Sources in Student Writing

Turnitin Study

Turnitin examined 112 million content matches from more than 28 million student papers to determine which sources higher education students use in their written work.

Higher Ed Student Sources

Top 10 Sites: The most popular internet sources for student writing.

  1. Wikipedia
  3. SlideShare
  4. Course Hero
  5. Scribd
  6. Yahoo! Answers
  7. Answers

Homework & Academic

Academic, educational and homework help sites: 33%

  • Course Hero
  • Boogle Books
  • McGraw-Hill
  • eNotes
  • Mayo Clinic

Social Networking & Content Sharing

User-generated content sites: 23%

  • SlideShare
  • Facebook
  • Myspace
  • Answers
  • Yahoo! Answers
  • Scribd

Paper Mills & Cheat Sites

Sites that promote the sale or sharing of written work: 19%



Reference and summary sites: 14%

  • Wikipedia
  • Britannica

News & Portals

Professionally published content sites: 10%

  • Associated Content


Sites that offer reviews and sell products: 1%

  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble

Recommendations for Educators

  1. Set aside time to teach students how to conduct proper research. Dedicate class time to show what constitutes academically-appropriate sites and share best practices on conducting academic research.
  2. Teach students that Google is the first step, not the last, in research. Instead of relying on Google's algorithms, which are tuned for relevance and popularity, students need to learn how to refine their search to find sources with academic value.
  3. Wikipedia is a starting point. Help students to understand that the true value of Wikipedia is in providing a curated summary on a topic and that students should make use of the citations in Wikipedia entries to verify the accuracy of the information and to identify primary source material.
  4. Engage students with technology tools like Turnitin. New Turnitin users see a 10-30% reduction in unoriginal content with long term reductions of up to 75% and student engagement increases of 46%. Moreover, instructors decrease grading time by 31% while increasing the quality of their feedback by 52%

About this Study

Student papers submitted to Turnitin are compared against 30 billion web pages, 120 million publications and 275 million previously submitted papers to identify matching content. This study analyzed over 112 million web page content matches from 28 million student papers submitted between July 2011 and June 2012. Each web site was identified, reviewed and placed into the six categories listed above. Click here to access the complete study.