Plagiarism checks in doctoral education

KI performs systematic plagiarism checks of all doctoral theses as a part of ensuring good research practice. KI's doctoral students also checks their own literature reviews before the half-time review as a learning activity regarding scientific writing.

The use of text matching software can, in addition to being a tool to detect plagiarism, also show weaknesses in the text such as not correctly handling paraphrasing and reference management. 

The kappa should be weighted towards a reflective discussion and contextualisation of the student’s own research results. The text of the kappa must be the student’s own original work without the extensive reproduction of extracts from the constituent papers.

See the sections about Compilation thesis and Plagiarism check in Rules for doctoral education at Karolinska Institutet.

Text matching systems Ouriginal (formerly Urkund) and iThenticate

KI uses two text matching software systems for detecting plagiarism in education: 

  • iThenticate is used by doctoral students and their supervisors with an educational purpose to check the literature review before the half-time review, and by the examination board for plagiarism check of the thesis. 
  • Ouriginal is used by KI's teachers when checking course assignments for plagiarism. 

Unlike Ouriginal, iThenticate does not save what users upload to the database. iThenticate’s database is also much more extensive than Ouriginal’s database regarding scholarly articles and therefore better suited for plagiarism checking of the thesis than Ouriginal. 

Access and instructions – iThenticate

Doctoral students and supervisors at KI have access to iThenticate. Go to Under Identify yourself, choose Karolinska Institutet and login with your KI-ID.

Guides and manuals for creating a report:


  • Do not change the default setting "Generate report only" when uploading a file. (If you change this setting, your document is saved in iThenticate, which means that text matches will be detected if/when you upload a newer version of the same work at a later stage.)
  • Exclude the reference list (normally 100% text match) and methods section and set an exclusion threshold to exclude matches of less than ten words.

Interpreting an iThenticate report

iThenticate creates a “similarity report” and a “similarity score” that show all text matches in the thesis with material (texts, publications etc.) published on the internet. All text matches between the checked text and previously published texts included in the iThenticate database is marked with colours in the resulting “similarity report”. For each text match you find a number representing the original source/publication. At the end of the report, the overall text match is shown as a percentage and number of words from each source.

What does a text match mean?

A high percentage does not automatically mean that there is plagiarism in the text and a low percentage does not automatically mean that there is no plagiarism in the text.

Text matches can be acceptable (see below), but it might also reflect a lack of good research practice or an attempt to cheat. Text matches can also indicate lack of quality.

To reflect about with when interpreting the report: 

  • In which part of the text is the text overlap found: Is it the introduction, background, methods, results, discussion etc? Observe! Text matching in the method section is usually not taken into account and the method section can therefore be excluded when checking for plagiarism.
  • Content: Is it common knowledge (standard phrases/standard descriptions) or is it someone else’s idea?
  • Has the source (reference) been indicated?
  • Origin: Does the text match a publication co-authored by the doctoral student (either written by the doctoral student or written by another co-author; think also about Copy right) or with someone else’s earlier research?
  • How much overlap?: Please look at each overlap/text match (it is normally not very time consuming) when checking for plagiarism and not at the percentage overlap per se. Plagiarism can occur even if there is only a low percentage of text overlap.

It is important to understand that there are often no self-evident answers and that the iThenticate result needs to be interpreted in its context. 

Plagiarism check for theses

To avoid that plagiarism occurs in doctoral and licentiate theses, KI runs systematic plagiarism checks of all theses. 

Once a thesis has been electronically “nailed” in KI’s e-publication system KI open archive, the university library (KIB) sends the iThenticate report and information on how to interpret the report to members in the Examination Board, as a support for the assessment of the thesis.

If there are grounds to suspect that a doctoral student has made an attempt at deception in connection with their examination by, for example, plagiarising text in their thesis, the Examination Board is required to report the matter promptly to the President of KI for further handling.

Preventive work 

To avoid plagiarism, the doctoral students must learn correct scientific writing and referencing praxis as well as good long-term and short-time planning. 

The following is included as part of the preventive work:

  • An online course regarding reference management and avoiding plagiarism is part of the introduction for doctoral students
  • Attending a course in scientific writing
  • Plagiarism check in connection to the half-time review followed by a discussion between the doctoral student and the supervisor
  • To receive constructive feed-back from the supervisor on written work during the writing process.
  • The possibility to review one's thesis in iThenticate before nailing the thesis.