October 8, 2013


Scientific researchers identified “paraphrasing” — which a study by iThenticate defines as “taking the words of another and using them alongside original text without attribution,” — as the most common type of plagiarism encountered in academia, grant proposals and journals.

“Complete” plagiarism — the wholesale lifting of another’s work — was the least common, respondents said. The study says one person polled suggested such over-the-top theft “seemed ‘impossible in this age of fast information,’ perhaps referring to the search capabilities of Google and the availability of effective plagiarism detection software.”

The study also asked respondents to rank the “seriousness” of each sort of plagiarism. They rated “secondary source” plagiarism the least serious. That’s when “a researcher uses a secondary source, such as a meta study, but only cites the primary sources contained within the secondary one.” One person surveyed said secondary source plagiarism wasn’t necessarily bad: “If I cited from the secondary source then I would see the need to reference,” the person wrote. “But if I only obtained references from a secondary source I don’t see a need to reference that paper.”

An interactive graphic (which you have to register to view) identifies the forms of plagiarism researchers looked at on a graph.

The study’s definition of “paraphrasing” is quite close to “patchwriting,” a type of dishonesty Kelly McBride wrote about in September 2012. It’s really more a “failed attempt at paraphrasing,” McBride wrote, describing patchwriting through the lens of Rebecca Moore Howard’s work on the subject.

Here’s a video of Howard discussing patchwriting. “Even expert writers, when they’re writing, when they’re reading outside their comfort zone have a hard time coming up with fresh language,” she says.

Related: The journal Science submitted versions of a “flawed and unpublishable” paper to hundreds of scientific journals, about half of which agreed to publish it (Science)

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
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