Published work is under the spotlight
The research community is not forgiving. Take care to protect your academic integrity and avoid the penalties and embarrassment associated with misconduct.
Your research is not complete until the findings are communicated to others. Presenting at seminars, conferences and having your work published in journals and books are the most common ways to disseminate the results of your work.
Be warned. The moment you publish, your work is under the spotlight. If you fail to accurately cite the sources of your information, there are serious consequences for plagiarism.
What is ‘Plagiarism’?
The simplest definition is using someone else’s work - their words, ideas and images - without acknowledging them. Most students are aware of the need to avoid plagiarism in assessment submissions.
In educational contexts, the penalty for plagiarism is usually a failing grade. It is considered cheating. For researchers, the repercussions are more extreme and may result in a legal claim against you. It is considered fraud.
Let’s be clear. If you use someone else’s work, that person must always be recognised as the original source of that work. In your research, this includes citing the original authors of any:
- information contained within literature reviews
- questionnaires or methodologies used
- theoretical frameworks being examined through the research.
Apart from the negative repercussions associated with plagiarism, it’s important to accurately cite the sources of your information for your own academic integrity. Correct referencing ensures the author is recognised, and makes it easier for readers to access the original source.
Plagiarism is just not worth it.
An important note on republishing your results
Did you know it is considered highly unethical to republish research results if you have already published them elsewhere? Once your study is complete, it’s also not acceptable to publish your analysis of a part of the data. Read more in Rao & Andrade’s article Part publication: When it is ethical and when it is not
Whose research is it?
The protection of intellectual property is an area under increasing legislative control. Sometimes the lines become blurred when determining who the intellectual ownership of research belongs to. When it comes to intellectual property, you need to consider not only the tangible items related to research (such as the data collected) but also the cognitive sources of the work. In other words, whose ideas and thoughts resulted in the research?
Always nut out the details of intellectual property prior to conducting your study, particularly if it involves a number of different parties. Don’t shy away from having the ‘hard conversation’ and always follow up with written agreements. This is standard practice, as it helps prevent the pain and inconvenience associated with breaches of intellectual property in the future.
Fabricating data? Don’t go there.
Misrepresenting or falsifying findings is unacceptable. While you may think the thought of fabricating data is inconceivable, there continue to be many instances of researchers doing it - and their work being subsequently retracted because of it. As we discussed earlier, it’s human nature to want to see results we hope to be there. However, making those results ‘magically’ and fraudulently appear is gross misconduct. Not only will your own reputation be destroyed, the ripple out effect can also have disastrous consequences for the wider research community. Mayer’s (2016) comment below provides some insight into the problem.
‘As research is incremental, any false data affects everything built on what has been published. I’m working on a case now, concerned with falsification of data, that involves the retraction of some papers. One of the papers has already been cited 89 times; that’s 89 other papers based on falsified data that have been affected.’
Academic misconduct has far reaching repercussions. Our advice? Don’t do it.
Select the comments link and share your experiences with referencing. Are you confident on how to avoid plagiarism or is this a skill you need to research further?
Mayer, T. (2016). Why unethical research behavior could result in a revoked doctorate. Elsevier.
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