Plagiarism in Academic writing: How to Identify and Avoid It

Plagiarism is well-known as a breach of publishing ethics which is despised in the academic circle. However, while in some cases the authors engage in deliberate plagiarism, more often than not authors end up being guilty of plagiarism unknowingly. This is because plagiarism, although a very commonly used term, is a vaguely defined concept.

Plagiarism technically means using someone else’s ideas/ intellectual property as one’s own without giving proper credit to the original creator. While the first part (as one’s own) is well understood as improper appropriation, it is often the second part (giving proper credit) where author’s unintentionally falter. 

Some of the most common forms of plagiarism are:

Patchwork: patchwork refers to direct lifting or verbatim representation of another’s work without using quotations or referencing. This is the most blatant form of plagiarism.

Plagiarised ideas: This is when you pass-off someone else’s ideas as your own, even if in your own words or articulation.

Loose paraphrasing: This is the most common form of unintentional plagiarism. Authors, while discussing literature reviews, often write the content of other authors without proper attribution, which technically makes it plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism: This is the most difficult to understand the form of plagiarism. This refers to recycling of one’s own work in multiple publications. While it is difficult to comprehend how one can ‘steal’ from oneself, reproduction of the same work in multiple journal publications or presenting the same content multiple times to bolster the number of one’s publications is a problem in academics that has led to this publishing ethics.

How to avoid unintentional plagiarism:

Proper referencing: while doing your background research, keep meticulous notes of which ideas/sections are from which article. While writing, maintain side notes for proper referencing later while finalizing the article.

Quotes and paraphrasing: authors often tangle themselves up in this issue! For citing what some other author has said, it is advisable to use quotations to drive home a critical or technical detail. While discussing a concept and how others have addressed it, it is better to paraphrase it in one’s own words.

While paraphrasing, one must be careful not to reproduce the same content by just replacing certain words here and there. A proper paraphrasing would be a complete re-articulation of the source material. Proper paraphrasing is rewriting other’s content from one’s own perspective.

In both cases, proper citation or reference is mandatory.

Follow citation rules: every journal has well-defined citation and referencing norms and one must follow them judiciously. Journals nowadays prefer in-text referencing, especially for paraphrasing and quotations and it is a good habit to develop one’s writing style with in-text referencing.

Rewrite your own words: while referring to your own previous works, we often tend to copy-paste paragraphs as one likes one’s own articulation best. However, in order to avoid self-plagiarism, rewrite the content every time for a new article in the context of the new article, and you will see your language will change.

Misconduct in Research Publication

The academic world is not without its flaws. Given the mad rush to get published and the number of publications being a measure of one’s acumen, it is not surprising that many authors often resort to some of the below-mentioned misconducts. However, it must also be remembered that often younger authors unwittingly fall prey to these same misconducts simply because they are too naïve or fail to take proper precautions.

Here are some of the top misconducts in research publication and tips on how to avoid them.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is perhaps the most common and well-understood issue with the publication. It is also technically one of the most complicated to ascertain. Plagiarism refers to the inappropriate usage of other’s ideas or any intellectual property without explicit consent or attribution. Thus, if you pass off someone else’s words or works as your’s own, it is plagiarism.

However, what many young scholars miss out on is that even referring to some other study or project without proper attribution is also plagiarism, even if one does not try to pass it as one’s own idea. While citing an article, unless you quote the entire section under parentheses, you may be guilty of plagiarism. Technically, today in the publishing world it is accepted as a norm that if five consecutive words are the same as source material, it is considered plagiarism. Therefore, it is advised to be extremely careful even in the literature review section to avoid allegations of plagiarism.

Falsification: Data manipulation is one of the biggest problems of any research publication. More often than not, researchers resort to such measures to get more amicable results, to ensure their hypothesis is proven right, or simply to present a more robust and powerful finding than their peers. Technically, there can be 2 types of misconducts; fabrication of data in the form of generating fictitious data, or falsification in the form of selective choosing of data to suit one’s research objective. In either case, it is regarded as manipulation of falsification of data and is considered as grave misconduct.

Data duplication: This is misconduct often done unintentionally though there are instances when unscrupulous researchers do it on purpose. Technically, data duplication refers to creating exact copies same data, usually for back-up. However, in many research methodologies, especially those involving sampling or surveying, mishandling of data can lead to unintentional data duplication within the data set. Often this is done to artificially increase the total sample size, or to cover for failed experimentation. Data duplication leads to amplification of the results and in academic research it is considered a grave methodological error if done unintentionally and a form of data manipulation if done intentionally.

Unethical practices: unethical practices may include exposing individuals of groups to risks (say in medical experiments) without their knowledge, breach of individual privacy, non-anonymization of survey data, improper usage or disposal of hazardous materials, etc. Any research that violates any such norm, even unintentionally, is also considered as misconduct.

Decoding authorship: author, co-author, corresponding author

More often than not, a journal publication has attributions to multiple authors. However, when it comes to formal submissions, citation, and accreditation, the differences in the role played by the multiple collaborators need to be clarified; both amongst the authors themselves and between the authors and the journal to which they submit their article for publication.

Here are some factors to keep in mind when deciding on the authorship of an article publication.

Technically, the author is the one who is the principal architect of the article. Co-authors are those who work in tandem with the author to help them write the content. Co-authors are a kind of author who works with the main author and helps them give shape to the content as per the vision or ideation of the author.

There is often confusion about hierarchy and many suppose that the most senior colleague has to be the author while juniors join as co-authors. This is not necessarily always true. In some cases, when a senior scientist undertakes a major research project, they may ask their junior colleagues to help write an article even while the senior colleague is still the main architect of the entire project. In such cases, the senior colleague is the author while all juniors are co-authors.

However, there may also be situations where research scholars publish articles as part of their Ph.D. programs while their supervisors collaborate as co-authors. In such cases, the main author is still the research scholar who writes on his thesis work and the supervisor helps ensure the quality of work.

In the case of multi-disciplinary studies, two divergent subject experts may simultaneously develop an article with each working on the section specific to their field. They may mutually agree upon author co-authorship for such works.

Being a co-author does not mean one is absolved of all major responsibilities of the content or liabilities in case it is challenged. Most journals understand as a co-author one:

  • Has made significant contributions to the research and drafting of the article.
  • Has been actively engaged in drafting of the submitted manuscript, including revising or critically reviewing the submission.
  • Have agreed to submit to the journal for publication and thereby agrees to abide by all instructions for authors given by the journal.
  • Agrees to be accountable for the contents of the article and thereby shares the responsibility to respond to queries on the content along with the author.

Every journal submission requires the group of authors to identify the Corresponding author for the publication. The corresponding author is responsible for getting all approvals from fellow authors and is the principal point of contact for communicating with the journal. In the case of peer reviews, the journal will only communicate to the corresponding-author and in turn, it is the latter’s responsibility to respond back to the journal the collective opinion of the authors.

Either the author or co-author may nominate themselves as the corresponding author by mutual agreement unless the journal instructions specify otherwise.

How to write a Literature Review article for a Journal

 Literature review articles are a critical form of publication. While all research articles require a literature review section, some articles are purely dedicated stand-alone literature reviews only, published as review articles or survey articles by journals. There exists a certain journal dedicated to such articles.

Review articles are extremely popular with professionals, young students, and novice researchers benefiting immensely from such evaluations of the existing literature in their fields of expertise. Review articles also tend to be highly cited, making them appealing for both journals and authors.

Here are some key tips on how to write a good literature review article for journal publication.

Depth of knowledge: depth and breadth of knowledge is necessary to produce a truly insightful and useful literature review for publication in a journal. A review article is not just about reporting recent literature on the subject that you have come across, but really about giving a unique perspective that threads all these together. One has to read the articles, grasp their essence, and then write about it with authority and interpretive wisdom which is intellectually challenging. While most journals prefer to invite experienced experts to write literature reviews, some do accept unsolicited author submitted manuscripts for publication provided they are of high caliber.

Choice of topic: The topic must not too broad and not too narrow and choose one correctly for the type of review you would like to write. Pick a narrow topic if you intend to write a short crisp review, either about a certain procedure/methodology being explored in your field or certain types of experiments being conducted. For a wider and theoretical exploration of new ideas or burning issues in your field, choose a topic that is wide enough so that you will be able to find enough articles to discuss.

Define the scope of the article: It is very important to limit the scope of the article in order to ensure that you do not lose focus. The point of a good literature review is sharing your perspective while amalgamating various perspectives or viewpoints. It is critical not to be deviate in your discussion by shifting focus to what the others were trying to say. Remember, people will read your article for what you want to say.

Thorough background research: a literature review requires thorough background research. You have to extensively read on the subject, even if you are not covering or referencing every article that you read. While the seminal works deserve a focus, remember there are many others who might have contributed to the field as well. It is critical to develop a wider perspective and then focus and cite some key articles only in your manuscript.

Constructive criticism: A review, while being critical, should not be about nitpicking. You may differ with some authors, or highlight some lacuna that needs to be explored in the field. However, your manuscript must reflect areas of development and encouragement for your readers, and offer new grounds for academic activism on the topic. Only then will a journal consider it for publication.

Open access journals are vanishing from the web, Internet Archive stands ready to fill in the gaps

The advent of Open access journals was expected to revolutionize the academic journal publication sector. Various factors were driving the rise of open access journals, especially in the field of scientific studies. Some of the most common factors, such as time required to get published in conventional peer-reviewed journals or the high rate of rejections, were long-standing challenges for academicians, which Open access journals promised to resolve. Harnessing the benefits of digital communication technologies for faster discovery and dissemination of one’s content was another compelling attraction that these Journals offered. It must be noted that unlike subscription-based journals, Open access journals literally provided free access to anybody, thereby making the platforms more egalitarian.

However, despite these positives, there has been a considerable reduction in open access journals that has warranted special attention from the academic circle. Some of the top findings of disappearing Open access Journals are:

One of the key factors for the longevity of any such services is the funding that goes behind it. Subscription-based journals have a revenue model for sustenance. The digital formats for such journals utilize services like JSTOR or other such aggregators for global subscription bases that help these services survive. Open access journals rely heavily on grants or other forms of external funding to survive. Those backed by well-established Trusts or funding agencies have a higher chance of surviving in the long run, while those who fail to develop a steady stream of funding eventually have to shut down.

A major shortcoming in the case of Open access journals is the lack of archiving. According to Internet Archive, a not for profit organization dedicated to providing free content to users, 18 percent of all open access articles since 1945 (that amount to over three million articles), are not independently archived by any third-party preservation organization, other than the publishers themselves. Archiving is an integral part of academic articles and is critical for its discoverability in the long run.

This problem is further accentuated by the fact that many of these platforms have stringent anti-crawling measures and many small publishers do not use simple/common mechanisms like OAI-PMH and the ‘citation_pdf_url’ HTML meta tag to identify full-text content. This makes it difficult for third part discovery platforms to integrate these contents in their archives.

Another major concern is the challenges with Gold open access journal contents, in which the authors have to bear the costs of publication. In contrast, authors often prefer Green Open access or Hybrid Open access models where the publication cost is often partially mitigated for the authors. This affects the quality of content on different Open access platforms and thereby their attractiveness and longevity.

However, this is not to say that Open access journals are altogether dying off. There are still numerous journals experimenting with newer models. Often, the advent of a new and more popular one triggers the demise of an extant platform over time loses credence.

Understanding Open peer review

Peer review is a critical part of any publication in a respectable journal. However, the entire process of traditional peer review has always been criticized by the academic circle for various reasons. Some of the most common criticisms are:

  • Peer review is a subjective matter that can be both unreliable and inconsistent varying from reviewer to reviewer.
  • There are considerable delays and expenses involved in the entire process, which affect both journals and prospects of the authors.
  • There is a lack of accountability or transparency in the mechanism, leading to challenges of unscrupulous practices by a reviewer, who may choose to subvert publications that might challenge their professional interests.

In contrast to the traditional system of peer review, an alternative structure of open peer review has evolved that has been adopted by many journals today. There does not exist any definite structure to open peer review and there exist various models of open peer review. Some of the most popular forms of open peer review are:

Open Identity Peer review: Under open identity peer review the authors and reviewers are aware of each other’s identities. This is in sharp contrast to the conventional peer review system where either the author does not get to know the reviewer or both author and reviewer do not get to know each other’s identity. Open identity peer review supposedly (a) enhance accountability, further enable credit for peer reviewers, and simply make the system fairer (b) increase review quality, as a reviewer puts more effort into their reviews when their names are attached to them.

Open Reports: Under Open reports peer review, the review reports are published alongside the relevant article. This adds another layer of quality assurance, as the reviews are open to the scrutiny of the wider scientific community. Published reviews are recognition for the reviewer as well and can count in their academic records as well.

Open Participation: Open participation peer review, is a “crowdsourced peer review” that allows the wider community to contribute to the review process. Open participation is often used as a complement to a parallel process of solicited peer review and allows for wider access to reviewers who voluntarily contribute as part of enriching the academic discourse.

Open Interaction: Open interaction takes things a step further and is more like a blog format where the author, reviewer, and others can participate in an open conversation on the publication. Allowing interaction amongst authors and multiple reviewers enables a collaborative process to improve their publication.  This may be done in stages, like opening for comment before final publication.

Open peer review is still an evolving process with newer ideas being experimented. However, open peer review is not aimed to completely replace conventional peer review. This is just another form of reviewing for publication that is gaining favor amongst the academic community.

How to Write a Review Article for a Scientific or Academic Journal

Writing a peer review for a journal publication is a very important job. Any journal referring to you for peer review requests your expertise to judge if a review article meets the academic standards for publication. However, peer review is not like evaluating a submission by a student under you. Every reviewer needs to balance the perspective of the author of the publication along with the requirements of the journal.

How to approach reviewing an article

  • Start with first understanding the requirements of the journal. Most journals provide very specific instructions about the types of review articles they publish and what they expect from a reviewer. An academic journal for humanities might want narrative reviews based on the reviewer’s extensive knowledge and experience, whereas a scientific journal may prefer systematic reviews. It is best to discuss with the journal editor what exactly they are looking for from a reviewer.

 

  • Read the review article with an open mind and several times. Do remember the job is not to draft the review article as you would write it. Rather, you have to understand and respect the author’s academic Even if you may disagree with some arguments of the author, it is the author’s right to publish his arguments as long as the author is giving proper academic arguments and evidence. Your job is to ensure the review article is academically sound for journal publication.

 

  • While giving feedback to the author on the review article, remember that your ultimate goal is to discuss what the author needs to do in order to qualify for publication. The point is not to nitpick the manuscript but provide constructive and critical academic feedback that the author can use to improve their study for publication in the journal. Write the type of review you would like to receive if you were the author.

 

  • Draft a template for your review. Start with a summary of the review article that reflects what you understand of the article. This is a good start as it helps sync your thoughts with the author, and also helps the journal Follow it up with a listing of minor or major issues with the review article. Major issues refer to gaps in arguments, academic critique or fundamental questions with the research methodology, etc. Minor issues are missing or misplaced references, technical clarifications, etc. a reviewer can also add some comments addressed to only the journal editor, about issues with language, presentation, any problems with why this review article does not match the journal objectives or any such matters which you want to convey to the journal.

 

Conclusion

A reviewer has a very critical and moral responsibility. It is also an interesting job as it allows one access to the most latest academic work even before it is published. An empathetic and constructive reviewer can help both a journal and an author enrich their academic credentials.

The Process of Publishing a Research paper in a Journal

The publication of a research paper in a journal is a long and painstaking process. It involves many stages that need to be completed at the author’s end before submission to a journal. After submission, there are further steps at the publisher’s end over which the author has no control. In order to get a successful publication in good time, it is important for an author to understand the various steps involved in the process.

It all starts with the draft manuscript. A properly edited research paper, with proper references along with a good title, a short but precise abstract, and a detailed cover letter is the first step.

Any research paper submission for publication in a journal goes through an editorial screening to start with. The authors must ensure their research paper matches the focus area and objectives of the selected journal so that it is not rejected at the first stage. The best way to go about it is to follow the journal’s instructions with precision and consistency. Research papers that clear editorial screening are then forwarded for peer review.

Peer review is often a time-consuming process. Two or more reviewers are usually chosen of which one might be picked from experts the authors suggested as potential reviewers in their initial submission. Those engaging in the peer-review process are professionals from their fields of expertise who have other engagements and hence they often take time to revert back. Reviewers recommend immediate acceptance without changes or immediate rejection without reconsideration, although reconsideration after minor/ major changes is the common response.

The final decision on any research paper is taken by the editor, who reverts back to the author with comments from the editorial team or peer review. The author has to respond to the editor with a revised manuscript along with a detailed letter that explains exactly what changes were made and a compelling academic or scientific reason why certain suggestions were not accommodated.

Depending on the gravity of changes involved, the editor may decide to take a call by themselves or re-share the research paper for the second round of peer review. These processes, even though they delay the publication process, only help improve the quality of the publication and hence are very important.

When the paper is finally accepted by the editor, it goes into production for final checking and reformatting to fit the journal’s conventions and styles. The journal may revert to the author for a final proofread of the final manuscript they design for publication.

in case of a rejection, the journal will convey why the research paper was rejected. The author can take note and either rewrite the research paper to fit the journal or share it with some other journal for consideration.

Conclusion

Clarity over the publication process by a journal is important for authors, and they should prepare accordingly to ensure a smooth publication process.

What Is a Good Impact factor of a Journal?

Any researcher looking to publish an article gets tangled in the web of journal impact factor and how to select the best journal to target. While it is easy to know the impact factor of a journal, it is altogether a different challenge as to how to interpret this number. Here is an easy guide to journal impact factor and what it means.

What is the impact factor of a journal?

This is the easiest question to answer! The Journal impact factor is a measured frequency-based on citation numbers of articles from a journal in a particular year. First introduced by Eugene Garfield, the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information, the simple formula is Impact factor =A/B for any given year (X), where A is the number of citation of articles published in years (X-1 & X-2) by indexed journals during Year X; and B is the total number of citable items like articles and reviews published by that journal in the years (X-1 & X-2). Impact factors are calculated each year by Thomson Scientific for those journals that it indexes (it was 12,298 for 2017) and are published in JournalCitation Reports.

So, what are the caveats?

  • Remember, the impact factor is always dated back 3 years; one cannot know the impact factor of the present year as it will come after 2 years.
  • Impact factor analysis is limited to the 12,298 journals indexed for the JournalCitation Reports covering 27 research disciplines only. Impact factor can be calculated only after completing the minimum of 3 years of publication and therefore it cannot be calculated for a brand new journal
  • The impact factor only denotes citation of journals and not individual articles That is done by other measures like the H-index.

How do we interpret the value of a journal’s impact factor?

This is where things start getting tricky! In most fields, the impact factor of 10 or greater is considered an excellent score while 3 is flagged as good and the average score is less than 1.

However, the impact factor is best read in terms of subject matter in the form of the 27 research disciplines identified in the JournalCitation Reports. Some science streams have higher frequencies of citation while some subjects like streams in humanities may have a lower frequency of citation.

The best means of judging a journal based on the impact factor is noting the comparative score of the journal with others in the same field. So, if a journal A has a score of (say) 5 while the next journal B has a score of 2, that is different from a journal C having a score of 10 while the next journal D has a score of 9. It is the relative score that matters while choosing a journal for publication.

In Conclusion

The impact factor of a journal, although the most credible metric for judging journals, must be properly contextualized. There are other factors too must be considered for articles published in any journal.

Attending international conferences and publishing research papers during COVID-19 pandemic

  1. Attending international scientific conferences

Many scientific researchers and scholars are still in doubt about attending international conferences before the development of any efficient vaccine or drug against coronavirus.

In this unusual year for research, scientists are restricted to attend any conferences until further notice. As a result, many international scientific conferences have been canceled. Scientific conferences are the crucial platforms for the researchers to share their work, make contacts, and interact for research collaborations.

As the numbers of positive cases are rising worldwide, public gatherings are being discouraged or banned in order to restrict the spread of the virus.

Many of the conference organizers with the help of participants are organizing conferences in the online platforms by creating virtual conferences and mimicking key components of a physical meeting, such as QAs, ratings, etc.

Advantages of online conference meetings

  • Reduction in paper waste generated from print up copies or leaflets of conference programs by replacing it with Google documents.
  • Online presentations are more sustainable than long-distance conference travel.
  • More efficient conference recordings which can be posted later on.
  • Inviting unlimited guests and participants as there is no space limitation.

 

  1. Publishing your research paper in the right journal

Since the outbreak has begun, the number of articles in the research journals has been skyrocketed. Also, to support global research during the COVID-19 pandemic, many publishers have made their peer review process flexible for articles related to virology, infectious diseases, epidemics, etc.

Under these circumstances, publication in predatory journals are kept on rising.

Here, we are suggesting some of the key points which can be considered when selecting the right journal for your research article during this pandemic:

  • Examine the nature of the journal before submitting your valuable paper to them. Check if they are legit or predatory.
  • The scope of the journal must be considered before submitting the paper to the target journal.
  • The quality of any journal is assessed on the basis of how many abstracting and indexing services cover that journal.
  • The impact factor of a journal is used as an indicator of the significance of a journal in its category (field).
  • A rapid but authentic publication which can shorten the peer-review process.

 

 With the numbers of COVID-19 cases growing exponentially and lockdown in most of countries, researchers can be productive even if they cannot work on their research project at the moment. Attending online conferences and publishing their research work can be a good option for utilizing their valuable time.