For universities, research organizations and scholarly publishers to formulate a truly comprehensive strategy for addressing and preventing plagiarism, a thorough understanding of the many shades of duplication in research is critical. To facilitate this exploration, iThenticate asked several hundred researchers to weigh in on their understanding and experiences with various
forms of plagiarism and attribution issues. See the survey summary. Based on their feedback, this report highlights ten issues sorted by perceived severity and commonness, provides an example of each type of breach, and includes suggestions for avoiding these pitfalls.
Paraphrasing is taking another person's writing and changing the words, making it appear that an idea or even a piece of research is original when, in truth, it came from an uncited outside source. Paraphrasing ranges from simple rephrasing to completely rewriting content while maintaining the original idea or concept.
A researcher incorporates ideas or data from another researcher’s study, but rewrites the information in his/her words without providing proper citation.
Make sure that any and all ideas, data and elements from outside sources are cited correctly. One strategy is to note all sources, along with a brief description, throughout the writing process. When in doubt, it is better to provide extensive citation than to fall short.
“When people do this, they do usually cite the source, but they often use the source's sentence structure and near verbatim; so describing it as something done "without attribution" doesn't really describe it.”
“This is inevitable in eg material and method sections and here it is very important to be clear in what has been conducted.”
“Paraphrasing should be strictly verified.”
Secondary Source Plagiarism happens when a researcher uses a secondary source, such as a meta study, but only cites the primary sources contained within the secondary one. Secondary source plagiarism not only fails to attribute the work of the authors of the secondary sources, but it also provides a false sense of the amount of review that went into the research.
When evaluating previous inquiries into a subject, a researcher comes across a relevant meta study and paraphrases from it heavily. However, while he/she cites the original sources of the studies, the meta study that the information actually came from is absent.
When pulling information from a secondary source, cite that source as well as any primary ones.
“It is a sloppy practice to cite a minor/initial conference publication rather than the journal version, if available.”
“If I cited from the secondary source then I would see the need to reference. But if I only obtained references from a secondary source I don't see a need to reference that paper. If I am citing my research methodology and analysis for a project in two different papers, I feel that if I phrase them somewhat differently it is okay to use for different papers.”
Invalid Source Attribution occurs when researchers reference either an incorrect or nonexistent source. Though this may be the result of sloppy research rather than an intent to deceive, it can also be an attempt to increase the list of references and hide inadequate research. In some cases, if a source is weak, a researcher may substitute it for a more valid-seeming one. Neglecting to cite the actual source and swapping it out for an invalid one violates codes of ethics.
A researcher, unable to find a quality source for a statement he/she wants to make, either creates a source or misconstrues the meaning or context of a real source.
When doing research for a paper, keep effective notes on sources and double check their accuracy before submission. Never fabricate or falsify a source.
“If it is intentional, the score should be 10.”
Duplication happens when a researcher reuses work from their own previous studies and papers without attribution. The ethics of duplication is highly debated, and often depends upon the content copied. In particular, problems arise when work published by one publisher is found reused in work from a different publisher, which infringes on copyrights. Editors are generally more tolerant of unattributed copying in the Methodology section than in the Findings, and if duplication is identified, editors will often ask researchers to rewrite relevant portions or correctly cite the text prior to publication.
A researcher inserts sections of text from an earlier published manuscript in a new manuscript that he/she will be submitting to a different publisher, without citing the earlier work.
When using text and elements from one’s own previous work, take care to cite those works correctly, using the same format used for other outside sources. In some cases, such as repeating an entire methodology, it may be preferable to include copied text as an attributed attachment to the paper.
“Duplication can sometimes be implied from extending one's own work. This is not as egregious an issue as wholesale theft of ideas and others’ original work.”
“Paraphrasing or copying verbatim from one's previous papers is also self-plagiarism. It is unfair, particularly to co-authors on the first paper who might not be on the paper in question.”
Repetitive Research Plagiarism is the repeating of data or text from a similar study with a similar methodology in a new study without proper attribution. This often happens when studies on a related topic are repeated with similar results, but the earlier research is not cited properly. It is common practice for researchers to reuse methodologies that work well, as well as reuse descriptions of a study’s results, as it can be challenging to state results in a different way than what already exists. However, proper attribution must be provided in order to avoid conflicts with grants and copyrights, and to prevent intellectual theft.
A researcher decides to conduct a new study similar to one already conducted by a different researcher. Many of the results overlap, so the researcher conducting the new study reuses sections and data from the previous study without attribution.
When reusing someone else’s methodology, and in a situation when the results of a similar study cannot be stated differently, citing those sources will prevent any plagiarism accusations or foul play.
“Repetitive research has become very prevalent and people with multiple grants often do this.”
“Repetitive Research is more dangerous than others as it can also be possible to change others' original research results.”
“I don't think that the fact that some researchers are using the same methodology than another one for a new purpose or a new study can be considered as plagiarism if the authors are properly cited and their works clearly attributed. Of course, if the purpose is to reproduce exactly the same study with the same methodology, it might be considered as plagiarism since there is no new informations or scientific facts that are presented or provided. Otherwise, I think it is OK that some researchers use a methodology that is working well, but their source MUST BE clearly cited and attributed.”
Replication is the submission of a paper to multiple publications, resulting in the same manuscript being published more than once. This can be an ethical infraction, particularly when a researcher claims that a paper is new when in fact it has been published elsewhere. Most journals require exclusivity, and duplicate publication can create a host of problems ranging from copyright infringement to violation of editorial code of conduct. Replication can happen accidentally when a researcher submits to multiple journals in an attempt to increase the chances for publication, only to have more than one journal accept the paper before the researcher is able to cancel their submissions.
A scientist submits a manuscript to five journals located in several different countries. Once he/she receives an acceptance notice by one of the journals, he/she does not immediately notify the other four journals, resulting in the manuscript being published in two journals.
Ideally, papers should only be submitted to one publication at a time. In situations where this is impossible, all journals should be notified immediately if the paper is accepted for publication. Manuscripts, once published, should not be resubmitted for publication with another journal.
“As long as it's your own work and the citations and resources are in place, I believe there is nothing wrong with trying to get it published.”
Misleading Attribution is an inaccurate or insufficient list of authors who contributed to a manuscript. This happens when authors are denied credit for partial or significant contributions made to a study, or the opposite---when authors are cited in a paper although no contributions were made. Graduate students who assist professors and do not receive credit for their contributions to a published piece of research may constitute as incomplete and misleading attribution. Conflicts of interest may cause changes in authorship. Being removed from the author list denies the true contributors a final review before publication, prevents them from receiving full credit for their work and deprives them of future references. This ethical breach deserves legitimate scrutiny yet often goes unnoticed by journals.
Despite the fact a scientist made significant contributions to a paper, a team of researchers feels there is a conflict of interest and agrees to remove the scientist’s name from the author list so as to not hinder the study’s chance at publication.
Though researchers often work together, collaborations can raise ethical issues. If a conflict of interest remains despite attempts at a resolution, consider presenting the situation to the publisher or journal. At all times, keep an accurate record of what was discovered and when. Alternatively, consider taking the matter to any relevant ethics boards. In some cases, legal assistance may be required.
“Not sure if this is an issue of plagiarism, rather than one of unethical behavior of senior authors with younger collaborators (i.e., "removing co-authors names"). If … someone is DELIBERATELY eliminating one of the authors from a citations, then my score should be even [higher].”
“Adding extra author names in the paper without any collaboration in the research work, due to university (or research institute) conditions, [exists].”
Unethical Collaboration happens when people who are working together violate a code of conduct. Using written work, outcomes and ideas that are the result of a collaboration, without citing the collaborative nature of the study and participants involved, is unethical. Using others’ work or ideas without proper attribution is plagiarism. Collaborations can raise a wide range of ethical issues from dividing the workload or splitting studies, leveraging methodologies, copying figures and text, giving credit inconsistently, or stealing team members’ ideas. Ghostwriting may fall into this category, because it involves an outside party writing on behalf of someone else without attribution.
A researcher collaborates with two other researchers on a study and submits a manuscript that is represented as the researcher’s own work, without recognizing the contributions from the others who collaborated on the study.
Always cite other collaborators’ contributions using proper citation formats. Incorporate as much original work as possible. Avoid copying written work, figures and images or ideas from collaborators without their permission and without giving proper credit.
“I have seen [the] type of plagiarism where someone visits another’s research laboratory, gets an idea of what they are doing and quickly publishes some work in some low quality journal without going into detail and giving full credit to the original researcher...where the original researcher wants to wait for some good results and submit the paper in high quality journals. Because of this problem, many researchers or professors do not share their ongoing research with others.”
“There is a thin line between consultation and collaboration.”
Verbatim Plagiarism is the copying of another’s words and works without providing proper attribution, indentation or quotation marks. Verbatim Plagiarism can take two forms. First, plagiarists may cite the source they borrowed from, but not indicate that it’s a direct quote. In the second, no attribution at all is provided, essentially claiming the words of someone else to be their own. Verbatim Plagiarism is one of the most common and most easily detected forms of plagiarism -- as well as one of the most serious, carrying some of the heaviest consequences. Research or written text that is translated into another language must be cited to the original author, regardless of language.
A researcher copies and pastes a block of text from someone else’s work into a paper without providing proper citation, including quotation marks.
As with paraphrased plagiarism, always carefully cite any outside material used, even when translating to a different language. In the case of material used verbatim, clearly indicate that the text is a direct quote, either through blockquoting or quotation marks.
“Translating from original source to native language, without proper citation: this type of plagiarism cannot be detected easily.”
“Using the terms 'word' and 'work' should not be used in one item, because regarding verbatim, for instance, copying 'words' is very common while copying 'works' is not.”
Complete plagiarism is an extreme scenario when a researcher takes a study, a manuscript or other work from another researcher and simply resubmits it under his/her own name. The most serious type of plagiarism on this list, complete plagiarism deprives the original author of credit for their work and allows the plagiarist to potentially secure publication---and even grant funding---without doing any original work.
A researcher copies and submits, under his or her name, the entirety of a previous paper published by someone else.
Never sign your name to someone else’s work. Conduct original research and write papers in your own words. If conducting a different study is not an option, consider replicating the research, writing up the findings in original words, and citing the original material to provide credit for the idea of the study.
““It seems quite impossible to use this method in this age of fast information dissemination.”
“Complete plagiarism is a serious plagiarism, as you would be copying other people ideas and using them as if they are your own.”