For all new doctoral (MPhil, PhD, MD[Res] and EngD) students, starting on or after the 24 September 2019, the College requires the use of Turnitin to check for potential plagiarism at both the Early Stage Assessment (ESA) and for the final Thesis submission.  It should be noted that if your students start earlier than the official registration date for 19/20, but they are part of your 19/20 cohort, then they are also subject to this new requirement.

Please note that Crick students complete the Crick progression pathway but in addition, are required to submit their ESA via Turnitin. Further details can be found in the accordion items below.

Existing students who are due to submit their theses in 21/22, will also be required to submit their thesis through Turnitin.  Submission of the final Thesis to Turnitin will not be required in advance of being submitted to the College, which is when the submission date will be recorded.   This is to ensure there is no added time pressure placed on doctoral students.  However, once the Thesis has been submitted to the College, it will only be sent for examination when the Thesis declaration form has been completed and the Thesis has been submitted to Turnitin for a potential plagiarism check.

The remainder of this website concentrates on the process for submitting ESAs to Turnitin, via Blackboard.  This is because the College is still developing its new procedures to support the submission of electronic theses via Banner and the PGR Milestone system.  Until these are finalised it is not possible to confirm the exact procedure for submitting Theses to Turnitin.  Further information will be provided to Departments on the process of submitting final Theses to Turnitin in due course, well in advance of the 2021/22 implementation date.  

Submitting the ESA to Turnitin, via Blackboard

It is recommended that Departments require their students to submit their own ESAs to Turnitin so that they have some practice prior to submitting their Theses to Turnitin.  The rest of this guidance is set up to support this process.  However, Departments may decide to submit student ESAs to Turnitin themselves in which case, Departments should seek advice from the E-Learning Team on the best way to do this.  In either case, the main supervisor should, as well as the ESA assessors, interpret the Turnitin similarity report so that appropriate guidance can be provided to students, where necessary.

To implement the use of Turnitin for PhD Milestones, it is suggested that Departments follow the steps/process below (there are step-by-step guides for each step).  Departments are free to modify the process to suit their needs but importantly, under no circumstance should student work be uploaded to the Turnitin Student Database of Work - instructions on how to ensure this are found in How to set up a Departmental ESA Assignment Submission Area.

  1. Department to set up an ESA Submission Centre
  2. Department to set up an ESA Assignment Submission Area
  3. PGR Admin bulk upload all new research students to the ESA Submission Centre
  4. Student uploads their ESA to the ESA Assignment Submission Area and similarity report is generated
  5. PGR Admin enrol main supervisor and ESA assessors onto the ESA Submission Centre
  6. Turnitin similarity report is interpreted by the supervisor and ESA assessors

Accordion Widget - Turnitin & PhD Milestones

Department to set up an ESA Submission Centre

The e-learning team have developed a template Blackboard Departmental ESA Submission Centre which can be replicated and tailored for use by Departments.  Departments are invited to self-enrol onto this template Blackboard course to see if it is suitable for their needs.  If Departments would like to use the template, they should contact the e-learning team, via ASK ICT, who will make a copy Blackboard site. 

You can watch a video which will show you how to self-enrol onto the template here:

Department to set up an ESA Assignment Submission Area

Once the Blackboard Departmental ESA Submission Centre has been set up, Departments will need to create their own ESA Assignment Submission Area template.  If Departments have any technical difficulties with Turnitin or setting up the Blackboard site, they should contact ICT, via ASK ICT.  

How to set up a Departmental ESA Assignment Submission Area

PGR Admin bulk upload all new research students to the ESA Submission Centre

This includes departmental students undertaking the Crick PhD programme.

How to bulk enrol students onto the ESA Submission Centre

Student uploads their ESA to the Assignment Submission Area

The e-learning team have developed a step-by-step guide for students on how to submit their ESA to Turnitin, via Blackboard.   You should provide this document to students, including any students registered for the Crick PhD programme.

Guidance for Students on how to Submit an ESA Assignment to Turnitin

It should be noted that Turnitin has file requirements including file size limits of 100MB.

The FAQs contain further information on file types/size limits.

It is suggested that Departments agree a suitable method for labelling student ESA submission uploads and that this is communicated to students.  A suggested template follows:


Once the student submits successfully, a similarity report will be generated.

Where ESAs contain material of national security classification, these will be exempt from submission to Turnitin.   This applies to research projects funded by one of the national intelligence agency funding bodies.  In such cases, the supervisor will need to submit an email declaration confirming that the ESA has not been submitted to Turnitin because it contains material of national security classification and that to the best of the supervisor’s knowledge, the ESA is free from plagiarism.    This email declaration should be submitted to the departmental PGR Administrator and the ESA assessors should be informed.  In such cases, the ESA assessors will be required to confirm that to the best of their knowledge the ESA is free from plagiarism, without having reviewed a Turnitin similarity report.

PGR Admin to enrol main supervisor & ESA assessors onto the ESA Submission Centre

Supervisors and ESA assessors should be enrolled as Course Tutors on your Departmental ESA Assignment Submission Centre.  

Instructions on how to enrol supervisors and assessors

If you have a large number of supervisors and ESA assessors to enrol then you can follow the process for batch/bulk enrolment (as you will have done to enrol students).  

It should be noted that main supervisors and ESA assessors, in their role as Course Tutors on your Departmental ESA Submission Centre, will be able to view the ESA submissions for all students within the Department.  The College’s core terms of employment make it a requirement for all staff to preserve the confidentiality of personal and/or sensitive information (which includes research data) made available to them through the course of their work.  Any breach of confidentiality will be regarded as serious misconduct.

In most cases, the ESA assessors will be internal members of College academic staff.  However, there may be examples where an external ESA assessor (industry colleague, or anyone else external to imperial) is appointed.   In order to protect the confidentiality of all student work within the Department, it is suggested that the departmental PGR Admin download the relevant student ESA and similarity report and email these separately to the external assessor. 

How to download the ESA and Similarity Report.

Interpreting the ESA off-line rather than online is not best practice and so should external assessors require support on this, they can contact the Library:

For Crick students, the Imperial supervisor and/or Imperial Thesis Committee member should be enrolled onto the ESA Submission Centre.  If departments are unsure who the Crick Imperial supervisor and Thesis Committee members are for Crick students, they should contact Bethan Ritchie, Graduate School Administration Manager: 


Turnitin similarity report is interpreted by the supervisor and ESA assessors

Interpreting the Turnitin report is a matter of academic judgement and so it is the role of the main supervisor to interpret the Turnitin similarity report and to provide any follow-up guidance and support to the student.    The ESA assessors will also be asked to confirm on the ESA form that the student’s ESA been passed as free from plagiarism after being tested through Turnitin (noting the exemption for research which contains material of national security classification).  

The e-learning team and the Library provide support for supervisors (and assessors, if required), on interpreting the similarity reports using the online Turnitin feedback centre. 

how to interpret Turnitin Originality Reports        

Supervisors who require further support should contact the Library on:

For Crick students, the Imperial Thesis Committee member will review the similarity report, and confirm the submission is free from plagiarism via the Crick Grad Log.  Administrative staff at the Crick will complete the Imperial ESA form as usual, confirming that the ESA is free from plagiarism.   

ICT also have dedicated support, guidance and training on using Turnitin for both staff and students 

Suspected cases of plagiarism

Good supervision throughout the PhD should ensure that any concerns about plagiarism are identified and addressed at an early stage.  Right from the start, supervisors should provide guidance and support to students on how to avoid plagiarism. Supervisors are reminded that the College requires all doctoral students to complete the mandatory online training course on Plagiarism Awareness, prior to the ESA.  Download further details about this course and how students can self-enrol.

There is also further support and information provided by the Library

The Working Group who prepared this guidance differentiated between plagiarism problems arising at the ESA and the final submission.  For the ESA, the expectation was that the ESA should not be passed until the work had been redone so that it was assessed as compliant with the College’s regulations on avoiding plagiarism, after having been retested through Turnitin, and this would normally be regarded as a matter of learning. 

For the final thesis submission, a judgement would be required about whether the problems were relatively minor and could be remedied through corrections, or if they were more fundamental and would have to be considered through the research misconduct process.  Also relevant at the final submission stage would be whether the student had made reasonable efforts to check for plagiarism before submission, and how they had attempted to handle any issues (including whether transparently or otherwise). 

The Procedures for Academic Misconduct and the Research Misconduct procedure will be reviewed to check they achieve clarity on this point rather than overlap.