Academic plagiarism and ways to avoid it
Lack of time and difficulty with the English language could result in unintended instances of plagiarism in manuscripts. These instances are viewed by journals as a violation of ethical publication standards and often lead to rejection. They also damage an author’s reputation and credibility as a researcher.
What is plagiarism?
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes plagiarism as "an act of using another person's words or ideas without giving credit to that person." 1 In other words, the use of someone else’s thoughts, ideas, words, language, and/or research findings and reporting them as your own original work instead of acknowledging the source is plagiarism. Although there many types of plagiarism that exist in many fields, here we discuss academic plagiarism and ways in which an author can avoid them. Reporting previously known information is often essential in research; however, it is extremely important to cite the source of the original work. Not crediting the original work often leads to cases of plagiarism.
What are the types of plagiarism in Academia?
Authors plagiarize intentionally in many different ways. Some authors even copy an entire study and change the authorship to report the work as their own. Direct plagiarism is use of text verbatim without quoting or citing the source. In review articles, authors often include data from various sources and mix them together to make it seem original, which lead to cases of ‘mosaic plagiarism’. 2
This type of plagiarism is common amongst graduate students. It usually results from incorrect paraphrasing, inappropriate use of quotation marks, and incorrect citations. Often, paraphrasing a sentence but retaining the sentence structure and meaning is considered plagiarism. Ensure that all such sentences are also cited appropriately.
Using information from your own work that is previously published without proper citation is a form of plagiarism. Originality is highly valued in academia; therefore, it is essential to highlight the originality of your work. If you include information from you own previously published work, then ensure that you cite the publication.
Tips to avoid plagiarism
In academic research, studies are carried out to fill a gap in existing knowledge. In order to highlight this gap, researchers refer to previous studies in order to clarify what is established knowledge. The following tips will help authors check for plagiarism before submitting their work to a journal.
- Use quotation marks
Sometimes, quoting text verbatim from literature in unavoidable. In such cases, one must always include this text in quotation marks (“”). If you are referring to a phrase coined previously use single quotation marks (‘’). Remember to cite the source of the quoted text.
- Paraphrase appropriately
Paraphrasing a sentence requires practice. If you have to talk about an idea that has been published in the past, then ensure that it relates to an original aspect of your study. Make sure that both the choice of words and the sentence structure should be altered without changing the meaning or the message of the sentence. All paraphrased sentences should be referenced. Use either a reference list or footnotes to cite the source.
- Reference all parts of a sentence
Often multiple ideas or studies are discussed in a single sentence. Remember to reference each component of the sentence with the matching source.
For example, if you are talking about the use of a particular protocol for different cell lines or animals tested by different studies in a single sentence, ensure that each study is cited appropriately. “Protocol X has been previously used in human1, murine2, and bovine cells3.”
Include a reference to a published paper, even if you have included the author information in the sentence that contains the information.
For example, “Chang et al. reported that … 1”
- Ensure the accuracy of all your references
Make sure that all your references are accurate. Influential authors have multiple papers. Make sure that you cite the correct study. Inaccuracy of a reference can lead to a case of unnecessary plagiarism.
- Use a reference management software and a plagiarism checker
Any reference management software such as EndNote will enable you to create a reference list efficiently. Many free and paid plagiarism checkers such as PlagScan and iThenticate are available online. Use one of these to check for plagiarism before you submit a manuscript.
If you employ an English language editing service, make sure that you subscribe to a service that also whets your manuscript for plagiarism.
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