Q: The journal suspects that my manuscript is plagiarized. What should I do?

Detailed Question -

A month ago, my paper was published in an SCI Journal and it is now on an early view status.  However, I suddenly received an email saying that it is now suspected of plagiarism. I found that there was a similar published paper when I submitted my paper after completing my first draft. What should I do?

3 Answers to this question

Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct and can lead to retraction. I'm afraid the fate of your paper might be the same. The only way I can think of to salvage the situation is to prove that the plagiarism was unintentional. Check the publication date of the other article. If it was published after you submitted your paper, you can write to the journal explaining this. This will make it clear that you did not intentionally plagiarize as your paper was already submitted when the other paper was published. 

However, if the paper was published before you submitted your manuscript to the journal or if large chunks of text are copied verbatim from the other paper, there is no way you can escape charges of misconduct. At best, you can admit your mistake and say that you could not paraphrase the text effectively due to poor English skills.

In any case, you should apologize to the journal and offer to self-retract your paper. Generally, the retraction notice mentions the reason of retraction. If you self-retract your paper, you can hope that the journal will not mention that the paper was retracted due to misconduct. 

Take this as a learning experience and be very careful to avoid plagiarism for all your future submissions.

Recommended reading:

Answer: Plagiarism is defined in ICMJE guidelines under "Scientific Misconduct, Expressions of Concern, and Retraction" (http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/publishing-and-editorial-issues/scientific-misconduct-expressions-of-concern-and-retraction.html). It is considered as an unethical practice and consists of reproducing someone else's ideas, study, methods, results including data/figures/tables, copy pasting sentences directly etc. It is better to write to the journal and ask for more information/details regarding this matter so that you get a clarity on what portion of your article is plagiarized. You should send an apology letter to the journal editor and offer an explanation. Journals generally ask the authors to retract the article. Suggested reading: https://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/students/plagiarism
Answer: Since you have found another similar paper, you need to check whether the journal editor is concerned about the content plagiarism or language plagiarism. It is important to write a mail to the journal’s editor for more clarification. Once you have an idea about the cause of the concern, you need to write an apology letter to the editor-in-chief of the journal. You also need to explain the reason for similarity with other studies.