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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 87-88
Plagiarism: The scientific and literary theft

Clinical Tutor and Academic Co-ordinator Institute, of Child Health Kolkata, India

Correspondence Address:
Arunaloke Bhattacharya
H. No. 1A, Kalibari Lane Jadavpur, Kolkata - 700032
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5154.26925

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How to cite this article:
Bhattacharya A. Plagiarism: The scientific and literary theft. Indian J Dermatol 2006;51:87-8

How to cite this URL:
Bhattacharya A. Plagiarism: The scientific and literary theft. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2006 [cited 2022 Jan 25];51:87-8. Available from:

What are the similarities between Kaavya S. Viswanathan and Dan Brown? Apart from the fact they are writers of two famous books, they were both accused of borrowing the ideas from others' works. Dan Brown, the author of the famous thriller Da-Vinci Code was found to have some common ideas from the book ''Holy Blood, Holy Grail,'' by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, a best seller in the 1980's.A recently-published novel by Harvard undergraduate Kaavya Viswanathan, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," contains several passages that are strikingly similar to two books by Megan F. McCafferty - the 2001 novel "Sloppy Firsts" and the 2003 novel "Second Helpings." As a result this 19 year old Viswanathan was stripped off the $500,000 contract with the publisher and her future as a writer is doomed. Dan Brown somehow escaped the allegation in the court of law.

It was found dishonesty is primitive, ancient, and a fairly common quality of living being on the earth. In this world of rat race something is frequently claimed which is not of the claimant's. If it is done overtly it demonstrates the brashness. If it is done covertly it amounts to cowardice. To do it efficiently qualifies an expertise; since ultimate success of a theft essentially lies in the theft passing undetected. One such dishonest practice that has become trendy in these days of digital revolution is called PLAGIARISM.


The term Plagiarism comes from the Latin Word "Plagiarism", which means kidnapper (plagiarius). The presentation of the work of another person as one's own or without proper acknowledgement.

The "Work of another person" can mean:

1. An entire work by another.

2. Ideas taken from a source.

3. Exact words taken from a source - from just a few words to entire passages.

4. The organization or structure of a source's explanation or argument.

5. Information that is not common knowledge taken from a source.[1]


1. Ellen Roche died in a hexamethonium drug trial. The 18 year old was subjected to experiment to see the pathology and physiology of bronchial asthma. At that time hexamethonium was used as an antihypertensive. It was revealed that though the researcher searched PubMed, which lists article back to about 1960, none of those articles revealed the fatality of the drug. Thorough search could have identified the hazards of the drug. Subsequently FDA has withdrawn the drug.[2]

2. The New England Journal of Medicine has retracted an article on Iraq war published on October 24, 2002 since the authors resorted to forgery to get their article accepted for publication.[3]

3. B.S.R head of Kumaun University resigned after an investigation committee found him guilty of "word by word plagiarism".[4]

4. The latest example of plagiarism is how MMR vaccine is related to autism. If any one wants to show how bad MMR vaccine is clicking these two key words will open the floodgate. Dr. Arthur Krigsman has been claiming for years now that he has found evidence-linking MMR to autism and bowel disease. But detailed study has shown that this is not true.[5]


1. Maslow's hierarchy of needs includes esteem needs. First is self-esteem, which results from competence or mastery of a task. Second, there is the attention and recognition that comes from others. When second takes precedence over the first, it may usher dishonesty including plagiarism.[6]

2. Theory of evolution: Richard Dawkins an evolutionary theorist focused on this hypothesis. Utilization of someone else's means or actions to increase one's own fitness is a part of the game. To be competent, successful and honest at the same time is becoming even more difficult. The actual contributions or intentions are no longer measured, but only the capacity to make a good impression with a minimum of effects is accounted for. So the seed of Plagiarism is sown automatically.[7]

Reactions after being caught for palgiarism

After a challenge by an authority the reactions are:

1. Silence.

2. Denial.

3. Evasion.

4. Rationalization.[8]


Medical council of India in its notification dated 11th March 2002, has brought research misconduct in the ambit of its rules. In USA, the office of science and technology has made a significant contribution by defining Research Misconduct and laying down the requirements for finding such misconduct.[9]

The 'Fair use' exemption in (U.S.) copyright law was created to allow things such as commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education about copyrighted works without the permission of the author. Quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment is fair use.
"Fair use" is the frequent excuse one may offer if caught with an allegation of plagiarism.[8]

Guidelines for avoiding PLAGIARISM:[10],[11],[12],[13]


Practice is essential to learning. Each time you choose your words, order your thoughts and convey your ideas, you can improve your writing.


If you repeat another's exact words, you must use quotation marks and cite the source. If you adapt a chart or paraphrase a sentence, you must still cite. Paraphrase means that you restate the author's ideas, meaning, and information in your own words.


Examples: using "less" for "fewer," reversing the order of a sentence, changing terms in a computer code, or altering a spreadsheet layout. If the work is essentially the same, give credit.


Always cite words, information, and ideas you use if they are new to you (learned in your research). No matter where you find it - even in an encyclopedia or on the Internet - you cite it.


You don't have to cite "common knowledge," BUT the fact must really be commonly known. That Abraham Lincoln was the U.S. President during the Civil War is common knowledge; that over 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the Battle of Gettysburg[13] is not.


Better to be safe than not give credit when you should.

"They had their lean books with the fat of others works.''

- Robert Burton

   Conclusion Top

Plagiarism and her two twins fabrication and falsification, emanate from human greed. There may be psychological and evolutionary basis of such behavior. Yet in the arena of Science, there is need for behavior modulation more with carrots and less with sticks. Our further evolution ought to be acquisitioned respecting intellectual property rather than adaptive in the struggle for our existence as Scientists.

   References Top

1.Resource on Avoiding Plagiarism. Department of political science, Concordia University.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Bo J, Pelton T. Hopkins faults safety lapses. Sun: The Baltimore; 2001.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.George A, Ricaurete. Retraction. Science 2003;302:1479.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.The Chronicle of Higher Education; February 10, 2003 as cited on the online abstract  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Ben Gold care. Publish or Perish. The guardian. Thursday May 13, 2004 as cited on, 1214985.00.html.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Robert Gwynne; Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs;  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Dawkins, Richard; The Selfish Gene (1976); and the extended phenotype (1982); Oxford University Press.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Billy Goodman; New Definition For Misconduct A Step Closer; The Scientist 14(2): 1, Jan 24, 2000; [Box] as cited on  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.The Indian Medical Council (Professional conduct, etiquette and ethics) Regulation, 2002. Notification; No.MCI-211 (2) 2001-Regn Dt.11th March 2002.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Avoiding Plagiarism MASTERING THE ART OF SCHOLARSHIP US DAVIS Student Judicial Affair  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Saptnekar S M. Plagiarism. J Asso Phy Ind 2004; 52:27-30.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Donald Buzzelli; Comments on Definition of Misconduct Online Ethics Centre for Engineering and Science;   Back to cited text no. 12    
13."The Battle of Gettysburg: Aftermath," Gettysburg Convention and Visitor's Bureau, September 22, 1999,  Back to cited text no. 13    


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