Under the pressure of the Publish or Perish system, plagiarism is spreading throughout academia. It is a phenomenon that is difficult to quantify , even though , judging from blogs about the topic, PhD theses where this problem is visible are legion.5 tips to avoid plagiarizing… Accidentally or not.

#1 KNOW THE RULES…

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Research is unanimous in confirming that the plagiarist usually develops this deviant behavior during his doctoral studies“, assures Michelle Bergadaa, a marketing and communications professor from Geneva University (Switzerland) and a plagiarism specialist. However, it is difficult to quantify this practice : In a report on fraud and plagiarism dating from April 2012,  the French General Inspectorate of the Administration of National Education and Research (IGAENR) indicates that no national census of student disciplinary referrals is conducted in higher education institutions. (Disciplinary referrals are only used for extreme plagiarism cases anyway).

For PhD students, it is nonetheless necessary to fully understand the rules. It is the Intellectual Property Code that defines plagiarism and counterfeiting as follows :
“Any reproduction, representation or distribution via whatever means of an intellectual work in violation with author’s rights”. This implies that in every copy of a third party ‘s work, it is necessary to clearly indicate the name of the author and the source, notably by using quotation marks. However, be careful about paraphrasing. It is not enough to simply replace words by others ; the sentence’s structure must be rethought, without forgetting to cite your source.

Therefore, plagiarizing verbatim an introduction is just as reprehensible as copying a diagram without authorization. Nevertheless, according to the young woman, assessment is also at fault : “in front of the thesis defense committee, scientific results will of course be valued which is not necessarily the case for a well written introduction.”

#2 … AND BE AWARE OF THE RISKS

compilatio.netUn décret de juillet 1992 sanctionne les plagiats, fraudes et tentatives de fraude. Les sanctions vont de l’avertissement à l’exclusion définitive de tout établissement public de l’enseignement supérieur. Dans les faits,  les mesures prises face à la gravité des faits diffèrent selon les établissements. » En Suisse, l’exclusion est immédiate. En France, les règles sont moins claires. Il est vrai que si le plagiat n’est pas avéré dans l’immédiat via un logiciel de détection comme Compilatio.net, le risque perdure pourtant bien après la soutenance. « Il faut avoir conscience que les thèses font partie du domaine public, et qu’il n’y a donc pas de prescription, avance Michelle Bergadaà. Une affaire de plagiat peut donc ressortir cinq voire dix ans après la publication. Un plagiaire ne sera jamais tranquille même s’il est en poste », explique la chercheuse suisse, qui recueille et publie depuis plus de dix ans de nombreux cas de plagiat sur son site Responsable.

A July 1992 decree sanctions plagiarism, fraud and attempted fraud. Sanctions can range from a warning to an expulsion from any public higher education institution.
In practice, measures taken when confronted with the seriousness of the offenses differ according to the institution.

If plagiarism is not identified immediately thanks to a plagiarism checker software like Compilatio.net, the risk of getting caught will still exist for a long time after the thesis defense.
We must be aware that PhD theses are in the public domain and therefore there is no statute of limitations ” says Michelle Bergadaa. A case of plagiarism can resurface 5 to 10 years after publication.

#3 CHOOSE YOUR THESIS SUPERVISOR WISELY

compilatio.netChoosing your thesis supervisor wisely to avoid plagiarism does not seem to be self-evident. Nonetheless, “ it is when a PhD student starts facing problems that he is presented with two options : he can either give up on the thesis or start cheating ” says Michelle Bergadaa. At that very moment, the role of the thesis supervisor is crucial. However, choosing a good thesis supervisor does not mean going for the ” nice one ” or the charismatic figure. Quite the contrary! “ Writing a thesis usually involves being confronted with a series of obstacles, more and more difficult to overcome. You should choose the one that will demonstrate honesty and that will be readily available when needed ” , she explains.

#4 GETTING ORGANIZED AND EFFECTIVELY MANAGING YOUR TIME

compilatio.netWhich PhD student has not had the feeling that time flies like an arrow during his months of research ? This coupled with the pressure from the thesis supervisor, can make the situation become explosive and lead the young researcher to make bad choices. If plagiarized works are not a new phenomenon, Internet use changes the game. “ This is a digital generation with open access to everything that however fails to realize that the information available online is not free of rights. PhD students are hardly prepared for writing, and digging through the internet has become a second nature to them ” says Helene Maurer-inset, a literature teacher, at the University of Tours and author of several essays on plagiarism.
On its website, the University of Quebec in Montreal takes a zero-tolerance approach to plagiarism and recommends, in order to avoid losing track of your references, to make reading notes with complete reference to the source, location of the quote, and a short summary. Not to mention the use of reference management software, which can also help keep records.

#5 LEARN MORE ABOUT AUTHOR’S RIGHTS

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Many PhD schools offer Patent and Intellectual Propriety training courses as well as courses that provide tips on how to turn a thesis into a book or courses on citation methods. But it’s the students who decide what courses they want to enroll in. However, Juliette Guerin does not recommend to make those courses compulsory. ” We expect PhD students to be responsible “ she points out.

A 2012 report from the French General Inspectorate of the Administration of National Education and Research (IGAENR) on scientific fraud advised to reinforce prevention efforts by raising awareness about this problem in the young researchers’ community.
In addition to training courses, many universities, whether they be in Quebec, Belgium or Switzerland provide a plagiarism self-test. Others, like Centrale Lille in France, launched an awareness video now used in some MOOCs. These are all measures intended to help a student avoid becoming a potential plagiarist. “ Otherwise he will remain a plagiarist his whole life ” assures Michel Bergadaa. With the Publish or Perish culture, plagiarism will become an automatism. Kind of like doping in cycling, she remarks. How can you ever stop ?

 

Article published by Educpros available here.