MET workshops

Handling plagiarism: an interactive workshop for manuscript editors*

Manuscript editors (author’s editors, copy editors) are seeing a considerable amount of copy-paste writing. With the accessibility of abstracting and indexing services, the number of abstracts and full-text articles available online has increased tremendously, and it has been speculated that, as a result, more authors tend to resort to non-selective copy-pasting to overcome insecurity in producing texts in English or simply to draft manuscripts faster. Those from countries where English is not the first language have usually been blamed, but native English speakers have also been found to engage in patch-writing (also called microplagiarism). In the era of the Internet, textual plagiarism has become easy and convenient and may even be seen as a normal practice in some circles. Software tools have made plagiarism easier to detect, and both manuscript editors and editorial board members now need to make choices about how best to respond when they detect this form of misconduct.

Facilitators: Marije de Jager and Dado Čakalo

Developers: Mary Ellen Kerans, Marije de Jager and Dado Čakalo

Purpose: To provide manuscript editors with background knowledge and a structured method to deal with more and less serious degrees of plagiarism.

Description: The workshop is about helping manuscript editors effectively remedy textual plagiarism in conjunction with the authors who engage in the practice. Various tools for plagiarism detection will be illustrated. We will discuss ways to address the issue with authors. We will look at the roles of different types of editors in different settings (freelance, in-house, post-acceptance, pre-submission) and suggest how they can counsel journal editors. We will talk about where to draw the line between accepting and rejecting papers with plagiarism. The facilitators welcome discussion with participants in the form of case reports of participants’ own experience.

Structure: In a brief introduction we will formulate a working definition of textual plagiarism and microplagiarism and have a look at the breadth of the problem. We will then break the managing approaches down into those used at the editorial office of a journal and those used at the freelance workplace (author’s editing and freelance copyediting). The presentation sections of the workshop will be alternated with practical exercises and discussion with participants about their own experience related to the detection and management of plagiarism.

Who should attend? Manuscript editors, including freelance copy editors, in-house copy editors, journal editors and author’s editors.*

Outcome skills: Participants will learn about what others are doing when they encounter plagiarism in manuscripts, and will learn what steps they can take to address the issue with the authors and journal editors they work with.

Pre-meeting reading: The poster “A manuscript editor’s guide to handling plagiarism” (de Jager and Kerans 2009, first shown at the conference of the European Association of Science Editors in Pisa, 16-19 Sept 2009) has a reference section with useful pre-reading. Looking at some of the discussion threads on forums for editorial board members and reading some of the articles on the poster’s reference list will help you come to the workshop with an idea of the breadth of the problem and attitudes toward it.

For example, we particularly recommend reading the listserve discussions of the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME):
About the facilitators:

Marije de Jager is a freelance copy editor and translator living in Rovereto, Italy. She has been working in medical editing and translating for more than 20 years and currently edits several English-language medical journals published in Italy.

Dado Čakalo is editorial assistant and copy editor of Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, head of the Science Documentation Section at the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health in Zagreb, and a freelance translator/editor.

* Participants who work only occasionally with academic manuscripts for publication or who are just beginning to work in this field are urged to attend the Righting Citing workshop before this one. If that’s not possible, please look carefully at the description and consider the issues raised in the pre-meeting information provided there. Although this workshop targets manuscript editors, we note that academic translators also find “translated plagiarism” in which large portions of text are translated from sources in the literature, reflecting the original paragraphing and sequencing of ideas. Academic translators thus also need to address this issue from time to time.