27 July 2011

What to do when plagiarized?

When I set up my Google Scholar profile last week, I found a new paper that cited on one mine. Curious, I went and read the paper to see how and why it had cited mine.

I was disappointed to read two citations to my paper and see that both sentences liberally adopted the phrasing from my paper. I saw this degree of similarity between a research paper and one from one of my students, I would fail them.

I was plagiarized.

It’s a small amount, but it’s the principle of the thing. I want to do something about it, but after thinking about it, it seems there is little I can do. Email the editor? To do what? It's not like it's enough to warrant a retraction. Email the author? Just the thing to make me seem small and petty.

It seems all I can do is be disappointed.

Authors! Have you found others who have lifted your sentences out of your papers and plunked them in front of a reference in their own paper? Did it matter to you?


Kristina Killgrove said...

I'd email the editor as a courtesy. It may seem a bit petty (after all, nothing can be done now), but if the offending author submits something else to the same journal, the editor will be aware and can instruct peer reviewers to comb the paper more carefully.

At least, that's what I did. It wasn't my paper, but I found liberal paraphrasing (to the extent that I would fail the author if s/he were a student) in an in-press article recently. The editor hasn't responded, but really that was all I could do. The journal does have a plagiarism policy in place, so I'm not sure what will come of it.

If I were you, I'd also keep an eye on the offending author's future publications.

stillchip said...

If it was something I wrote, not much. I'm not paid to write, and if I write something worthy of copying, I'd be proud. However, if it was someone I know, and if they made money on it (no matter how or how much) I'd be irked enough to let that other person know, if I had a convenient way to get in touch with them.

Alison Cummins said...

If you were an editor, would you want to be tipped off that this had happened? I’m thinking you would. Email them and reassure them that you aren’t expecting any sort of dramatic action, but that you just thought they would want to know.

Email the author too. Let them know that people notice and that it’s not cool. Reputation is important for academics. It might be enough to keep them in line in the future.

It’s a bit like voting. It’s unlikely that your particular vote will change anything. The point is that a lot of people vote (speak up) and that changes things. So you vote/speak up anyway.

Girlpostdoc said...

It's hard to assume that the plagairism was intentional, especially if it was a sentence or two. There could be any number of reasons why someone liberally adopted the phrasing.

I'm not suggesting that it should be excused. Do you know if the author was a grad student, postdoc, jr faculty, or senior faculty?

But if the offending author was a grad student or even a post-doc, they may not have had the benefit of the kind of training you provide your students. I think an email to the author would be fine - but I might think carefully about the tone of the email.

AK said...

That's interesting. Usually when I reference a paper (say, in my blog), I'll either include an explicit quote (in marks), or paraphrase. Are you saying this is objectionable?

I'd say it's a difficult line when paraphrasing, how closely you can follow the text being paraphrased, especially if the author's style is similar to your own.

Would you have responded differently if the most similar section of phrasing had copied exactly within quote marks? I'd always assumed that was "fair use".

Anonymous said...

it matters to me unless credit citation is provided.