What Is Academic Plagiarism?

  • M. V. Dougherty
Part of the Research Ethics Forum book series (REFF, volume 6)


This chapter defends a fourfold heuristic for determining when academic plagiarism has occurred. Drawing from contemporary literature on research integrity, I propose that academic plagiarism has been committed when there is: (1) a non-trivial appropriation of words, images, or formulas, (2) with inadequate credit, (3) that generates an appearance of original authorship, (4) in a discrete item belonging to the scholarly record. This approach is sufficiently general to include a wide range of text manipulations, and yet it is sufficiently narrow to express to the particularities of plagiarism in the context of published research findings. In defending this heuristic, I argue that intent is not required for academic plagiarism, and I propose that academic plagiarism should be treated as a strict-liability offense. The presence or absence of a guilty mind or mens rea is irrelevant to the need to correct the scholarly record when publications themselves are deficient. Intent may be an important element to be considered by institutions that have the role of investigating and punishing wrongdoers for scientific misconduct, but intent should be considered immaterial by members of the research community who have the privilege and responsibility of maintaining the reliability of publications for the world of learning. Too often the role of correcting the scholarly record is conflated with the role of investigating and issuing punishments for research misconduct, but the two are quite different. The chapter also considers the topic of duplicate or redundant publication (often called “self-plagiarism”), and it distinguishes academic plagiarism from copyright violation.


Academic plagiarism Self-plagiarism Copyright Research misconduct Fraud 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • M. V. Dougherty
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyOhio Dominican UniversityColumbusUSA

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