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  • Writer's pictureMarie-Avril Roux Steinkühler

The Rookie Plagiarist’s Handybook, or how do plagiarists erase other authors in 10 lessons

The article by Béatrice Durand and Marie-Avril Roux Steinkühler lists the violations of scientific integrity, intellectual property rights and research ethics involved in plagiarism. MARS-IP informs you.

Researchers feed off the work of other researchers : thus, research advances by building on and developing previous work. Today's researchers, whatever their field, do not create anything out of the blue: they are obliged to cite previous work that has inspired their own. In this way, they show not only their sources, but also what they have found that is new. On the other hand, if he does not mention his sources, he gives the impression that he is the originator and does not advance research. Furthermore, he erases his misled colleagues and violates their right to have their names cited, an essential attribute of the moral right of authorship.

Authorship is essential in order to maintain scientific integrity. Protected by both the Berne Convention and the European Charter for Researchers, scientific works confer on their authors prerogatives and duties. They must therefore comply with both research ethics and intellectual property law. The following ten points, detailed in the article "Pour une écriture scientifique respectueuse des principes de la paternité intellectuelle. Droit et déontologie", written by Béatrice Durand and Marie-Avril Roux Steinkühler and published in the Cahiers Méthodologiques de l'IRAFPA, Vol. 1, No. 1, describe the main legal and ethical violations in the case of plagiarism and draw up a veritable catalogue of the tools used by plagiarists to reproduce another's work without citing it:

1/ Use of synonyms: this is the basic technique of the amateur plagiarist, who reformulates the original ideas by using terms with the same meaning, so that his "borrowing" is as inconspicuous as possible.

2/ Syntax modification: grammatically, the original sentence is modified, but the meaning remains the same. The form is changed, but the content remains the same.

3/ Interpolation: also known as the "patchwork effect", this consists of breaking up the original text and distributing it within the text, like the tiles in a mosaic. Scattered in this way, the terms of the original author are difficult to identify.

4/ Merging or condensing terms: reduced or merged, phrases and ideas borrowed from the first author are much less likely to be recognizable.

5/ Paraphrasing: If the use and arrangement of certain terms reflect an original approach by the first author, those terms may be protected by copyright. Paraphrasing is deemed as plagiarism if the original source is not cited.

6/ Misappropriation of data or primary sources: the issue is less clear-cut. According to copyright law, sources are in the public domain and can be used freely; according to deontology, they must be protected and cited. However, jurisprudence has taken into account the arrangement and selection of sources whose originality bears the hallmark of the author's choice and can therefore be legally protected.

7/ The "pawn sacrifice": this tactic, named after a chess maneuver, consists in actually citing the plagiarized author, but only with regard to minor elements, so as not to mention the most important parts, which makes it difficult to detect.

8/ Self-plagiarism: this consists in reproducing one's own work, presenting it as new and not mentioning how old it is. Although self-plagiarism is not punishable by law, professional ethics consider it to be a misconduct that misleads the reader as to its novelty. It may also constitute a violation of the exclusivity clause of a publishing contract.

9/ Adding one's name to the list of co-authors: by adding one's name to the list of authors of a publication, this practice creates authorship ex nihilo. The Code of Ethics also penalizes the practice of placing the name of a co-author at the end of the list (a widespread practice aimed at minimizing the contribution of young researchers to research).

10/ Unauthorized disclosure of the work of others: this is an offense punishable by law and professional ethics as a violation of the moral rights of the author and is severely punished by the courts. There are many situations in which a researcher's work may be made public, such as the examination of a dissertation before it is defended, or participation in conferences.

Do you have questions about plagiarism in your research? MARS-IP regularly advises and represents researchers and research institutions in defending their rights and drafting their contracts and internal rules in Germany, France and internationally. Please contact us for more information.

Marie-Avril Roux Steinkühler

Rémi Fouque

Photo by Ahmad Ardity de Pixabay


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