Plagiarism is a serious offence. It is not just professional misconduct, but may also bear legal implications in the lines of copyright violations and intellectual property theft. Though commonly an act of commission, plagiarism often results from authors inadvertently copying content without being aware of applicable guidelines. The following noteworthy tips, published in Perspectives in Clinical Research can be made use of when submitting articles to peer reviewed medical journals. We also recommend reading the entire article to gain thorough understanding of the issue of Plagiarism in Medical Publishing.

COMMON TIPS FOR AVOIDING PLAGIARISM*

  • Ethical medical writers must always acknowledge the original source of the idea, text, or illustration.
  • They must remember to enclose within quotation marks, all the text that has been copied verbatim from another source.
  • When paraphrasing, they must read the text, understand completely, and then use only their own words.
  • Even when explaining somebody else’s ideas in their own words, it is important that they properly acknowledge the original source.
  • When not sure if the idea/fact they wish to include is common knowledge, a medical writer must cite references.
  • They must cite references accurately. The writer must read the instructions to authors to know what style they need to use. Biomedical journals commonly use the Vancouver style. Some textbook publishers prefer the Harvard referencing style. Insufficient and inaccurate acknowledgement can also amount to plagiarism.
  • A medical writer should avoid writing multiple separate articles if he can present a large complex study in a cohesive manner in a single article.
  • Along with the manuscript, he should submit a cover letter to the editor, clearly stating any instances of overlapping from previous publications and asking for advice.
  • Last, but not the least, if he feels he has unintentionally used somebody else’s ideas or text without appropriate referencing, he needs to write to the editor of the journal for advice. Confession is always better than to be caught stealing.”

*Das N, Panjabi M. Plagiarism: Why is it such a big issue for medical writers? Perspect Clin Res. 2011;2(2):67–71.