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Plagiarism in Scientific Research and How to Prevent it

  • Edward Nick 
hacking process with hacker and computers
Plagiarism is becoming yet another branch of hacking.

In scientific research, plagiarism used to be a big problem. Before the advent of free and accessible plagiarism detection tools, people would actually steal the work of their peers and publish it in their name.

As you can probably imagine, this was severely damaging to the progress of scientific research as plagiarists were undermining the real researchers. It is incredibly difficult to prove an idea was yours because there is no physical evidence. It becomes a matter of ‘you said, he said.

However, this is no longer the case, in the digital era, research papers become saved online as soon as you draft them and copyright laws themselves have come very far. With dates on digital documents, it is easy to prove who wrote what and when.

Pair that with plagiarism detectors and it becomes nearly impossible to commit plagiarism and get away with it. Obviously, plagiarism has severe consequences as well.  Primarily the biggest consequence is the loss of your academic career and destroying your reputation.

Unfortunately, this also applies to accidental plagiarism. Hence it is important for researchers to be able to detect plagiarism in their work and remove it.

Types of Plagiarism

Plagiarism has many types, but there are four main categories that all the others fall under. These four types are as follows.

1.      Direct/Verbatim Plagiarism

This is the word-for-word duplication of another source, claiming it is yours. This means you don’t credit the original author and try to pass off the work as yours.

2.      Self-Plagiarism

This occurs when you use some of your own previous work but without clarifying that it is a previous work. Essentially, you are trying to take credit for a single work twice, which is wrong.

Any old works that you use should be cited and defined as such.

3.      Mosaic/Patchwork Plagiarism

Arguably the most insidious sort of plagiarism. It entails that you take small pieces and parts of other works, paraphrase them and then mash them together coherently.

This kind of plagiarism is pretty difficult to detect, which is why it is so insidious. However, AI plagiarism checkers can also detect such plagiarism, so it is not uncatchable.

4.      Accidental Plagiarism

The most innocent kind of plagiarism. If you forget to cite a source, or you confuse some sources for others and give an incorrect citation. It also involves writing something eerily similar to somebody else by freak coincidence.

It has the same consequences as regular plagiarism so it needs to be checked for and removed before submitting a paper.

How to Avoid Plagiarism?

1.      Research From Multiple Sources

First, plagiarism happens when your research on a topic is limited to one or two sources. What happens is that you get affected by their opinions and takes on the topic, and you echo that in your writing, which results in plagiarism.

That’s why doing research using many sources is good; it gives you a more objective view of the entire topic, and you can form your own opinions. That naturally leads to unique writing.

However, it has an inherent pitfall as well. Keeping track of many sources can become difficult. But that can be rectified with good management.

2.      Employ a Plagiarism Checking Tool

Anytime you finish writing a draft, run it through an online plagiarism checker. That way you can learn about any plagiarism you may have committed in your work.

Once plagiarism is detected, you can edit it, remove it, or cite it, so it does not count as plagiarism. It is important to check plagiarism this way because there are irreparable consequences.

If plagiarism is found in someone’s work after submitting it to a journal, the publishers blacklist the authors and inform other publishers of their crime. This means they can no longer get their work published in major journals, meaning their career is practically over.

3.      Keep Track of Sources

To avoid accidental plagiarism, keep track of which ideas and data you got from which source. If you do not follow this tip, then following tip one alone will still cause you to commit accidental plagiarism.

There are plenty of ways to keep track of sources. For one, you could create an Excel sheet where you list sources and what key idea or data did you pull from it. Another way is to keep notes when researching and instead of simply noting the ideas, note the name of the documents along with them as well.

This way, when you are creating the bibliography of your paper, you won’t have a hard time.

4.      Cite Sources Correctly

One reason for accidental plagiarism is an incorrect citation. We know there are several methods of incorrect citation. Some of them are as follows:

  • Citing the wrong author,
  • Citing the right author, but wrong work,
  • Not citing at all,
  • Switching citation formats in one paper.

These are some ways to cite in-correctly. If you have followed tip number three and kept track of all the sources, then this will step will be quite easy. If you haven’t then you should buckle up and do it.

And don’t forget to add the bibliography at the end of the document. It should contain all the sources you have used in your paper.

5.      Use Quotes and Paraphrasing

If you have to use some text from another work, there are two ways to do it. Copy the text verbatim and put it in inverted commas. Follow this by citing the work you have taken the text from.

Make sure the citation is in the same format you are already using. If you start switching citation formats mid-work, that can classify as plagiarism.

Use paraphrasing where you think you need to use someone’s idea, but their wording is too difficult. Paraphrase the text so it becomes easier to understand, and then cite it. Paraphrasing something does not mean it belongs to you, it is still taken from someone else. So, citing is necessary to avoid plagiarism.


Plagiarism is an unethical act in which a person uses the works of others and claims that they are his/hers. During the non-digital era, plagiarism was a menace to researchers as they could get their work stolen, and they would have no way to prove it was theirs.

In the modern age, plagiarism can be detected easily using tools. Plagiarism checkers are widely available and mostly free to use. Catching plagiarism is very easy, and the consequences are also severe. Hence plagiarism should be avoided.

By following the five tips in this article, you can avoid plagiarism in your scientific write-ups.