Plagiarism in Academia

Defining Plagiarism

In the academic context, plagiarism is the "unauthorized use, under the pretence of authorship" (§ 6 of the Principles for Safeguarding Good Academic Practice at the University of Duisburg-Essen).

The director of the International Center for Academic Integrity, Teddi Fishman, defines academic plagiarism as follows: „Plagiarism occurs when someone...

  • Uses words, ideas, or work products
  • Attributable to another identifiable person or source
  • Without attributing the work to the source from which it was obtained
  • In a situation in which there is a legitimate expectation of original authorship
  • In order to obtain some benefit, credit, or gain which need not be monetary”.


Fishman, T. (2009) “We know it when we see it” is not good enough: toward a standard definition of plagiarism that transcends theft, fraud, and copyright  In Proceedings of the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Educational Integrity (4APCEI) 28–30 September 2009 University of Wollongong NSW Australia.

The different forms of plagiarism

In the following cases, there is an illegitimate appropriation of the knowledge of others through the adoption of text material or ideas:

  1. Textual plagiarism or direct plagiarism: word-for word copying from other people's texts without referencing the source.
  2. Idea plagiarism: reproduction of someone else's thought processes in one's own words without referencing their origin
  3. Translation plagiarism: translation of text passages and trains of thought from a foreign-language work without indicating the source.
  4. Structural plagiarism: Adopting the structure of another text as one's own structure.
  5. Image plagiarism: using an illustration or table from another source as one's own.
  6. Self-plagiarism: Re-use of own texts for which credit points have already been awarded in previous seminars, papers or courses.
  7. Ghostwriting: Submission of texts that have been commissioned by others for a fee.

Plagiarism does not always occur intentionally; it is often the result of careless handling of citations and paraphrases, in that sources are incorrectly or incompletely cited. Regardless of the question of intent, any form of plagiarism is a serious violation of the rules of good scientific practice.

Avoiding plagiarism

The comprehensible referencing of scholarly texts is a basic principle of scholarly work. Links to the findings and results of others are established with the help of

  • verbatim (direct) quotations, which are usually marked as such by quotation marks and a complete reference,
  • indirect quotations, which are indicated as non-verbatim references by the mention of their origin or as near-textual, referring reproductions by the subjunctive form, or
  • further references, which name texts that can be considered in connection with a statement.

When marking citations, please observe the conventions of the subject or the requirements of the examination office!

Detecting plagiarism

So-called plagiarism detection software (PDS) provides indications of text similarities and other suspicious passages in texts. PDS compares the submitted texts against special databases and documents and sources freely available on the Internet. As a result, similarities in the text are highlighted. The text similarities are not automatically considered plagiarism: these similarities have to be examined and assessed individually by the examiners and lecturers.

At UDE, the software Ouriginal is used. Please find more information about the software on the pages of the IKM board (German only). There you can also find the currently valid application guideline for the legally secure use of a PDS as well as the requirements for the software activation.

Dealing with plagiarism

In accordance with the DFG Code of Conduct "Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice", the UDE has adopted corresponding principles that also cover the handling of plagiarism.

Please find further information on measures and contact persons here:

Good Resesearch Practice at UDE

Good scientific practice for students and doctoral researchers

Students and doctoral researchers at UDE can learn or further develop the techniques and basic principles of scholarly work within the framework of faculty-specific and cross-faculty events.

Offers for students

Offers for doctoral researchers

Technical tools for lecturers and examiners

Lecturers at the UDE can use the software Ouriginal, which supports them in identifying text similarities.

Information on the legally compliant use of the software and the requirements for activation can be found here:

plagiarism detection software