How Turnitin calculates the word count in a submitted paper


A word count in Microsoft Word may differ from the word count shown in the Document Viewer of a submitted paper.

It is important to note that every word processor has a different method (algorithm) for counting words.  In this way, there is no 'standard' word-count method.  Turnitin uses a word counting algorithm very similar to that of Microsoft Word.  For everything except HTML, PDF, and PS file types, Turnitin relies on Microsoft Word's word count system.

It's useful to note that Turnitin's word count does not count the words in textboxes. For example, if the whole paper is in a text box, it may be rejected because the word count is too low (Turnitin requires a minimun of 20 words in a submitted paper).

Text boxes should not be confused with tables: both Word and Turnitin include text in tables in their word counts, in the same way.

Turnitin identifies the location of the Bibliography because it understands the text 'Bibliography' and 'References'.  Normally, one of these headings is the last heading in the document. Turnitin is able to identify the heading and then treat everything that follows according to the settings of the submission point. So, for example, if 'Exclude bibliographic materials' was chosen when the submission point was set up, Turnitin will exclude the bibliography from the originality report but will still include it in the word count. Note that if the Bibliography (or References) heading is located earlier in the document, everything from that point onwards will be disregarded in the originality report, if 'Exclude bibliographic materials' was chosen at set up of the submission point.
  • If students are required to submit a standard cover sheet, the text on the cover sheet will be included in the word count, both in Microsoft Word and in Turnitin
The following picture shows a comparison of the word count given by MSWord and Turnitin, for a document with a base word count of 727:


How to view the Word Count for a submitted paper

  • In Word, the word count is displayed in the status line, at the bottom left of the screen; more information is given in the Proofing section of the Review tab


  • In Turnitin, in the Document Viewer, to see the word count, click the information button at the bottom left of the page, to display the Submission Info box