Plagiarism: Give credit where credit is due


The World Association of Medical Editors defines plagiarism as “the use of others’ published and unpublished ideas or words (or other intellectual property) without attribution or permission, and presenting them as new and original rather than derived from an existing source.”1

This definition makes two key points. First, using someone else’s words without acknowledgement is plagiarism. Second, acknowledgement may not be enough. Acknowledging a source is not enough to prevent copyright infringement. Utilizing large blocks of published text or reproducing tables and figures typically require reprint permission from the publisher. Remember: Acknowledge the author, but ask the publisher for permission.2


No one is allowed to utilize others’ work without attribution. Even information delivered by a professional organization or a website, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) or, cannot be used without attribution. Authors must also credit their own previously published work.


Plagiarism occurs just as commonly in a PowerPoint presentation as in a book. Many presenters commit “mosaic plagiarism,” defined by the AMA as “borrowing the ideas and opinions from an original source and a few verbatim words or phrases without crediting the original author.”3 Keep meticulous notes on sources of information and ideas and credit each of them. Incorporating short phrases such as “according to” or “said Smith,” along with citations on slides, can help presenters avoid plagiarism.


Plagiarism is a serious offense and can result in article rejection or retraction, a publication ban, and notification of the author’s employer and/or the professional organization.

Avoid plagiarizing by simply giving credit where credit is due.2


  1. World Association of Medical Editors. WAME recommendations on publication ethics policies for medical journals website. Accessed October 27, 2014.
  2. One Cool Site Blogging Tips website. Accessed October 27, 2014.
  3. Iverson C, Christiansen S, Flanagin A, et al, eds. AMA manual of style: a guide for authors and editors. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2007:158.