How to avoid being accused of plagiarism (2023)

Open Science

Authors | Researchers | Research integrity

How to avoid being accused of plagiarism (6)

Head of Research Integrity at Hindawi, Matt Hodgkinson, gives practical advice on how researchers can avoid plagiarism accusations.

(Video) Plagiarism Accusations | What you need to know

Nobody wants to be accused of plagiarism, which can lead to retraction of your article, and losing your reputation or even your job. Plagiarism accusations can surprise researchers but they are not uncommon. In fact, similarity to previous work is the top reason that submissions are not sent for peer review atHindawi.

So, what is plagiarism? Basically, it is when someone’s work or ideas are taken and used by someone else without acknowledgment. It usually involves copying words or images, without clearly stating where they come from.

When it comes to avoiding plagiarism, the basics are simple:

  • Write articles in your own words
  • Cite any articles you use
  • Use quotation marks for any phrases, sentences or paragraphs you have copied from another article

But, as I know from beinga mentor at AuthorAIDandworking in publication ethics for journal publishers, things in practice can be more complicated.

Cultural differences may be a factor in some cases – for instance, copying is seen as a compliment in some cultures. However, this is no excuse, as international academic standards are clear. Academics sometimes ask what level of plagiarism is okay, but the answer to that is that there isno “acceptable amount” of plagiarism.

(Video) Plagiarism Narrow Escape/ Disciplinary hearing

So, how to avoid being accused of plagiarism?

1. Understand how plagiarizers are caught

Plagiarizers are now extremely likely to be caught. Publishing staff are trained to spot plagiarism – and reviewers, editors and readers (including those whose work has been plagiarized) may also spot plagiarized work. If plagiarism is found in one article, this may lead to thorough checks of all other articles by that author. But how is plagiarism found?

  • Through the use of sophisticated software, such asiThenticate
  • Shifts in language usage (i.e. plagiarized sections are written differently to the rest of the article)
  • While using a thesaurus to change plagiarized words may sometimes fool software, it often results in creating nonsense, which will be spotted by publishing staff

2. Avoid being accused

I highly recommend reading Miguel Roig’sguide to ethical writing, but here are my top tips:

  • Cite every source from which you took an idea, fact, text or figure, whether it is an article, book, blog, preprint or thesis. Only cite sources you read and not the sources they cite, unless you’ve also read them.
  • When making notes, record the source and use quotation marks for directly copied wording
  • If you use exact (verbatim) wording, citation alone is not enough. You’ll need to quoteandcite, e.g: ‘As shown previously, “This is copied text.” (Smith et al., 2017)’.
  • Don’t reword text – close paraphrasing is still plagiarism. Use your own words or quote their exact wording.
  • Using the same ‘Methods’ wording can be okay, but make sure you cite and attribute – e.g: ‘The methods and their description are adapted from Smith et al. (2017)’
  • If you are writing in your non-native language and you are finding it difficult, make sure you ask for help from a native speaking colleague, an AuthorAID mentor or a language editing service. For the latter option, check a company’s reputation by asking colleagues or doing a web search about them.
  • Don’t accepthonorary authorshiporbuy articles, as this is unethical and risky – and you don’t know what the end result will be

3. Avoid self-plagiarism (aka text recycling)

(Video) Accused of Cheating? Top Three Tips from a Defense Lawyer for Students

Many software tools – and people – don’t distinguish between copying from other authors and reusing your own wording from previous articles, although the former is more serious. The term ‘self-plagiarism’ is disputed and ‘text recycling’is also used.

Why may text recycling be a problem?

  • Copyright: If you are not publishing with anOpen Access publisher, you may assign copyright of your article to a publisher and therefore need their permission to reuse your own words
  • Misrepresentation: Describing two experiments in the same way may not properly explain them. Or, presenting the same results or figures in many different publications could be seen as duplication or even fraud.
  • Dual publication: Research should be published once – if there is too much overlap with a previous article, and the journal publishers did not know at the time of publication, this could result in the retraction of your article

You can avoid problems by:

  • Citing and discussing your related work in detail (a brief mention of your related work is not enough)
  • Noting all previous presentations like preprints, posters, and abstracts in the cover letter and manuscript, e.g: ‘This work was presented as an abstract at Example Conference (2017)’
  • Recognizing that articles in conference proceedings and other languages count
  • Limiting the reuse of your wording in previous articles, especially outside the Methods section
  • Seeking permission from copyright holders and informing journals when republishing figures or expanding on a previous article/conference proceeding

This blog postis distributed under theCreative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.

How to avoid being accused of plagiarism (7)Author details

How to avoid being accused of plagiarism (8)13 Oct 2017

M. Hodgkinson

(Video) Real Stories of Plagiarism | RMIT University

Matt Hodgkinson is Head of Research Integrity at Hindawi.

(Video) I am being accused of plagiarism, what do I do?


How to avoid being accused of plagiarism? ›

HONESTY IS KEY. If you agree with the allegation, fess up. Maybe it was accidental plagiarism, but giving an honest account is necessary for the best outcome possible. If you do not agree with the allegation, describe why.

What do you say when you are accused of plagiarism? ›

HONESTY IS KEY. If you agree with the allegation, fess up. Maybe it was accidental plagiarism, but giving an honest account is necessary for the best outcome possible. If you do not agree with the allegation, describe why.

What do you say when you get caught plagiarizing? ›

Explain the oversight, or your mistake, and assure your teacher that it wasn't intentional. Be honest, and then all you can do is hope for mercy. Maybe your teacher will be a bit forgiving based on your maturity by confessing the mistake. If, on the other hand, you are being falsely accused, don't be afraid to say so.

How do you plagiarize without plagiarizing? ›

For research-based written work, there are rules to follow in order not to be accused of copying/pasting or plagiarism: put text in quotes, add references and footnotes, apply citation standards, write a bibliography, etc. In order to promote copyright and intellectual property, you must indicate the sources you use.

What's an excuse for plagiarism? ›

1. The Misunderstanding: This may be the number one excuse for plagiarism. After getting caught in the act, the individual replies “I didn't think that I was doing anything wrong.” This most often occurs in an academic setting. It might be something as simple as omitting a citation.

Should you apologize for plagiarism? ›

You may fail the assignment, be suspended, or even be expelled from school based on the gravity of the offense. When you've been found guilty of plagiarism, an apology letter will go a long way toward helping you make amends and control the damage.

What is the 5 word rule plagiarism? ›

Students may pick up too many of the writer's phrases. As a rule of thumb, five of the writer's words in a row constitute plagiarism of another persons 's words. Students may also fail to give the writer's ideas the credit they are due.

Can you go to jail for accidentally plagiarizing? ›

Skandy helps you avoid accidental plagiarism

A plagiarist can be punished regardless of whether the plagiarism happened intentionally or unintentionally.

How easy is it to accidentally plagiarize? ›

Believe it or not, it's not hard to mistakenly plagiarize. Accidental plagiarism is usually the result of being rushed, unorganized, or uninformed about the citation and research process. Whether it's an accident or an intentional act of plagiarism, the consequences are essentially the same.

Can you actually go to jail for plagiarizing? ›

Plagiarism can also be considered a felony under certain state and federal laws. For example, if a plagiarist copies and earns more than $2,500 from copyrighted material, he or she may face up to $250,000 in fines and up to ten years in jail. Most corporations and institutions will not tolerate any form of plagiarism.

How much can you copy without plagiarizing? ›

Plagiarism: taking any sequence of more than three words without citing is stealing work from others. Taking an idea, image (photograph, table, or graph) without citing is also plagiarism and may also violate copyright laws.

What are the 3 ways you can plagiarize unintentionally? ›

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism:
  • Failure to cite a source that is not common knowledge.
  • Failure to "quote" or block quote author's exact words, even if cited.
  • Failure to put a paraphrase in your own words, even if cited.
  • Failure to put a summary in your own words, even if cited.
  • Failure to be loyal to a source.

Can you get in trouble if someone plagiarized your work? ›

You are probably not in any trouble, unless there is a school policy against sharing old assignments, or the professor asked students not to do this, or you knew that she would have the same assignment when she took the class. So I would simply answer any questions they have, and explain why you did what you did.

How long does plagiarism stay on your record? ›

In an effort to dissuade students from plagiarism and cheating, many schools have adopted policies to make notations on transcripts if a student is found guilty of plagiarism. These notations often remain for a period of time, such as seven years.

Is unintentional plagiarism an excuse? ›

Unintentional plagiarism is not giving proper credit for someone else's ideas, research, or words, even if it was not intentional to present them as your own. Even if it was not intentional, it is still plagiarism and not acceptable.

Is it plagiarism if you put it in your own words? ›

Paraphrasing is plagiarism if your text is too close to the original wording (even if you cite the source). If you directly copy a sentence or phrase, you should quote it instead. Paraphrasing is not plagiarism if you put the author's ideas completely in your own words and properly cite the source.

Can plagiarism ruin your reputation? ›

Accusations of plagiarism can damage a person's reputation and have long-term effects on their academic and professional careers. Plagiarism is taken very seriously in academia, where it is considered a form of academic dishonesty.

Is plagiarism worse than cheating? ›

Some scholars define plagiarism as a sub-category of cheating, some as the same level and seriousness as cheating, thus being a direct subset of Academic Dishonesty.

How do you convince your teacher that you didn't plagiarize? ›

Provide your teacher with the outlines, notes or drafts, which were made for this particular paper as the proofs that you have made efforts to write the paper on your own. Provide the evidence that highlights your knowledge or skills (for example, previous essays) to prove that you didn't plagiarize in the past.

What is the golden rule of plagiarism? ›

As a “Golden Rule” you should always remember to give credit where credit is due. In other words, if the idea is not completely your own, you must cite the source (journal, magazine, book, internet site, etc,) where the information was found.

Can changing words avoid plagiarism? ›

Consider the following examples of paraphrasing guidelines: “Don't plagiarize. Express your own thoughts in your own words…. Note, too, that simply changing a few words here and there, or changing the order of a few words in a sentence or paragraph, is still plagiarism.

Is 5% of plagiarism bad? ›

Your work should not contain any plagiarism. Even if your score is 1%, you will need to review each similarity and decide whether it's necessary to revise your work. But contrary to popular belief, plagiarism checkers work by detecting similarities, not plagiarism.

How many college students get caught plagiarizing? ›

Fourteen percent of college students (undergraduate and graduates combined), admit to “paraphrasing or copying a few sentences or more from any source without citing it in a paper or assignment.” Let's say you have been called out for plagiarizing. What now?

What percentage of students accidentally plagiarize? ›

According to a study conducted by Kessler and reported by, the following plagiarism statistics were found: 86% of students cheated while studying. 54% believed that cheating was acceptable or necessary to stay competitive. 97% of those who cheated have never been caught.

Has anyone ever been caught plagiarizing? ›

Alex Haley, author of Roots, was accused of plagiarism, as he borrowed from the things that he learned in college as a student activist. Years after the publication of Roots, Haley admitted that he had plagiarized material from another source for the book.

Do colleges know if you plagiarize? ›

Plagiarism can be detected by your professor or readers if the tone, formatting, or style of your text is different in different parts of your paper, or if they're familiar with the plagiarized source.

What happens if my essay is plagiarized? ›

While the exact consequences of plagiarism vary by institution and severity, common consequences include a lower grade, automatically failing a course, academic suspension or probation, and even expulsion.

How do you prove someone plagiarized your work? ›

To that end, here are the five steps you need to complete to successfully prove you've been the victim of plagiarism.
  1. Step 1: Prove Your Idea/Work is Original. ...
  2. Step 2: Show What Was Copied Can Be Protected. ...
  3. Step 3: Show the Plagiarist Had Access. ...
  4. Step 4: Prove That It's Copied. ...
  5. Step 5: Prove it Lacks Attribution.
Jul 17, 2018

Should I tell my professor I plagiarized? ›

If you want to defend yourself when you are accused of plagiarism, you need to first talk to your professor about what evidence they have against you. You need to see the evidence so that you can understand how to defend yourself.

How much plagiarism is too high? ›

Going by the convention, usually a text similarity below 15% is acceptable by the journals and a similarity of >25% is considered as high percentage of plagiarism.

At what point is it paraphrasing or plagiarism? ›

Plagiarism occurs when students change words, rearrange sentences, or use synonyms when paraphrasing the original text. Paraphrasing entails expressing others' ideas in your own words so a citation must be provided.

What should you not do when paraphrasing? ›

The Don'ts
  1. Don't paraphrase without really reading and understanding the source. ...
  2. Don't look at the original as you try to paraphrase. ...
  3. Don't change the meaning of ideas or take them out of context. ...
  4. Don't change only a few words here and there.
Mar 23, 2022

Is plagiarism copying the text without paraphrasing it? ›

Verbatim plagiarism, also called direct plagiarism, means copying and pasting someone else's words into your own work without attribution. This could be text that's completely identical to the original or slightly altered.

How do I write a plagiarism disclaimer? ›

I acknowledge that copying someone else's assignment, or part of it, is wrong, and that submitting identical work to others constitutes a form of plagiarism. 5. I have not allowed, nor will I in the future allow, anyone to copy my work with the intention of passing it off as their own work.

How to convince your teacher that you didn t plagiarize example? ›

Provide your teacher with the outlines, notes or drafts, which were made for this particular paper as the proofs that you have made efforts to write the paper on your own. Provide the evidence that highlights your knowledge or skills (for example, previous essays) to prove that you didn't plagiarize in the past.

How do you write an anti plagiarism statement? ›

I declare on my honour that what has been written in this work has been written by me and that, with the exception of quotations, no part has been copied from scientific publications, the Internet or from research works already presented in the academic field by me or by other students.

Is 20% plagiarism acceptable? ›

Your work should not contain any plagiarism. Even if your score is 1%, you will need to review each similarity and decide whether it's necessary to revise your work. But contrary to popular belief, plagiarism checkers work by detecting not plagiarism, but similarities.

Is 10% plagiarism acceptable? ›

Some institutions accept Turnitin ratings as low as ten percent, while others accept as high as forty-five percent if sources are correctly referenced. No matter the acceptable grade, anything above 20 percent is excessively plagiarized and demonstrates excessive copying.

What if my teacher said I plagiarized but I didn t? ›

Most likely when you did your research, you didn't do your citations completely enough. Or perhaps you did a lot of reading and you are an unoriginal thinker, and your text matched previous work in the area (BTW, being unoriginal is more likely than being original, and that's not a bad thing).

How do teachers know if you self plagiarized? ›

Most institutions have an internal database of previously submitted student papers. Turnitin can check for self-plagiarism by comparing your paper against this database. If you've reused parts of an assignment you already submitted, it will flag any similarities as potential plagiarism.

How do you fight academic plagiarism if accused? ›

A student accused of plagiarism should consult with an attorney. Most universities have specific procedures for disputing plagiarism allegations, and there is typically a short time period to do so. An attorney can help the student navigate the university's policies and help protect the student's rights.

What word is needed to avoid plagiarism? ›

If you insert a source's words into your writing, verbatim, one of the most simple yet obvious ways to avoid plagiarism is by using quotation marks around the text to denote that the words aren't your own. A direct quote should also cite the source so that readers know who the quote is from.


1. What to do if someone is making false accusations against you.
(Ask a Lawyer - Blaine Clooten)
2. How to Prepare for Plagiarism / Academic Misconduct Hearings: Six Things to Do
(Ranywayz Random)
3. What To Do When You Suspect Plagiarism
(Sweetland Center for Writing)
4. What Happens in a University Plagiarism Hearing?
(Ranywayz Random)
5. How To Avoid Podcast Plagiarism
(Shannon Hernandez)
6. Understanding and Avoiding Accidental Plagiarism - Guide by Prof. Roger Watson


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rubie Ullrich

Last Updated: 10/14/2023

Views: 6486

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rubie Ullrich

Birthday: 1998-02-02

Address: 743 Stoltenberg Center, Genovevaville, NJ 59925-3119

Phone: +2202978377583

Job: Administration Engineer

Hobby: Surfing, Sailing, Listening to music, Web surfing, Kitesurfing, Geocaching, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Rubie Ullrich, I am a enthusiastic, perfect, tender, vivacious, talented, famous, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.