The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and The Good Research Practice developed by Estonian research institutions (both 2017) have defined the basic values in the academic world as follows: 

  • freedom to gather ideas, define questions and conduct research;

  • honesty and reliability in planning, creating and publishing research, which means that data is not fabricated and there is no manipulation of the authorship;

  • respect and care for colleagues, research participants, society, ecosystems, cultural heritage and the environment; 

  • accountability – the author is responsible for the organization, management and publication of the research, as well as for its impacts; the author understands that his/her actions and research may have an impact on other people and generations to come;

  • openness, i.e. transparency as far as the goals, financial sources, outcomes etc. are concerned;

  • collaboration 

Since Tallinn University follows the Good Research Practice, we agree to base our activities related to study, research and creative work on the above-mentioned values. 

According to the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity the most common practices of ethical misconduct in research are plagiarism, fabrication and falsification as these practices involve manipulation of (former) research material, which can result in distortion of the research record. As far as plagiarism is concerned, it refers to practices of using other people’s work and ideas without giving proper credit to the original source.

Even though the Estonian Copyright Act provides that ideas are owned by everyone, in the research and cultural world a new idea/concept/theory has great value and their creators therefore deserve to be referred to by name. The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2017) defines plagiarism as the fraudulent misuse of work and ideas. Hence making reference to the original source is an essential skill. It can and must be developed and university is the right place for doing it. 

The following overview of the most common forms of plagiarism is the result of teamwork within a LIFE project from spring semester 2019. Students based their work on general material from a plagiarism detection service Turnitin and created comments based on this material, whereas the supervisors of the project adjusted the work to fit the needs of Tallinn University. The list was comprised on incidence basis. 

1. Cloning

Cloning means verbatim copying of another person’s work and submitting it as one’s own, i.e. lying about the author of the work. The reasons for doing it might be that the time to be spent on writing and conducting the work is greater than expected, poor time management skills, academic stress on students. There are different methods of cloning – the work can be downloaded from a website or database, it could have been ordered from a shadow writer or bought from a (restricted) database. Whatever the case, the author is someone else. In the academic world, this form of violation is seen as particularly serious. 

Please bear in mind that it also applies to pictures, films, and sound compositions!

How to do it right? 

A new creation normally requires more work than initially planned, it is therefore recommended to start your work in good time (usually easier said than done). Already when reading through the source material it is advisable to use reference management software (e.g. Mendeley, Zotero, etc.). before submitting your paper it is possible to check if the referencing is properly done by using plagiarism detection services (e.g. Kratt, Urkund with the help of the lecturer)

In any case, fraudulent authorship must be avoided, services offered in internet should be treated with caution. A paper that is the result of honest work, however imperfect, is always better than the one bought or stolen.

2. Patchwork plagiarism – combining material from different uncited sources

It is a form of plagiarism where the text has been copied/obtained from different sources; the material is rearranged into one whole and presented as one’s own original work. It becomes especially problematic if the sources have not been referred to – then it is automatically treated as plagiarism. 

It can happen that the student changes the wording and uses paraphrasing appropriately but the lack or uncertainty of references does not reflect the authorship of the material read properly. Such deficiencies are usually caused by the lack of referencing skills or taking notes while reading. 

All plagiarism detection services can detect the original sources of texts composed of fragments of different texts. If the original source is in anther language and the student has translated it but has not provided reference, it can often be detected by the supervisor or opponent.  

How to do it right? 

Be honest. Make references to all the materials you have actually used. use reference management software (e.g. Mendeley, Zotero, etc) to be able to check later where you have obtained the information from. 

3. Copy-paste – a large amount of text from one uncited course

Once in a while we all use the function of copy-paste but applying it in academic writing one has to exercise care. There are no specific rules as to the amount of copy-pasted text; people who assess the work make the decision. 

Students may sometimes find it difficult to tell the difference between paraphrasing and quoting. For example, the transferred sentence or wording has a reference, but the proper way to do it would be to use quotation marks i.e. to quote. Such mistakes may be caused by carelessness or ignorance. 

How to do it right? 

If you use the exact wording, sentences or passages from one source, it should be a quotation. When paraphrasing, try to convey the meaning of the text in your one words; refer to the author and the work your text is based on. When citing, make sure that the reference is in the right place- the reader should clearly understand which part of the text the reference is about. 

Be careful with the information you consider general knowledge where referencing is not required or the material is not protected by copyright- the need for referencing may often depend on the context. If in doubt- use references, You can also turn to your lecturer for advice. 

Please see the guidelines on writing final theses provided by your academic unit. 

4. Self-plagiarism

It is also necessary to cite your earlier work if you want to use some ideas from it. Otherwise it can be considered self-plagiarism.

Students quite often submit papers that have been previously used for another course with the intention to save time. Sometimes such practice can be allowed, but only if previously agreed with the lecturer, in which case it is considered as presenting one's previous knowledge but adding new value to it and presenting it from a new angle. 

According to TLU Study Regulations it is seen as disregard for academic practice if the same paper is repeatedly presented for assessment in an unchanged form and it may result in deletion from the Matriculation Register. 

How to do it right? 

In this section we refer to the practice of repeatedly submitting one's paper for assessment in an unchanged form. The development of initial ideas in subsequent work, on the other hand, is looked upon very favourably since creative and research work means a step-by-step process. If for some reason you need your work or parts thereof, cite yourself. 

Even if some time ago citing oneself in academic writing was considered as ostentatious, it has now become the only right thing to do. 

5. Find-replace – changing words and characters

In case of find-replace the student has found a sentence or passage from a source he/she wants to use, but knowing that copy-paste is not right, the student changes the wording. It usually occurs when the student does not know how to paraphrase.

Playing around with synonyms has become quite popular and there are even computer programmes to "offer" the services. A careful reader, however, can spot parts of the text where computer assistance has been used. 

Modern plagiarism detection services can identify visual manipulation of texts (e.g. replacement of similar letters from another alphabet, etc.)

How to do it right? 

Read the material through, paraphrase the text by using your own words. Add reference to the source. Finding synonyms should not become an aim in itself.  

6. Hybrid

Hybrid refers to the act of combining cited passages with uncited passages. The aim is to hide uncited text or trying to add sentences from random sources to the cited text. It is used to save time. If done unintentionally, it refers to the lack of skills in referencing or taking notes. 

How to do it right? 

Be honest.

7. Citing non-existent sources or authors

It occurs when the text includes references to sources that do not exist or the text includes information that cannot be found in the sources referred to.

This form of plagiarism may occur when the entire source is not read through and the information is invented to save time. It can also happen unintentionally when the texts has been misunderstood while taking notes and ideas that have not been originally mentioned in the author's work are written down. The mistake can also be caused by the lack of referencing skills or knowledge of rules. 

How to do it right? 

Be honest.  

Within the context of studies it is important to bear in mind that Tallinn University does not have uniform guidelines on referencing. Academic units have their own guidelines, based on the field of studies. These guidelines also determine the referencing style to be used in academic papers. For more information please see the guidelines on writing final theses provided by your academic unit or intended for your field of studies (can be found on the webpage of the academic units). 

In university, we use Urkund as our main tool for detecting plagiarism. However, free online tools are also available for self-monitoring purposes (e.g. plagiarismdetector.net, duplichecker.com and others). 

If you wish to test your referencing skills and knowledge, you can do it HERE (Test in English, from ENAI webpage) 

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For compiling this material, the following sources have been used: 

1. Examples of plagiarism: team work within a LIFE project from spring semetser 2019 (authors H. Sams, J. Mägi, K. Kalmberg. M. Järvik)

2. The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. Web. 08.07.2019https://www.allea.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ALLEA-European-Code-of-Conduct-for-Research-Integrity-2017.pdf

3. Turnitin (2016). Web.08.07.2019. https://www.turnitin.com/static/plagiarism-spectrum/

4. Webster University (date not available). Web.08.07.2019.  

http://www.webster.edu/academic-resource-center/plagiarism_prevention/understanding_plagiarism.html

5. ENAI (European Network for Academic Integrity) (2017-19). Web 08.07.2019. http://www.academicintegrity.eu/wp/