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Plagiarism

The Oxford dictionary defines plagiarism as follows:

“The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own”

The Miriam –Webster online dictionary goes into greater detail:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

 Plagiarism is clearly unacceptable, and in the more egregious cases, can lead not only to allegations of research misconduct, but also have serious consequences for a career in research.

It is important to recognise that plagiarism is relatively easy to detect, particularly in the current era.
And whilst it is possible to mistakenly plagiarise, that is generally not considered a defence. So strategies, such as careful note taking, or never doing a simple cut and paste from other work, should be used to protect yourself.

Self-Plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism seems to be an oxy-moron – after all, how can one steal from oneself?
Perhaps a better term may be text-recycling.
If you do wish to re-use your own text, first ensure that you are not breaching any copyright you may have signed over to a journal publisher. And second, make it absolutely clear that what you are saying is not new. In other words, give proper attribution to where it was first published.
A related issue concerns redundant publications, that is, republication of work that you have already published elsewhere. 
Whether avoiding text recycling or republication, the principle is to ensure transparency in dealings with publishers and readers, and to limit redundancy and confusion on the research publication record.

iThenticate (an online tool to help avoid plagiarism and to educate yourself and your research students about responsible research writing)

iThenticate is an online tool from the same company that provides Turnitin, which is used by UniSA to check written coursework for plagiarism. It has been designed especially for academic researchers and research students. It is also used by most of the major journals to screen submissions before they are sent out for review. The system can be used both to check your own writing to prevent inadvertent plagiarism, and can also be used to help develop the quality of your HDR students’ writing and their own writing ‘voice’.  

To use iThenticate you just need to be registered, and an account can be established by emailing a request to iThenticate@unisa.edu.au from your UniSA email account.

Documents or segments of writing are easily submitted to the system and these are then compared with millions of other documents in both the various iThenticate  databases and also the Internet more generally. (Their databases are more comprehensive than those used by Turnitin.)  Like Turnitin, iThenticate generates a colour-coded similarity report showing any matched text and where the original can be found. This report is usually generated within a few minutes of submission. Unlike Turnitin, submitted documents are NOT stored in the iThenticate  database for comparison with future submissions. This means that documents are not compared with earlier versions of themselves and, therefore, that iThenticate can be used more easily in a developmental way.

Many supervisors report that iThenticate offers a good way of working with their research students on developing their writing.

If you want to know more about iThenticate a Moodle resource site has been developed. This includes sections on accessing and using iThenticate, interpreting reports, FAQs and, for those wanting more complete understanding, the full iThenticate user manual. The iThenticate website also contains useful information, but remember to register through iThenticate@unisa.edu.au before trying to log in so that you are not prompted to ‘buy credits’ which you do not need!