As the number of publishers using software to detect plagiarism has increased, so have the instances where authors have been found to have plagiarised the work of others and even their own. This type of scientific misconduct at the research level has become a major issue in the journal publishing industry. There are currently no clear set of standards, but publishers, research institutions and other organisations have developed policies and guidelines to advise authors in this area, some of which are outlined below.

Publications cited on this page, including related documents and examples of journal editorials related to plagiarism and research integrity can be found in the Plagiarism and research integrity collection at Mendeley.

Plagiarism detection

Publishers are routinely using plagiarism detection software to verify the originality of papers submitted to their journals.

Most major publishers are members of CrossCheck which uses the iThenticate software to scan papers for instances of plagiarism. Articles are compared against a database containing web pages as well as published material including journals and books.

This software is similar to Turnitin, text-matching software used by the College to help detect potential student plagiarism.  Staff can submit their papers to Turnitin but must be aware that the database content is not identical to that of iThenticate.

Publisher guidelines

Most publishers provide detailed guidelines for authors wishing to submit an article to a journal, including information about plagiarism as well as the methods they used to screen papers. If you are considering submission to journal publishers, you need to be familiar with the following issues:

1. The publishers’ and journal editors’ definition of plagiarism (what is acceptable re-use of data, code, description of methodology and so on may vary across disciplines, but there is general agreement that plagiarism is the non-acknowledgement of other people’s work or contributions).

2. Self-plagiarism, or duplicate publication, or multiple submissions to different journals.

Self-plagiarism involves using one’s own prior work without acknowledging its reuse. Editors and publishers consider it as serious (if not more) as standard plagiarism. Practices that can result in a charge of self-plagiarism include:

  • Text recycling – reusing content that has previously been published
  • Redundant or duplicate publication – authors must avoid multiple submissions of the same paper/same data to different journals
  • ‘Salami slicing’ – reporting results of one study/project in separate publications when one would suffice
  • Misuse of copyright – once a paper is published the copyright is held by the publisher and the work does not belong to the author

Nature’s plagiarism policy includes self-plagiarism, or duplicate publication.

The American Chemical Society (PDF) states that “it is improper for an author to submit manuscripts describing essentially the same research to more than one journal of primary publication, unless it is a resubmission of a manuscript rejected for or withdrawn from publication” (Ethical obligations of authors, p.2).

The majority of journals should provide guidance on plagiarism, including self-plagiarism, in their author guidelines, or as part of the publisher’s policy on publication.

3. Publishers’ and journal editorial procedures if author plagiarism is suspected.

  • Publishers provide guidelines for journal editors when dealing with suspected cases of plagiarism. For example, Springer’s Policy on publishing integrity  (Section 2: Plagiarism/Duplicate Publication).
  • Many journal editors publish their procedures as editorials or comment pieces. For example, The Lancet’s editorial approach to plagiarism detection.

4. Preferred referencing style

  • All journals provide guidelines on how to cite and reference. For example, Acta Biomaterialia, published by Elsevier, uses the numerical-endnote style, outlined in its Guide for Authors

General guidance for authors

Ethical behaviour and good practice is expected at all levels of the research process. Plagiarism is usually a very contentious issue, and a number of organisations provide guidance to authors and researchers; guidance is also available for journal editors dealing with cases of possible misconduct.

The Singapore Statement on Research Integrity was agreed by delegates from 51 countries at the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity (2010). 

The Committee on Publications Ethics (COPE) is a charitable membership-based organisation that provides advice to editors and publishers when dealing with cases of possible misconduct by authors, including plagiarism. Over 6000 publishers/editors are members worldwide. COPE has developed a series of flowcharts which outline the steps editors can follow when dealing with instances of suspected plagiarism.

One of COPE’s resources is a database of all cases it has advised on since 1997. These cases cover a variety of practices/topics related to misconduct, such as:

  • Multiple submissions
  • Overlapping publications (e .g. sa lami sli cing)
  • Plagiarism (t his covers a huge range of types of plagiarism)
  • Redundant publication

Research Councils UK (RCUK) has published its own guidance:

  • Policy and code of conduct on the governance of good research conduct (2009) 

The Office of Research Integrity (Department of Health and Human Services) in the United States promotes good research conduct through educational and other activities, and has published a guidance note giving its definition of plagiarism (1994). One of its major publications is aimed at authors:

  • Roig, M. (last update 2009) Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: a guide to ethical writing