Learning Technology

Word counts and Turnitin

January 22nd, 2019 at 08:01

We are often asked about Turnitin Word counts. Turnitin states that they use a word counting algorithm very similar to that of Microsoft Word but not identical.   Turnitin does not count the words in text boxes, footnotes, and end-notes since these are not included by default.  For example, if the whole paper (e.g., a form) is in a text box, it may be rejected because the word count is too low. The counts in Word and PDF versions of the same document may result in slightly different word counts.

The main point of the word count within Turnitin as its primary function is not to make sure a document is within an assignment target but as a tool to indicate where words are “hidden” from the software.

However it is neither Word nor Turnitin word counts which are important: what counts is the method the School approves for word counting. They may include end-notes but not references, for example. They may exclude text in tables – but they may not.

Particularly where there are penalties for going over the maximum word count, it needs to be made clear what is included and excluded in the word count.

In Turnitin there isn’t a way to get a quick report of word counts without opening submissions. Check word counts as you mark, or  open an assignment and then use the arrows within Feedback Studio to quickly move between papers. The word count shows at the bottom of each screen so you can flick through. (You will rarely start at 1 so note where you started so you can go backwards and forwards.)

Turnitin word count

Further information

UCL on Word Count (with an example of the potential differences)

Info from University of Brighton  (again with illustration)



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