Good to know

Plagiarism describes the ‘unauthorised adoption of third-party spiritual products; the theft of intellectual property’ (Fröhlich Gerhard, Wie rein ist die Wissenschaft? – Fälschung und Plagiat im rauen Wissenschaftsalltag, in Etzlstofer Hannes/Katzinger Willibrand/Winkler Wolfgang, echt – falsch will die Welt betrogen sein, 2003, p. 82). On the one hand, plagiarism can represent an infringement of copyright if you do not identify a quotation as such (Art. 25 CopA). Because, in this case, the person who uses the quotation without specifying the source implies that the work comes from them. However, plagiarism also generally describes situations when someone creates a work on the basis of the ideas or contents of others without clearly disclosing this fact. Plagiarism, i.e., unethical authorship, is frowned upon in academia in particular.

This scientific misconduct (which entails far more than just plagiarism, c.f. in particular the link collection ‘scientific integrity’ in this regard), depending on the guidelines of the individual universities or the Swiss National Foundation, for example, can have serious consequences such as loss of titles, exclusion from courses of study, etc. There are numerous examples and opportunities to commit plagiarism (list in accordance with the essay of G. Fröhlich mentioned above and in accordance with Weber-Wulff Debora, Copy & Paste = Plagiat? in Gasteiner Martin/ Haber Peter (Eds.), Digitale Arbeitstechniken für die Geistes- und Kulturwissenschaften, 2010, pp. 111–122):

  • Total plagiarism or copy and paste in toto: in the process, you adopt the entire work of another author as your own without any creative performance of your own.
  • Translation plagiarism: here you take a third-party work as a template and translate this into another language without mentioning the author of the original work. In doing so, you create a derivative work (Art. 3 CopA).
  • Partial plagiarism: adopting parts of a work
  • Shake and paste: here you use, as in the case of partial plagiarism, only parts of another work and put these parts together again in a new way.
  • Clause patching: in this case, only parts of sentences are used and put together into completely new sentences.
  • Idea plagiarism: thereby only the idea of the other author is cribbed and passed on in other words (the general perception is that ideas are not usually protected by copyright. They should be protected only when they appear in a form that is perceptible to the senses (BGE 116 II 351, 354; critical: Handle Marco, Der urheberrechtliche Schutz der Idee, 2013 N 1349). This means that, in the event of idea plagiarism, authors may not be able to claim any legal protection under copyright law. However, in the academic field, you can invoke the infringement of good scientific practice.
  • Structure plagiarism: in the case of scientific works of central importance, only the structure of a work, for example the table of contents of a dissertation, is adopted.
  • ‘Byline plagiarism: the student writes a thesis and the professor who has only skimmed through the thesis briefly offers the student the “honour” of being mentioned alongside him, the professor, in the byline.’ (Weber-Wulff Debora, Fremde Federn Finden – eine E-learning Einheit, 2013)
  • Self-plagiarism: this exists, for example, when you publish your own text again, but under a new title, which implies that this text is being published for the first time.
  • Cryptoamnesia: in this case, this means that you believe that an idea or a statement, etc. is your own; however, you have forgotten that you have seen this template somewhere else.

There are not only numerous opportunities to commit plagiarism but also very different types of plagiarists. Pupils are not the only ones who have been copying from Wikipedia without citing the source for some time now. Everyone, from pupils to university students, to experts through to professors can commit plagiarism. A helpful tool to find out more about plagiarism and how you can detect it is: ‘Weber-Wulff Debora, Fremde Federn Finden – eine E-learning Einheit, 2013’.