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How to Avoid Plagiarism

The use of works, words, and ideas without attribution of citation is plagiarism. Most everyone knows that passing off someone else's work as your own is plagiarism, but other more common types of plagiarism are less widely understood. Plagiarism, even inadvertent plagiarism, can damage a researcher's reputation, and may also affect the researcher's institution, funding, and future opportunities in science.

What is plagiarism?

A definition of plagiarism from Dictionary.com:

"1. An act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author."

"2. A piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation."

 

Stolen words and ideas can both be considered plagiarism. STE How to Avoid Plagiarism rev title

 

From Plagiarism.org:

"But can words and ideas really be stolen?"

"According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or computer file)."

So not only is plagiarism of words and ideas theft, it can also come with legal ramifications of copyright violations.

In this era of Google search, Copyscape, CrossCheck, iThenticate, and other online plagiarism detectors, it is extremely easy to check whether a paper has been plagiarized in whole or in part. 

With English as the language of science, scientists with English as a second language may be tempted to copy sentences or even whole paragraphs from other papers. Other countries may also have a different view of plagiarism, one that is looser and slacker than that of the journal publisher locations. However, many science journals will check your paper for plagiarism before publishing, and, if detected, demand corrections or reject the manuscript. 

Plagiarism is often inadvertent, but some plagiarism is by choice, and this is completely unethical, fraudulent, can be illegal, and detrimental to science as well as one's career as a scientist. Especially the theft of another's ideas - intellectual theft - passed off as one's own - this is the worst type of plagiarism. 

 

Types of Plagiarism:

Direct Plagiarism - The "borrowing" or "copying" of another's words, images, or ideas and representing them as one's own. This may be inadvertent or overt. Copying and pasting text or images from published work and doing so without quotes and/or citations is plagiarism. Small adjustments or paraphrasing while keeping the main content is still considered plagiarism. It is better to over-cite small sections of text you use than not. Keep in mind, however, that copying entire and large sections of text, even with quotations or citations, should be avoided. 

Intellectual Plagiarism - This is the theft of the ideas and works of another without giving credit, and presenting the work falsely as your own. This misrepresentation will yield an immediate rejection by science journals. This dishonesty by the plagiarist is the epitome of theft and fraud. Plagiarizing ideas is unacceptable and destroys the integrity of scientific research.

When writing a manuscript, it is common for authors to copy and paste ideas and sentences from other works with the intention of later rewriting and citing the text. During the process of writing (particularly if several authors are involved), this text can become incorporated into the manuscript unchanged and/or uncited. Whenever copying such text, use different fonts and text colors, and always take the time to note the source so that it is clear to you later and to other authors that this text needs to be rewritten and properly cited.

Replication of research methods from previously published work, without citation - While this is less severe than stealing ideas, it is not necessary as most methods can be rewritten. First, always check with the Instructions to Authors of the journal to which you plan to submit your manuscript. Some journals encourage using previously published text of methods verbatim (provided that you cite the original work).

If you find yourself having difficulty re-writing the methods, start with a new file (blank screen) and write down how the methods were performed as if you were telling them to a colleague or student. Refer to your lab notebook to make sure that the values and parameters are accurate for your experiment. Once done, compare your version with the published version to add any important details. For some well-established methods, you do not need to provide all of the details, just those that allow a reasonably trained scientist to replicate your findings (even if they have to refer to the paper you cited). It is best to cite where the method has been used before, and described in greater detail to allow the reader to check for additional details. 

Self-Plagiarism - Some may think that it is acceptable to re-use one's own work in a new paper as they are not actually stealing, but they may be wrong. Once published, many publishers, and not the authors, own the content of the paper. The copyright of open access articles is sometimes owned by the author, so be sure to check if you own the copyright to any text you choose to repurpose.

Inadvertent Plagiarism - Oftentimes an author will copy and paste language from another paper claiming that it was said better by the original paper. This too is plagiarism.  

We at SciTechEdit International are experts at working with non-native English-speaking scientists, and at providing suggestions for restructuring a common phrase without adding to the complexity or wordiness. 

Most instances of plagiarism of text and image can be avoided by citing the original work.

 

Consquences of Plagiarism:

In this global age of the internet and online plagiarism trackers, plagiarism in a scientific paper will not go unnoticed. 

If the plagiarized work is published, that is not the end of potential trouble for the author. The online site, Retraction Watch, is the watchdog of plagiarized papers, especially for those papers with ideas or methods that have been stolen, faked, or misrepresented. Intellectual dishonesty and faking data will most likely lead to retraction of the paper, the ruined reputation of the author, termination of employment, and the loss of future funding. 

Minor or inadvertent plagiarism will be brought to the attention of the author pre-publication by the journal to be corrected. 

Plagiarism of ideas - intellectual plagiarism - will be rejected outright by the journal with a demand for an explanation. 

Self-Plagiarism - You must check the journal rules on self-plagiarized work under their Author Guidelines or Author Instructions as each journal may have a different philosophy regarding self-plagiarism. Some journals are stricter than others, and if the rules are not followed, can put publication of the author's paper in jeopardy. As an example, here is what Nature journals say about self-plagiarism:

"Duplicate publication, sometimes called self-plagiarism, occurs when an author reuses substantial parts of his or her own published work without providing the appropriate references. This can range from getting an identical paper published in multiple journals, to 'salami-slicing', where authors add small amounts of new data to a previous paper."

"Plagiarism can be said to have clearly occurred when large chunks of text have been cut-and-pasted. Such manuscripts would not be considered for publication in a Nature journal."

 

How to avoid plagiarism:

There are many plagiarism-checking websites available to test your paper for plagiarism before submitting to a journal. Many journals will check your paper for plagiarism as well, whether or not you have had your manuscript checked beforehand, but it is better for the paper to be checked ahead of submission so that you can correct any potential problems, saving both time and embarrassment. Most plagiarism-checking sites provide these services for a fee, but some are free.  It is important to be aware that these free services often miss plagiarism from sources that are not easily accessed, or indicate plagiarism for commonly accepted phrases.

SciTechEdit International offers plagiarism checking for your scientific manuscripts and other documents, utilizing a number of applications and tools to highlight the plagiarized sections or passages, and will recommend corrections and rewording in the case of plagiarized text. In cases of the intellectual plagiarism of ideas, we will also note this for you. Contact us!

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The Best Way to Help Your Research Get Published

STE The best way to help your research get published
  • A good, persuasive cover letter increases your chances of being published.
  • Your cover letter is your sales pitch to journal editors for why they should publish your work.
  • Your cover letter must follow the journal's requirements, and be concise and free of errors.

Your goal of publishing your research is at hand. You've carefully selected the journal for submitting your work (if you haven't selected your journal yet, see The Guide to Choosing the Best Science Journal for Publishing Your Research), you've prepared and formatted your manuscript for the journal, and you are excited at the idea of being published.

For most journals, you must now write the all-important cover letter that gets you in the door to be published. Yes, you must write a cover letter! A cover letter, or pre-submission letter, is the key that entices the editor to agree to review your research. You cannot take the easy way out and simply state "here is my research for you to publish". Why would they care? Why should they care? Sending a carelessly written cover letter shows you don't care and that maybe your research isn't at all worth publishing. Do you really want to give that impression after all your hard work, time, and effort spent performing your research and writing up your findings? Probably not.

With thousands of papers to choose from for publication, science journals have their pick of what to publish and your article may not be chosen. Journal editors are in the driver's seat. 

 

What can make the difference in being published or not? Your sales pitch (or persuasive argument) to the journal. Your cover letter is that sales pitch. 

Now before you are taken aback at the idea of having to present a sales pitch, think about it. You are asking them to publish your work. You are competing with dozens of scientists and you must stand out from the crowd. We are not talking about exaggerated or overstated claims, but a statement that tells the journal 'What's In It For Them' and 'The Benefit' they gain by publishing your work. 

The competition to publish is real and ongoing. There is no resting on your laurels in science publication. A body of work may be lauded, but each piece of work must make its way to the front of the line for publication, and your cover letter is how you gain access to the first step of publication. Without a great cover letter, your research could all be for naught - a wasted effort. 

 

Pay strong attention to your cover letter as it is the mechanism to getting your research read and published. 

Just as a job cover letter is the first impression future employers see of you, the pitch in that letter is what helps them decide to progress to reading your resume. The publication cover letter is your sales pitch to science journals that your manuscript will benefit them and their readers. 

Editors want to know that you understand the focus of their journal, the scope of work they publish, how your work will complement other research they publish, and that your work will relate to their readers, as well as the public and general media. Your cover letter will emphasize why your work is important, useful, and interesting. It is your pitch to get published.

STE rev The cover letter is your sales pitch to science journals

Be persuasive and coherent in your cover letter. Sell the merits of your work to them.  You don't need to exaggerate your findings, you just need to describe why they are important and relevant. 

 

Now that you understand the importance of the WHY of a cover letter, let's move on to the HOW of a cover letter to a science journal. 

First, carefully read the specific Author Requirements and Instructions published in the journal you are targeting. If you don't carefully follow their rules, your manuscript could be immediately rejected. 

Find the name of the editor so you can address your cover letter to this specific person. If you can't locate the name and email address, then use "Dear Editor" in your letter salutation. Under no circumstances should you use "Dear Sir or Madam"! It is archaic, antiquated, and outdated. Also, do not use "To Whom It May Concern" as that shows a lack of interest in the person you wish to have read your letter. If you don't care, they won't either. 

Cover letters, or pre-submission letters, must contain a brief, concise, and clear message. One page only! If you find yours running longer than one page, edit it. 

Know that SciTechEdit International is at your service for composing, editing, proofreading, and polishing your cover letter to achieve its best potential in pitching your research for publication. See more here Cover Letters. Contact us when we may be of assistance to you!

Be human in your letter! Write in plain English and avoid jargon and acronyms. Do not drone on about your paper and bore the reader. Remove passive voice phrases such as "in order to" and "may have potential to", and rewrite in active voice. Respect the editor's time!

Briefly summarize the highlights in a way that non-experts could understand. Tell why your paper will have an impact and on whom: fellow scientists, the public, future research. Editors are not experts in all fields, so make your explanations easily understood. 

Choose a readable typeface such as Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman, in a font size between 10 and 12.

Break up large blocks of text as needed to make it easier for the editor to read. 

Be sure that the name you use in your research is the same as what you use in your letter. If you are John L. Smith in your paper, sign your letter in that name, not J. L. Smith. Make it easy for the editor to connect the dots. 

If your target journal allows suggestions for reviewers ("referees"), or for reviewers you wish to avoid, follow the journal directions for how many of these they allow. *Studies show that you can significantly increase the chances of being published by suggesting and/or excluding reviewers in your cover letter. 

Be sure your letter is free of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting. Don't trust "spell-check" - have a colleague or two (or a science editing company!) review your letter to catch any mistakes. Your cover letter/pre-submission letter is an important document that represents you and your research. If the cover letter is sloppy, the assumption is that your research is, too. Don't miss out on potential publication with a poorly crafted letter!

 In addition to the journal's requirements, include this important information in your pre-submission or cover letter:

  • Short introduction stating your manuscript title, the type of article if the journal has different types of articles, and the specific journal you are referencing for publication.
  • Tell why your research study was important, and what questions it answers. Include why your research was needed and whether it continues or builds on prior research in this field. 
  • Tell why your research would be of interest to the journal audience and/or to the specific field of science that the journal covers. Your goal is to convince the editor that your research fits the scope of the journal and would be of interest to their audience (THIS IS THE KEY PART OF THE PITCH). Without exaggeration, tell why your research is new, relevant, and of keen interest to scientists and readers of the journal. 
  • Tell the editor the highlights of your results and the conclusions you have drawn. Clearly and succinctly explain these results, findings, and conclusions in lay terms, not jargon. 
  • KEY: State that your manuscript has not been published, nor is under consideration by any other journal for publication. 
  • State that all authors have approved the manuscript and submission for publication to the journal.

 

Write short paragraphs for these sections, with special care and emphasis on selling/persuading the journal on why your research will benefit the journal and its readers. 

Details: 

  • Date (spell out the name of the month to avoid confusion)
  • Addressee name, Email address, Journal name
  • Salutation (e.g. Dear Dr. Smith:; Dear Editor:)
  • Body of the letter, your message
  • Closing ("Thank you" gets the best results)
  • Email Signature (Name, email address, phone, facility, department, mailing address, personal website)
  • Enclosure (under signature, if including manuscript)

STE Proofread shorten correct review

Proofread, shorten, correct, review, and rewrite your letter as necessary. The cover letter can open the door to having your research published. Give it the extra care both it, and your research, deserve. 

If all this is mind-boggling or you feel stuck in writing your cover letter, contact the editors at SciTechEdit International (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and we will be happy to guide you through it. We are invested in your success!

If this article has been helpful to you, please share with your fellow scientists. Thank you so much!

 

Author: Michael H. Mesches, PhD

© 2017 SciTechEdit International  

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 * Grimm, D. Suggesting or Excluding Reviewers Can Help Get Your Paper Published. Science 2005:309:1974 doi:10.1126/science.309.5743.1974

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The Guide to Choosing the Best Science Journal for Publishing Your Research

STE rev HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST SCIENCE JOURNAL FOR PUBLISHING YOUR RESEARCH 250x250From the idea to the proposal, the grant application, the lab bench work, field/clinical work, collaboration, and writing your notes, your scientific research has traveled a long road to get to your destination: getting published. Dissemination of your findings and ideas to your colleagues and the public is your crucial end goal.

Choose the journal BEFORE writing the manuscript. Your choice will help you to tailor the manuscript to the scope and audience of the journal, as well as journal requirements of formatting, space limitations, allowed abbreviations, etc. Knowing the rules ahead of time will save you time and work, and improve the likelihood that your work will be selected for peer review and publication.

How do you choose which journal is best to publish your research?

We have a few ideas and tips to help you in your publication path. Read on.

First, there are two easy-to-use online resources to help you decide which journal would be most pertinent to your research. The JANE (Journal/Author Name Estimator) and the Cofactor Science Journal selector.

JANE compares your document to Medline documents to find the best match. You can use your abstract or keywords to search JANE. More info on JANE can be found here: http://jane.biosemantics.org/ and FAQ here: http://www.biosemantics.org/jane/faq.php

The journal selector at http://cofactorscience.com/journal-selector asks for five criteria and will search the journal possibilities for you that fit those criteria.

You may also want to look at Google Scholar Metrics, which indexes the top journals in the sciences, humanities, mathematics, and tech with citation h-indexes. Listings are for English publications as well as publications in other languages.

If you are still unsure of whether a journal is right for your findings, email the managing editor found on the “About” section of the journal’s website prior to your submission. Sending your abstract with an appropriate title will help the editor decide whether your paper is suitable for their journal (if they respond favorably, be sure to mention this in your cover letter).

There are other important factors to consider before deciding on your top three choices of journals, which should guide your selection:

1. Audience and Journal ScopeSTE rev. See which factors are importing in choosing a Science Journal
2. Journal Requirements
3. Language
4. Review Process
5. Time Frame for Acceptance
6. Acceptance-Rejection Rate
7. Online and Print Publication Time Frames
8. Journal Impact Factor
9. Open or Closed Access
10. Promotion & Sharing
11. Cost

1. AUDIENCE and JOURNAL SCOPE:

The Audience:
Who is your target audience?
• Is your research for a general or specific audience? Who will be most interested in your results?
• Can your findings be clinically applied or are they theoretical?
• Are your findings specific to your field or are they broadly applicable?
• Are you introducing a new technique that may be useful to most scientists or to specific fields?

The Journal:
Is the journal general to a discipline or specific to a particular sub-discipline? Aside from multi-discipline journals such as Nature, Science, and PLOS ONE, generalist journals of a single discipline have a large audience and are highly prestigious. Niche journals are less widely read and not as prestigious because of the smaller audience.

How many copies of the journal are sold? Over 2500 top university libraries around the world generally subscribe to a multitude of journals; therefore, if your selected journal sells this many copies or more, the opportunity for your work to be seen and cited is much improved. Additionally, circulation that reaches a lay audience is important for publicizing your work.

How long has the journal been published and does it publish regularly? Beware of new journals that are similar in name to established journals as they may not be respectable, and may be predatory. It is unfortunate that Beall’s list of possible predatory journals is no longer published, but it can still be found in the web archives here.

2. JOURNAL REQUIREMENTS:
Practical considerations are important in considering the best journal for your work. Article length, allowed numbers of figures, references, etc., vary by journal.

Be sure to read the journal’s Instructions to Authors/Guide for Authors to determine the limitations of the journal and whether your work will fit within those parameters. Some journals are stricter than others regarding their policies (particularly regarding article or section length). If in doubt, query the editor or check a recently published issue. Thoroughly review their policies before submission.

Examples of author guides and publication instructions can be found here:

Science journals
Nature
Journal of the American Chemical Society

 

3. LANGUAGE:
Although the dominant language of science is English, there are journals in other languages that may be more pertinent to your findings and your intended audience.

SciTechEdit International is a leader in the field of translation of science documents to English from a wide variety of languages and offer our services to you should you need translations and/or editing of your manuscripts for publication in English-language science journals.

4. REVIEW PROCESS:
It is important to know if the journal uses a Single-, Double-, or Triple-Blind, or Open review process. In a Triple-Blind review, the editor and two or more reviewers are unaware of your identity and the reviews are anonymous. In a Double-Blind review, the editor knows your identity but the reviewers do not. In a Single-Blind review, the reviewers also know who you are. In an Open Review, you know who the reviewers are and they know who you are. Open Review offers a greater degree of transparency for the author and honesty by the reviewers.

5. TIME FRAME FOR ACCEPTANCE:
The shorter the better for the time your paper reaches the journal and an editor replies with a decision. A long delay may mean that the journal is inefficiently run, has a weak reputation, or has difficulty securing expert reviewers. Conversely, a fast timeline may mean that the journal does not have enough quality submissions.

6. ACCEPTANCE-REJECTION RATE:
What is the percentage of submitted manuscripts that are published by the journal? While this should not be your deciding factor, it is an important consideration.

Medium acceptance/rejection rates are best for authors; journals with high rejection/low acceptance rates can increase the time and effort spent getting your article published, while high acceptance/low rejection rates can signify a new journal, or an unknown, risky, or desperate journal that will accept less than stellar submissions.

Note: If you want your findings published in top-tier journals, such as Science, Nature, NEJM, PNAS, and JACS, you must ensure that your manuscript strictly adheres to the journal scope and guidelines – SciTechEdit International can help to ensure that your manuscript conforms to the journal’s requirements.

7. ONLINE AND PRINT PUBLICATION:
What is the timeline from acceptance to online publication? Does the journal publish online continuously or wait to group papers into issues? What is the time frame for online publication to print? Will you receive a definite publishing date so that your promotional efforts do not run into embargo problems?

8. JOURNAL IMPACT FACTOR (JIF):
The theory of impact factor indicates how important that journal is to its scientific or academic field, but the value of the impact factor is controversial and should not be the sole deciding component for submitting your paper to a specific journal. Simply put, impact factor is citation count. There are multiple aspects to choosing a journal, impact factor being only one. Promotion and tenure decisions, however, especially in Japan and Europe, may give more weight to impact factor.

Other journal impact factor rankings are issued by PageRank and Eigenfactor.

9. OPEN OR CLOSED ACCESS:
High prestige journals are generally behind pay walls that restrict access without an expensive subscription. Open Access journals are open to all and have a much higher readership. However, most Open Access journals charge Author Processing Fees or place an embargo on publication.

Generally speaking, Open Access journals offer greater accessibility and dissemination to a broader audience, with a 47% increased probability of being referenced in Wikipedia vs. pay wall journals. See the article by Teplitskiy et al (J. Assoc. Information Sci Tech, 2016) for more details.

10. PROMOTION AND SHARING:
Publication of your manuscript is not the end of promoting your work. Promoting the published manuscript is important for increasing your presence and visibility in the scientific community, and to the media. With thousands of articles published daily, you must promote your research to the larger audience, thereby increasing your stature. Social media sharing, especially Twitter with its large science audience, is valuable to catch the eye of science journalists in major mainstream publications who may want to pursue an article featuring your research. Writing about your work on your personal blog is another way to gain visibility to the scientific community and the community at large.

Elsevier and other journal publishers have guidelines for sharing your research article, and encourage authors to do so. Click here to access their article on sharing and promoting your article

11. COST:
Publishing costs for journals vary and can be high. Costs can range from a few hundred dollars for Open Access digital publishing to approximately $4000 for print. These costs are borne by the researchers, though sometimes the author’s university or institution will cover the cost of publishing. Be sure to inquire about publishing fees if this is an issue for you.

 

We at SciTechEdit International hope this guide will be of help to you in determining which scientific journal is the best fit for you and your research findings.

We’d like to emphasize that whichever journal you choose for submission, be sure to first read the journal’s specific guidelines for submission as they can vary widely from journal to journal. Choose your journal BEFORE you write your findings, as this will save you enormous time and effort spent in re-writing, reformatting, and re-submitting your manuscripts to your second and third journal choices.

STE rev. Choose your Science Journal before writing

As always, SciTechEdit International is here to help you polish your scientific documents and help you to communicate your findings clearly. We are proud of our work in gaining a 94% publication rate for our clients, and we welcome you to contact us and learn more about how we can help you get published too.

Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your queries.

Thank you.

 © 2017 SciTechEdit International.  Author: Karin Mesches, PhD  

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

 

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