Plagiarism in medical writing is one of the most important ethical issues for us writers.
Having awareness and knowledge about what plagiarism is can help keep your writing original and honest.
You may be thinking, “I would never copy someone else’s work and pass it off as my own.” The reality is plagiarism can be unintentional and comes in various forms and types.
The consequences for both you and your client include damage to both of your reputations and trustworthiness – and probably most importantly it compromises the quality of writing.
Consistently delivering quality content under tight deadlines can put you under pressure, especially when it’s tempered with accuracy and clarity. While this pressure is often manageable, sometimes writers may be tempted to find shortcuts.
Knowing how to avoid plagiarism can help you avoid facing these consequences and ensure your consistent delivery of original medical writing, even under pressure.
Types of plagiarism
Plagiarism isn’t limited to only selecting ‘copy and paste’ on your keyboard and submitting as your own writing.
There are several surprisingly common types:
- Plagiarism of ideas is when concepts are presented as your own without proper acknowledgement. Although it is harder to detect, it’s a form of plagiarism.
- Plagiarism of text. You don’t need to copy entire sheets of text, one or two phrases is considered plagiarism of someone else’s work.
- Mosaic plagiarism is the most common form of plagiarism and involves plagiarism of text mixed with plagiarism of ideas, which are then presented as your own.
- Self-plagiarism is a rather unusual form of plagiarism. It occurs when you plagiarise your own work and then reproduce without acknowledgment.
Plagiarism in medical writing
If you haven’t been tempted by any of these types of plagiarism, that’s the great news. The bad news is plagiarism can result in actions may involve apology letters, retraction of articles, suspension or even legal action.
Some of the likely reasons for plagiarism in medical writing may be tight deadlines, delivering medical copywriting that is neutral, sourcing and reading relevant evidence, a lack of confidence in your writing skills or not believing in the health topics you are writing about.
If you’re worried about plagiarism in your writing, there are a few tips and online checkers that can help you along the way.
Plagiarism online checkers
There are a variety of online tools at your disposal to check the authenticity and originality of your writing. Here are a few commonly used online checkers used by medical writers:
- iThenticate compares files with 37 million published research articles. Considered the most reliable tool, it is reliable and rarely misses an unacknowledged word
- Turntin is a program that tests writing against everything that is published online. It is expensive and requires a subscription for use, and has been recently developed into an app
- Doc Cop is a free checker that chops writing up into chunks that can be searched via Google for matches
How to avoid plagiarism – tips and advice
You may have your own method for writing original content. Finding a personal process that works for you can help you avoid plagiarism. Have a think about how you write about the medical evidence used to support your writing.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Always acknowledge and cite the original source accurately
- Add quotes for verbatim text
- Ensure you completely understand the research you’re writing about
While it’s important to be aware of how to avoid plagiarism in your writing, applying too much caution can be detrimental to your writing, too.
It’s just as important to build on evidence and not to shy away from using other ideas to add to the conversation. Just makes sure you always acknowledge your sources!
Can you come up with other tips to avoid plagiarism? Or do you know any other useful online checkers? Let us know in the comments below.