Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing

Miguel Roig, Ph.D.


Plagiarism of text


When it comes to using others’ word-for-word (verbatim) text in our writing the universally accepted rule is to enclose that information in quotations and to indicate the specific source of that text.  When quoting text from other you must provide a reference citation and the page number indicating where the text comes from.  Although using direct quotes is not a very common occurrence in the biomedical literature, there may be occasions when it might be warranted.  The material quoted earlier from Gilchrist (1979) serves as a good example of when to use quotations.


Guideline 2: Any verbatim text taken from another author must be enclosed in quotation marks.


Although the evidence indicates that most authors, including college students, are aware of rules regarding the use of quotation marks, plagiarism of text is probably the most common type of plagiarism.  However, plagiarism of text can occur in a variety of forms.  The following review will allow the reader to become familiar with the various subtle forms of plagiarism of text. 

Let’s consider the following variety:

The above form of plagiarism is relatively well known and has been given names, such as patchwriting (Howard, 1999) and paraphragiarism (Levin & Marshall, 1993).  Iverson, et al. (1998) in the American Medical Association’s Manual of Style identify this type of unethical writing practice as mosaic plagiarism and they define it as follows:

                        “Mosaic: Borrowing the ideas and opinions from an original source

and a few verbatim words or phrases without crediting the original

author.  In this case, the plagiarist intertwines his or her own ideas

and opinions with those of the original author, creating a ‘confused

plagiarized mass’” (p. 104).


Another, more blatant form which may also constitute plagiarism of ideas occurs when an author takes a portion of text from another source, thoroughly paraphrases it, but never gives credit to its author.


Guideline 3: We must always acknowledge every source that we use in our writing; whether we paraphrase it, summarize it, or enclose it quotations.