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Survey Reveals Most Serious, Common Types Of Plagiarism In Research

OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Plagiarism has become a ubiquitous concern in scholarly publishing and academia, with universities, individual researchers, journals and grant-making organizations increasingly facing the negative consequences of duplication. With the public eye more trained than ever on the issue, it has become clear that plagiarism goes far beyond the simple use of unoriginal material—there are many shades of duplication, and formulating strategies for detecting and responding to them has become a priority in the field.

More than 330 researchers participated in a recent survey conducted by iThenticate, the leading provider of plagiarism detection technology, and their responses provide a nuanced view of both the commonness and seriousness of ten distinct types of plagiarism and attribution issues. The survey data is the subject of a new interactive web chart that presents academic researchers' perspectives on each form of plagiarism and attribution problem.

The survey, which was conducted online in August 2013, polled 334 academic researchers representing more than 50 countries, most of whom were in the fields of science, medicine or engineering. The survey listed ten forms of plagiarism and briefly defined each, then requested that respondents rate each on a scale of 1 to 10 for commonness and seriousness. A rating of 1-4 was tallied as not common/not serious, and a rating of 6-10 was tallied as common/serious.

According to respondents, the three most common types of plagiarism and attribution issues are:

Paraphrasing (75 percent), defined as taking the words of another and using them alongside original text without attribution; Repetitive Research (71 percent), defined as repeating data or text from a similar study with a similar methodology in a new study without proper attribution; and Secondary Source Plagiarism (69 percent), defined as using a secondary source, but only citing the primary sources contained within the secondary one.

And while respondents attributed a high degree of seriousness to all forms of plagiarism and attribution issues identified in the survey, the three most serious forms were Complete Plagiarism (88 percent), defined as taking a manuscript from another researcher and resubmitting it under one's own name; Verbatim Plagiarism (84 percent), defined as copying another's words and works without providing proper attribution, indentation or quotation marks; and Unethical Collaboration (82 percent), defined as accidentally or intentionally using each other's written work without proper attribution.

"We found the high degree of seriousness attributed to most forms of plagiarism to be a reassuring reminder that publishing ethics is top of mind for many academic researchers," said Chris Cross, general manager at iThenticate. "The degree of commonness of so many types of plagiarism and attribution issues was astonishing— for those charged with maintaining integrity, the field is clearly complex, and we believe a greater understanding of this issue will help organizations in their efforts against plagiarism." 

According to respondents, the most common form of plagiarism that was also rated most serious is paraphrasing—of the 75 percent who rated it as "common," 76 percent also said it was "serious."  The most serious form of plagiarism that was also rated most common was verbatim plagiarism, with 64 percent of those who believed it was common also rating it as "serious."

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