Q: Can I question the journal editor's comment that my manuscript is plagiarized?

Detailed Question -

Before submitting my manuscript, I tried using a plagiarism check software Plagscan. It showed a high percentage of matching indicating plagiarism. So I revised the entire manuscript a lot and submitted it. But the journal editor still said my manuscript has 23% similarity with iThenticate. Is it because of different plagiarism software? The journal has not sent me the report. Can I question the journal about this? See the journal editor email below: Dear Author, Thank you for sending your above paper for possible publication. Although it was felt that your research was quite interesting, we are publishing only the most highly rated papers for publication in order to maintain our high rankings and impact factor. Those papers that aren't accepted typically could improve in a number of areas such as a more thorough discussion of the design, development, testing and evaluation results; clarifying the key significance of the research contribution; novelty of the subject and its impact; making sure the references are the most recent in your paper's research field of relevance; ascertaining that the research fits the aims and scope of the journal etc. We appreciate your interest in the journal. Moreover, based on iThenticate (plagiarism software) report, your paper has been found very similar with already published material (>%23 similar). Similarity with the following reference is especially high: Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part B: Journal of Engineering Manufacture http://pib.sagepub.com/A hybrid approach for multi-weapon production planning with large-dimensional multi-objective in defense manufacturing

1 Answer to this question

From what I know, journals usually provide just the percentage of similar content and the names of the main sources with which similarity has been detected. I haven’t heard of a journal providing a detailed report to the author after plagiarism check. Since this is the standard practice, I don’t think it is advisable to write to the journal Editor asking for a report.

I also don’t think you can contest the journal’s decision based on the Plagscan report. Here’s why I think so:

  • The journal did not mention the plagiarism check results as the exclusive reason for rejection.
  • Your  argument about the plagiarism check results are also not strong enough. The journal has acted as per their policy and they might not accept Plagscan results. Had you also used iThenticate, your argument would have been stronger.
  • Difference of results across different plagiarism check software is not unusual.  Here’s a case in point: http://copy-shake-paste.blogspot.in/2011/06/plagiarism-detection-software-and-zu.html .  

According to me, the best course of action would be to manually check for similarity with the source the journal has mentioned and revise the document as far as possible. You can conduct another round of plagiarism check post revision, and then submit the paper to another journal.