are not my own without making that clear?'

  • Thanks for answering. According to our college norms, we have to generate the report and submit it with our master degree. The tool for generating report is Turnitin. Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 5:08
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    @vivek Something of that variety is pretty common. But it doesn't affect my answer. Turnitin is one tool that detects some plagiarism. It is not a redefinition of plagiarism.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 8:05

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