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Upload issues with Turnitin

Turnitin would normally allow docx and pdf files to be submitted to an assignment created in Moodle using the default settings. If ‘Allow all file types’ is enabled, then files with almost any file extension can be uploaded, however it is unlikely that the plagiarism software with be able to ‘read’ these files and therefore a similarity report will not be produced.

Sometimes Turnitin with prevent a docx or pdf file from being uploaded because an image has been detected at the start of the document. Turnitin looks to see if the document contain at least 20 words of searchable text before any other content types, however the message displayed to the student is unlikely to help them to understand what needs to be done to get around the problem.

If the first thing Turnitin detects in a submitted file is an image (or text that has been converted to an image), it will display the following message:

message Turnitin displays to indicate that your file cannot be uploaded as it starts with an image
Figure 1. Screenshot of message displayed to students when Turnitin encounters an image file at the start of a document

Note: this screenshot is also an example of an image file containing text. Notice how you are not able to select the words.

What advice should you give your students to resolve this issue

The following information is available for you to share with your students in this document

Apple computers have a built-in ‘Print to PDF’ facility. Please advise your students not to use this facility. PDFs produced by this method will be rejected by Turnitin and the above message will be displayed.

They should instead save or export their document as a PDF from a Word processing application (Word, Pages, Google Docs etc) or a page-layout application such as Adobe InDesign*. Note that text and image ‘documents’ created in Photoshop are not compatible with Turnitin when saved as a PDF.

screenshot of Save As dialog box in Word 2016 showing type pdf selected and highlighting option to reduce filesize for publishing online
Figure 2. Recommended method for producing a pdf file

* If they are creating a PDF from InDesign and have access to Adobe Acrobat, advise them to export from InDesign using the Adobe PDF (Interactive) format using compression settings shown below.

screenshot showing recommended compression settings

To reduce the file size they should then optimise the file using Adobe Acrobat’s ‘Optimise PDF’ tool.

If they do not have access to Adobe Acrobat advise them to set the JPEG quality to Medium, the resolution to 144 and export. If this produces a file greater than 100MB they should try exporting with a resolution of 72 instead.

Updated on January 20, 2023

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