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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 87-88

Plagiarism: Is it time to rethink our approach?

Department of Urology, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication26-Jun-2013

Correspondence Address:
Nitin S Kekre
Department of Urology, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Vellore, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-1591.114016

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How to cite this article:
Panda A, Kekre NS. Plagiarism: Is it time to rethink our approach?. Indian J Urol 2013;29:87-8

How to cite this URL:
Panda A, Kekre NS. Plagiarism: Is it time to rethink our approach?. Indian J Urol [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Dec 9];29:87-8. Available from:

Copy from one, its plagiarism; copy from two, its research.

- Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) US screenwriter

Last summer during a visit to a school in England, I chanced upon an item in the notice board - a group discussion about plagiarism. The high school students were encouraged to discuss and debate about it in school forums and were consequently made aware very early in life about its perils. Recently, a researcher brought to our notice that an article published in the IJU had heavily borrowed and copied from an earlier article published in another Indian surgical journal. In this issue, we have retracted a previously published an article as we find the contents are very similar to another published article - a duplicate publication.

Plagiarism is a serious form of scientific misconduct. Broadly it refers to the misappropriation of another person's work without credit to the originator or reproducing a one's own work, which was published previously. It may involve ideas, text or thoughts. However, despite increasing awareness and discussion, it remains poorly defined.

Original thought is valued highly in the scientific world and preventing plagiarism preserves its sanctity. However, some plagiarism may be accidental, particularly in the non-western world. Persons whose first language is not English may not realize what exactly constitutes plagiarism. Lack of command over the English language may result in paraphrasing too closely; not finding a better way to state an idea might result in the use of the same sentences as the original without quotation marks. Authors often are surprised to learn that using the same words and phrases even when cited and referenced constitutes plagiarism. Often in certain cultures, ideas are not owned in the western concept; it is often considered a form of deep respect to quote a person's words and ideas (Andrea Lunsford).

Self-plagiarism remains another area of concern. Authors tend to think copying from one's own previously published writing is acceptable. This often takes the form of an article that overlaps substantially with what has been published by the same author elsewhere.

   Fair Use Versus Plagiarism Top

The lines between deliberate or accidental plagiarism have been further blurred with the advent of visual media (including images) and electronic sources. Copyright and plagiarism are often overlapping and related. Technically, the weaving of borrowed media materials into a PowerPoint presentation without citation/prior permission is a copyright violation and plagiarism. Fair use refers to the use of copyrighted material that has been used in academic work, in good faith use without intention of commercial gain. The type of material - factual or creative and the amount of the material that is reproduced also matter. In most institutions, both plagiarism and fair use rights are poorly if at all defined.

   Teaching Scientific Writing Top

Today, the ability to disseminate our ideas is valued highly. Yet, in our academic institutions we do not teach communication or scientific writing. It is a skill that is as equally important as patient care. It is also important to know what is common knowledge - what is uncited in most articles, what readers would usually know or can be found in a general reference source.

While the use of plagiarism checking software would reduce plagiarism, it will be the formal teaching of scientific writing that will have the most impact in the long-term. In our experience, most plagiarism is accidental. It is also important that institutions have clearly defined policies regarding plagiarism and fair use. The disincentives if caught should also be clearly stated. As copyright laws become more stringent, this is urgently needed.

As teachers we do need to detect, stop and have a low tolerance for plagiarised material, but it is even more important that we help students to become good independent thinkers and ethical researchers rather than just be on the look out to catch the villains.

In this issue, Giuseppe Palermo et al. discuss sexual outcomes after organ sparing surgery in penile cancer. The benefits must be balanced against possible adverse oncological outcome. Waigankar et al. present their results of living donor renal transplantation across blood groups. In a country with a long waiting list for transplantation widespread adoption can be a boon if it is proved to be cost effective. Manmeet Singh et al. have presented their series on dorsal onlay vaginal graft urethroplasty for mid and proximal urethral stricture in females. Substitution urethroplasty for female strictures is rarely performed; it will be interesting to see the long-term results.


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