Turnitin LTI: Word Count Differences in Your Submission

This article relates to the Review and Upload stage of your submission. It will explain where and why there may be word count differences so that you do not panic on your final submission.

Word counts should always be taken from the original document and relate to the criteria set in the assessment brief.

What is Turnitin Looking for?

You may notice that when you review and upload your work to a Turnitin assignment the word count appears different to your original file – ie the final number in an MS Word word count.

This discrepancy should not alarm you as Turnitin is looking for some different information. Turnitin is looking for hidden characters and words, therefore the word count more reflects the similarity report findings than how close your submitted paper is to the word limit.

For instance Turnitin does not count the words:

  • in a footnote and end notes
  • in text boxes or similar formats

So the word count could appear lower.

URLs are counted as a number of different words (not as one word as in MS Word) so could be higher than it may appear in Word.


What should I look for?

If you submit an MS Word file, which has no footnotes, say a simply APA referenced essay, this score will most likely be accurate.

Submitting a pdf version of this file shows a difference in results.

As an illustration please see the table below. In the table there are some examples of the differences between word counts for Word and PDF documents including and excluding footnotes. The largest discrepancy was 114 words where a Word document with footnotes was submitted. This was due to Turnitin only picking up the words in the main body of text. The Pdf version of this file actually reported more words in total than the original, but with less difference.

Disclaimer: These are results of a test and provided to illustrate a known issue. These numbers will change in each submission. Always submit within the word limit on your original document.

Title File Format Submitted to Turnitin Word Count in Original Word Count given in Turnitin Word Count Difference +/- Words
Submitted Document and References only Word 2088 2088 0
Submitted Document and References only Pdf 2088 2142 + 54
Submitted Document and References plus Footnotes Word 2097

(1983 excluding footnotes)




(= 0 excluding footnotes)
Submitted Document and References plus Footnotes Pdf 2097 2169 +72




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