Plagiarism in Academic Writing: How to Identify and Avoid It

AJE has resources to help you understand the various types of plagiarism and how best to avoid any accusations of unethical behavior in your writing.

Regardless of your research field, writing is a critical component of sharing your findings with colleagues and the world. With the increase in publications each year (well over two million papers were published last year), there is a huge amount of text available as part of the scholarly record. Of course, despite the volume of text already written, each new paper should be the intellectual work of the study’s authors. While all this writing does mean more effort, it ensures the integrity of the scientific record and of all written scholarship.

Unfortunately, while plagiarism is universally considered a breach of publishing ethics, it is not always defined clearly. To help take the confusion out of plagiarism, Michaela Panter, a Senior Academic Editor at AJE and PhD in Immunobiology, wrote a series of articles on the topic available for free here on the Author Resource Center. The first, “Defining Plagiarism,” deals with providing explanations and examples for several types of plagiarism that are most likely to affect scientists. The second, “Avoid Plagiarism,” provides helpful suggestions for preventing any plagiarism (even if accidental), particularly by keeping good track of your sources to give them proper credit. We also define self-plagiarism and why it should be avoided elsewhere on the Author Resource Center. Together, they are also available as a downloadable white paper, “In Your Own Words: Best Practices for Avoiding Plagiarism.” We also define self-plagiarism and why it should be avoided elsewhere on the Author Resource Center.

Thousands of journals use software such as iThenticate® to screen new submissions for potentially plagiarized material. This process helps identify submissions that might contain material that was copied verbatim from other sources. In many cases, the journal will consider copied text to be a breach of their guidelines and refuse to review the paper. It is therefore in every researcher’s best interest to ensure that their manuscript is composed of brand new text, avoiding costly publishing delays and potential accusations of unethical behavior. Because interpreting an iThenticate® Text Similarity Report can be confusing, we’ve also prepared a guide that explains a typical iThenticate® report and what to do next if you find blocks of text that are similar to other work.

At AJE, we know that the ethical reporting of new results is fundamental to the advancement of knowledge, and we hope these resources help you understand and avoid any accusations of plagiarism in your work. Please contact us with any questions.

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