Plagiarism is the fear of many students in their thesis. After various scandals about Gutenberg and other politicians like Schavan or Steffen, the fear is greater than before. I am writing the article because lately numerous students have asked me about plagiarism in my office hours and I felt a real fear.

First to definition: a plagiarism is the presumption of other people’s intellectual achievements. This can include the adoption of foreign texts or other representations (e.g. newspaper, magazine articles, photos, films, sound recordings, music), foreign ideas (source: Wikipedia ). It applies, among other things, to the adoption of ideas, texts, quotes and images.

Plagiarism is really about deliberately stealing and displaying other people’s texts as your own. For example, adopting the definition from Wikipedia without citing the source is plagiarism. If I do not give a source, one could assume that I developed this definition, although it is copied from Wikipedia.

The accidental plagiarism

Many fear accidental plagiarism. I can reassure you: not every sentence is plagiarism. Certainly the sentence I just mentioned was already somewhere, but this sentence has no direct informational content and is therefore not plagiarism.

The best means against plagiarism: transparency and software

I want to help you against the two most common forms of plagiarism. On the one hand, this is the theft of ideas and the theft of texts without a reference to the source.

Text theft : When copying texts, it is important that you always put a source such as Lindner (2018) after it or indirect quotations such as: “According to Lindner (2018), agility is very good!” use. Gather your sources in one Software like Citavi or Mendeley , then you never lose track. Remember, it doesn’t apply to every sentence. Only if you explicitly take information from a source.

Idea theft : The adoption of results, frameworks, recommendations or other research ideas or results applies here. Always cite a source when adopting a framework or an idea of the outline or anything. It’s ok to use the outline of another framework or the outline of some other work as long as you mention that you’ve adopted the outline here. Another issue is when you have found the same research results through a clear and comprehensible methodology. I think that thousands of studies about working from home, for example, find out almost the same thing. It is then not plagiarism if it is clear that you found the results through a comprehensible research design. The following always applies: transparency protects!

But I want to be 100% sure!

If you want to be 100% sure, just do a plagiarism test. No question about it, the advantages of a plagiarism check clearly outweigh it. In addition, the consequences of spiritual theft are very painful. It is therefore worthwhile for you to carry out a plagiarism check of your thesis before submitting it.

Reading tip: Do I need a plagiarism test?

Conclusion

The thesis grows sentence by sentence and the fear of plagiarism also increases. “Did I really do everything right?” the hardworking student asks himself. I can only recommend you to sit back and relax, to work cleanly and not to be paranoid and afraid of plagiarism. Follow my tips and if in doubt, have a plagiarism test done.

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Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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