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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 5-6

Plagiarising plagiarism

School of Public Health, Department of Community Medicine PGIMER, Chandigarh, India

Date of Web Publication6-Aug-2009

Correspondence Address:
A J Singh
School of Public Health, Department of Community Medicine PGIMER, Chandigarh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-0218.53379

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How to cite this article:
Singh A J. Plagiarising plagiarism. Indian J Community Med 2007;32:5-6

How to cite this URL:
Singh A J. Plagiarising plagiarism. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2007 [cited 2021 Sep 17];32:5-6. Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2007/32/1/5/53379

At the outset let me clarify that if we follow a strict definition of plagiarism the following text (for which I am claiming the authorship) may be considered as plagiarism since it quotes extensively from other authors' text without using quotation marks. I hope, the readers and the original authors will excuse me for this liberty I am taking. Actually, such detailed borrowing was essential since I feel many of us (including yours truly) are not clear about the concept of plagiarism.

It has been two years since the present team took over the reins of IJCM and so far we have encountered only two complaints of 'Plagiarism' . Should this be considered as a credit to the contributors ……or should we consider it as an under-reporting of plagiarism? Do these two cases represent the proverbial tip of the iceberg? The answer may lie in comparison of this 'incidence' with that of other journals. In fact, there have been instances of plagiarism in reputed journals also. Clearly, the incidence of plagiarism reflects the quality of contributors. So, what is the role of a journal (IJCM) or of its readers and of the editorial board in this regard as far as vigilance mechanism and follow up remedial action is concerned. We need to answers questions like­

How vigilant is IJCM in preventing, detecting and handling plagiarism?

The verb "plagiarise" is defined in the Shorter Oxford as follows: (Plagiarius - Latin - an abductor; plagiare to steal) 'Take and use as one's own ( the thoughts, writings, inventions, etc., of another person); copy (literary work, ideas, etc.) improperly or without acknowledgement; pass off the thoughts, work etc. (of another person) as one's own" [1] .

Plagiarism thus involves claiming credit for ideas or creations of others without proper acknowledgement. To plagiarize is to give the impression that you have written or thought something that you have in fact borrowed from someone else.

Plagiarism of ideas: Claiming credit for someone else's thoughts, ideas or inventions can be called "plagiarism of ideas". This occurs for example, when a corporation adopts the idea of an independent inventor claiming it as its own. Proving plagiarism of ideas can be difficult because of the possibility of independent creation.

Word-for-word plagiarism: Copying the exact expression of someone's writing can be called "word-for-word plagiarism". If some text is reproduced in an essay without quotation marks this is word for word plagiarism, even if original author is mentioned [1] .

Plagiarism of sources: If writer R uses writer S' citations without acknowledging that the citations came from S, this can be called plagiarism of sources. The more serious plagiarism is when the sources are not read by R: The references are simply taken from S bibliography. A less serious form occurs when R reads the sources but does not reveal indebtedness to S for having discovered that particular relevant collection or sequence of references [1] .

Paraphrasing: This is stating someone else's ideas in your own words. Quotation marks should be used to indicate the exact words of another. Summarizing a passage or rearranging the order of a sentence and changing some of the words is paraphrasing. Each time a source is paraphrased, a credit for the source needs to be included in the text.

Dropping Names: This is another form of misattribution is not covered by the concept of plagiarism:citing sources that were not actually used to make the argument in question. For example, prominent figures in the field may be cited as a form of obeisance, without actually using their ideas in the argument [1] .

Plagiarism of authorship: If R claims to be the author of an entire piece of work fully or substantially authored by S, this can be called "plagiarism of authorship". This occurs when a scientist submits a paper that has already been published by someone else or when a student submits an essay written by someone else. Translating an article from another language and publishing it under one's name, as if one had written it, is also plagiarism of authorship [1] .

Plagiarism is a serious violation of the ethics of scholarship. It is an offense against the literary rights of the original author and the property rights of the copyright owner. More subtle abuses include the appropriation of concepts, data or notes all disguised in newly crafted sentences, or references to borrowed work in an early note and then extensive further use without attribution. All such tactics reflect an unworthy disregard for the contributions of others [1] .

Now, after having described plagiarism so what should IJCM do in this context? Following are some of my suggestions (the readers may add to these).

  • The complaint of plagiarism should be properly recorded and documented in IJCM HQ record.
  • A committee of 3-5 members with no conflict of interest should be constituted to arbitrate over the issue.
  • The committee should give its verdict within a stipulated time period (1-3 months)
  • The culprits (if charges are proven) should be blacklisted (for their future submissions to IJCM)
  • The identity of the culprit may be communicated to other journals also.
  • The institution/department of the culprit may be informed about the misdeed.
  • The article should be retracted from IJCM.
  • The culprit may be asked to apologize to the victim
  • The journal should also tender an apology to the victim.
We may as well apply principles of prevention to this problem.

Primary Prevention by Health Promotion : Why do people plagiarise? In fact, the prevalent state of value system in our society where everyone searches for easy formula for 'success' has created breeding ground for plagiarism.

We need to create an atmosphere, which makes plagiarism undesirable and unrewarding. This requires education of the potential contributors. We need to advocate cultivation of honesty among the researchers. There is also a need to formulate and declare a policy of strict punishment for the culprit.

These days almost all interviews for various academic posts give weightage to publications by the prospective candidates. So the number of published articles becomes a passport for jobs or promotion. As a result, 'publish or perish' syndrome develops. Some mechanisms needs to be developed so that publishing at any cost does not become a compulsion for job/promotion seekers.

Researchers use primary and secondary source materials. Scholarship flourishes in an atmosphere of openness and candor, which should include the scrutiny and discussion of academic deception. Quotation marks should be used to indicate the exact words of another. If an author models a study after one done by someone else, the originating author should be given credit. If the rationale for a study was suggested in the discussion section of someone else's article, that person should be given credit. Given the free exchange of ideas, which is very important to the health of research, an author may not know where an idea for a study originated. If the author does know, however, the author should acknowledge the source, this includes personal communications [1] .

Secondary Prevention by Early diagnosis and treatment: Members of the editorial board of IJCM, its readers as well as IAPSM members should be vigilant enough to detect the plagiarism early. Editorial board members should be familiar with the current and past literature published on the concerned topic.

Detection of plagiarism should be followed by actions like academic sanctions (such as dismissal from a graduate program, termination of a faculty contract, or denial of promotion or tenure) or legal action as well. As a practical matter, plagiarism between scholars rarely goes to court, in part because legal concepts, such as infringement of copyright, are narrower than ethical standards that guide professional conduct. The real penalty for plagiarism is the abhorrence and mutual criticism by the community of scholars. But just as important as this Krinopathic approach that guards us from self-deception is the formation of healthy work habits that protect a scholar from plagiarism.

The second line of defense against plagiarism is organized and punitive. Every institution that includes or represents a body of scholars has an obligation to establish procedures designed to clarify and uphold their ethical standards. Penalities for scholarly misconduct should vary according to the seriousness of the offense, and the protections of due process should always apply. While a persistent pattern of deception may justify public disclosure or even termination of an academic career, some scattered misappropriations may warrant only a formal reprimand [1] .

Tertiary Prevention by Disability Limitation and Rehabilitation: Once plagiarism has been reported/detected the damage control exercise should attempt to salvage the image of the journal while simultaneously defending the pursuit of scientific inquiry.

As far as the two abovementioned instances of 'plagiarism' ' in IJCM are concerned -in one instance, the 'culprit' ' had fitted his/her data into the text of an article on the same subject of another researcher - i.e. tables and data were of the 'culprit'' while more than 90% of the text was copied shamelessly - a neat cut-paste job. It was an efficient low investment job -even words/sentences were not changed or shifted. These were copied as such. Though the culprit had, in fact quoted the author of the original text in the list of references, it still constituted a case of blatant plagiarism. The three members committee constituted by the editorial board after the IJCM received the complaint, found the charges to be correct. The author was blacklisted. A strict warning was issued to the culprit and an explanation and an apology were sought from him/her. This was duly complied with by the culprit.

In another instance a complaint of plagiarism was received by IJCM. As per the allegations authorship was not given to a thesis co-guide/guide in a publication from the thesis (while this was done for previous publications from the same thesis). Instead, another researcher's name was included as a co-author (reportedly there was no contribution by him/her). Proofs supporting the charges were provided by the complainant. These were found to be correct. The editorial board (EB) classified this as an authorship dispute rather than plagiarism. The culprits were asked to give a written undertaking for exact contribution of each co-author of the article. However, no response was received despite reminders. They were blacklisted by IJCM. Simultaneously, the complainant was also asked to take up the case with local authorities, since as per the EB's views authorship disputes are better settled by the concerned department/institute rather than by the journal. So far, no response has been received on this from the complainant. Interested readers are also advised to read an interesting article on plagiarism at following site.


   References Top

1.Martin B. Plagiarism: Policy against cheating or policy for learning: https//www.now.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/ 4Feb.2004.  Back to cited text no. 1    

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