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Plagiarism: Understanding & Preventing Plagiarism: Plagiarism Definitions

Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit (Office of Science & Technology Policy). This guide is a resource for understanding and preventing plagiarism.

Research Misconduct Context

"Advances in science, engineering and all fields of research depend on the reliability of the research record, as do benefits associated with them in such areas as health and national security. Sustained public trust in the research enterprise requires confidence in the research record and in the processes involved in its ongoing development" [Notice of Final Policy; Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); Executive Office of the President, December 6, 2000]

Note: The Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive branch of government is the highest federal policy making authority in the area of scientific misconduct. The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) is the office within the Department of Health & Human Services that carries out the policy for agencies as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Definition

Office of Science and Technology Policy (2000)

  • Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
  • Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.
  • Research misconduct does not include differences of opinion.

The definitions of research misconduct including plagiarism were proposed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2000 and later published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in 2005.

a) plagiarism: The appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit. (42 CFR 93.103, 5/17.2005)

b) research misconduct: Fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion. (42 CFR 93.103, 5/17/2005)

World Association of Medical Editors - Plagiarism & Self-Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the use of others' published and unpublished ideas or words (or other intellectual property) without attribution or permission, and presenting them as new and original rather than derived from an existing source. The intent and effect of plagiarism is to mislead the reader as to the contributions of the plagiarizer. This applies whether the ideas or words are taken from abstracts, research grant applications, institutional Review Board applications, or unpublished or published mansucripts in any publication format (print or electronic).

Self-plagiarism refers to the practice of an author using portions of their previous writings on the same topic in another of their publications, without specifically citing it formally in quotes. This practice is widespread and sometimes unintentional, as there are only so many ways to say the same thing on many occasions, particularly when writing the Methods section of an article. Although this usually violates the copyright that has been assigned to the publisher, there is no consensus as to whether this is a form of scientific misconduct, or how many of one's own words one can use before it is truly "plagiarism". Probably for this reason self-plagiarism is not regarded in the same light as plagiarism of the ideas and words of other individuals. If journals have developed a policy on this matter, it should be clearly stated for authors.