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Replication of the methods section in biosciences papers: is it plagiarism?


To find out whether replication of methods section in biosciences papers is a kind of plagiarism, the authors firstly surveyed the behavior of authors when writing the methods section in their published papers. Then the descriptions of one well-established method in randomly selected papers published in eight top journals were analyzed using CrossCheck to identify the extent of duplication. Finally, suggestions on preparing the methods sections were given. The survey results show that an author may employ different approaches to writing the methods section within a paper, repeating published methods is more often than give citation only or rewrite complete using one’s own words. Authors are more likely to repeat the description of a method than simply to provide a citation. From the samples of the eight leading journals, plagiarize is very rare in such journals; Learning from Science, attachment may be a considerable choice for papers with common methods.

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The authors sincerely not only acknowledge the substantial help and advice provided by Sally Morris at all stages in the preparation of this paper, but also would like to express heartfelt thanks to all respondents in the survey. This work is part of a research study commissioned by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) with the aim of developing evidence-based guidance for journal editors on how to deal with different kinds of plagiarism detected through the use of CrossCheck (

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Correspondence to Yuehong Zhang.

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Jia, X., Tan, X. & Zhang, Y. Replication of the methods section in biosciences papers: is it plagiarism?. Scientometrics 98, 337–345 (2014).

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  • Publication ethics
  • Duplication methods