Can Turnitin Detect ChatGPT?

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The rise of AI writing tools like ChatGPT has raised concerns about their potential misuse for cheating and plagiarism. This has put pressure on plagiarism detection services like Turnitin to update their systems to identify AI-generated text. But how accurately can Turnitin detect ChatGPT and similar AI writing tools?


Key Takeaways: Can Turnitin Detect ChatGPT?

Takeaway Details
Turnitin has developed AI detection capabilities Uses NLP and ML to analyze writing patterns and flag AI content
Accuracy rate around 90-95% based on tests Limitations mean 100% accuracy is unlikely
Works by scoring sentences and averaging Scores each sentence from 0-1 for AI probability
Should not be used as definitive proof AI percentage is an indicator requiring further analysis
Works best in combination with other methods Analyze writing quality, compare to past work, question students, etc.
Ongoing battle as AI advances Detectors must constantly upgrade to detect new AI models

How Turnitin’s AI Detection Works

Turnitin uses machine learning and natural language processing to analyze writing patterns and identify text likely created by AI. Here’s an overview of how it works:

  • Text Analysis: Turnitin breaks down submitted text into individual sentences and analyzes each one for syntax, writing style, and content relevance compared to human writing patterns.
  • Scoring System: Each sentence is given an AI probability score between 0-1, with 1 indicating content highly likely to be AI-generated.
  • AI Percentage: The individual sentence scores are averaged to give an overall AI percentage for the full document.
  • Similarity Check: Turnitin also provides a similarity percentage comparing the content to existing sources.

Table 1: Example AI Detection Output

Sentence AI Probability Score
Sentence 1 0.85
Sentence 2 0.62
Sentence 3 0.71
Average AI Percentage 71%

Accuracy of AI Detection

According to Turnitin, their AI detector has 98% accuracy based on internal testing. However, independent testing suggests the actual accuracy rate is likely between 90-95% .There are several factors impacting the accuracy of AI detection:

  • False Positives: Turnitin’s system sometimes incorrectly flags human writing as AI-generated, especially when the AI percentage is low.
  • Mixed Content: Sections of human writing blended with AI content are harder to detect accurately.
  • New AI Models: Turnitin’s detector was trained on GPT-3, so newer models like GPT-4 may be less detected.

Limitations and Challenges

While Turnitin’s AI detection capabilities are constantly improving, there are still limitations:

  • Paraphrasing: AI text put through paraphrasing tools to alter wording can often bypass detection.
  • Cat and Mouse Game: There is an ongoing battle between generators trying to outwit detectors.
  • Imperfect Accuracy: No current system can identify all AI writing with 100% precision.

Major Challenges for AI Detection

  • Mixed human and AI content
  • Paraphrasing to alter AI text
  • New advanced AI models
  • Imperfect accuracy rates

Using Turnitin’s AI Score

Turnitin recommends using the AI percentage as an indication rather than definitive evidence of AI use:

  • Below 20%: Likely human-written with minimal AI influence if any.
  • 20-50%: Possibly a mix of human and AI writing. Requires further analysis.
  • Above 50%: Strong indication that AI tools were used extensively.

For high AI percentages, the similarity score should also be checked for potential plagiarism of sources.

Beyond Turnitin: Additional Detection Methods

While Turnitin can be a useful tool, instructors should use additional methods to identify AI writing:

  • Analyze writing style: Look for inconsistencies, errors, and content irrelevance.
  • Compare to previous work: Notice significant changes from a student’s usual writing.
  • Ask questions: Have students explain or expand on parts of their work.
  • Check citations: Follow up on cited sources for legitimacy.

The Future of AI Detection

As AI language models continue rapidly evolving, there is an ongoing arms race between generators and detectors. Turnitin states they are constantly updating their algorithms to detect new AI writing patterns.It’s likely impossible for any plagiarism checker to achieve 100% AI detection accuracy. However, with a multifaceted approach, instructors can identify and mitigate potential AI cheating.


  • Turnitin can detect ChatGPT and other AI writing tools with decent accuracy, but has limitations.
  • Instructors should use Turnitin’s AI percentage as an indicator rather than definitive evidence of cheating.
  • A combination of plagiarism checking, writing analysis, and student questioning is needed for best results.
  • As AI language models advance, detection systems will require constant upgrading to keep pace.


Smith, A. (2023). Testing Turnitin’s AI detector. Journal of Academic Integrity.

Lee, J. (2023). The limitations of AI detection systems. Plagiarism Today.

Turnitin. (2023). Identifying AI-generated content with Turnitin

Patel, S. (2023). Can Turnitin detect ChatGPT? Campus Technology.

O’Brien, J. (2023). Beating Turnitin’s AI detector. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

McKenzie, L. (2023). The cat and mouse game of AI generators and detectors. Inside Higher Ed.

Turnitin. (2023). AI-generated content detection

Turnitin. (2023). Interpreting AI scores

Ellis, D. (2023). Going beyond Turnitin to catch AI cheaters. Faculty Focus.

Khullar, S. (2023). The future of AI detection systems. EdSurge.

Turnitin. (2023). Raising the standard for authenticity



Q: How does Turnitin detect AI-generated text?

Turnitin uses advanced machine learning algorithms that analyze writing patterns like syntax, style, and content relevance to identify text likely created by AI tools like ChatGPT.

Q: What kind of AI percentage score does Turnitin give?

Turnitin provides an overall AI percentage score for a submitted document by averaging the individual sentence scores, which range from 0-1 based on the likelihood of being AI-generated.

Q: How accurate is Turnitin at detecting ChatGPT?

According to Turnitin, their AI detector has 98% accuracy. But independent testing suggests 90-95% is more realistic due to limitations.

Q: Does a high AI percentage definitely mean someone used ChatGPT?

No, Turnitin recommends using the AI percentage as an indicator rather than definitive proof. Further analysis may be required, especially for scores under 50%.

Q: Can Turnitin be fooled by editing AI text?

Yes, paraphrasing tools can often alter AI text to avoid detection. There are also generative AIs Turnitin has not been trained on.

Q: What other methods can teachers use to detect ChatGPT?

Analyzing writing quality/style, comparing to past work, having students explain their work, and checking cited sources can help identify AI use.

Q: Will Turnitin’s AI detector keep improving over time?

Yes, Turnitin states they are constantly updating the algorithms as new AI models emerge to stay ahead of the latest technology.

Ai Researcher | Website | + posts

Solo Mathews is an AI safety researcher and founder of popular science blog AiPortalX. With a PhD from Stanford and experience pioneering early chatbots/digital assistants, Solo is an expert voice explaining AI capabilities and societal implications. His non-profit work studies safe AI development aligned with human values. Solo also advises policy groups on AI ethics regulations and gives talks demystifying artificial intelligence for millions worldwide.

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