Avoiding Plagiarism

How can you avoid plagiarism and increase your manuscript's likelihood of publication, especially in journals using plagiarism detection tools?

Updated on May 28, 2013

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Elsewhere, we define the various forms of plagiarism and discussed the negative outcomes of such intellectual theft, including retraction. In fact, PNAS has reported that 10% of retracted journal articles are withdrawn due to the plagiarism of others' ideas and that 14% are withdrawn due to duplicate publication. It is thus clear that both the widely and the less commonly recognized types of plagiarism are significant problems in academic publishing.

Plagiarism may be on the rise due to increasing access to research articles via the internet, the ease of use of the copy-and-paste function, and mounting pressure to publish frequently and in high-impact journals to achieve tenure and obtain grants. However, the theft of ideas is also being detected more than ever due to heightened awareness in academia. Peer reviewers familiar with the scholarly literature may notice data or wording similar to previously published work and alert the journal. Differences in writing style or fluency within a single manuscript or the inclusion of seemingly irrelevant ideas, which were copied along with more pertinent material, may additionally flag a paper as potentially plagiarized. Moreover, many academic journals have begun using plagiarism detection tools, such as CrossCheck, to compare submissions with large databases of published articles.

This article on avoiding plagiarism and a companion article on defining plagiarism have been adapted as a white paper.

How can you avoid plagiarism and increase your manuscript's likelihood of publication in such journals? Try following these steps:

Step 1

While preparing to write by reviewing the literature, keep careful records of your sources. Citation software, such as Zotero and EndNote, can be helpful at this stage.

Step 2

While writing, try not to directly refer to your sources to avoid inadvertent copying, use multiple sources to ensure a diversity of content, and err on the side of citation.

When to cite your sources:

  • When including verbatim text, which should be placed inside quotation marks, even if only mentioning a unique two-word phrase. Only quote what is necessary to your argument. Note that quotation marks are particularly useful if a phrase seems too difficult or distinctive to paraphrase.
  • When paraphrasing unique ideas, logic, or other information, regardless of the source, as outlined in the Defining Plagiarism post. Proper paraphrasing and source citation clearly distinguish between others' and your own ideas in the context of your own argument and logic. Again, only information that is relevant to your manuscript should be mentioned.
  • When mentioning your own previously published work.
  • When reproducing or adapting others' graphs or tables after acquiring their permission.

When not to cite your sources:

  • When detailing your own work that is presented for the first time in the current paper.
  • When mentioning common knowledge, which is information available in general reference texts and/or stated without a source citation in at least five publications, such as the dates of historical events or widely used laboratory methods. Note that just because a concept is well known in a specific field or is discussed on the internet, it is not necessarily common knowledge. If you are not sure whether information is commonly known, include a citation.

Step 3

After writing, review your manuscript and reference list to ensure that all of the appropriate source citations were included. Additionally, consider checking your manuscript for inadvertent plagiarism using Turnitin, iThenticate, or other detection tools.

We hope that this article will help you to avoid even accidental plagiarism. Remember that you can download information about plagiarism in our free white paper. Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions. We wish you the best in your research endeavors!

PlagiarismQuotationsSource citationWord choiceParaphrasingPublication ethicsEditing tipsAuthor Resources
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