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Avoid Plagiarism, or How to Successfully use the Works of Others: Using Data

Demonstrating scientific examples. Creative Commons License

Data

Data must be properly referenced, just as you properly provide references to text.

Meanings of data must not be altered by the way you use them.

You don't need to provide references for facts that are common knowledge.

  • Examples:
    • freezing point of water = 0º C
    • 1 atm = 760 torr

Example of data use

Original passage:

Etheostoma arcus-celestis, n. sp. Total length less than two inches; usually one and three-fourths to one and seven-eighths inches.

Source: F.F. Crevecœur (1903). A new species of fish. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, vol.18, p. 177.


Satisfactory use of data:

Crevecœur (1903) reported the length of the fish as typically less than 2 inches (~50.8 mm).

Reference list

F.F. Crevecœur (1903). A new species of fish. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, vol.18, p. 177.


Plagiarized passage:

The total length of Etheostoma arcus-celestis is less than 51 mm; it is usually between 44 and 48 mm.

Why is the passage considered to be plagiarized?

Because:

  • It retains essentially the same language and structure as the original;
  • Conversion from British to metric unit of measure is misleading; it implies a greater precision.

Solutions:

  • Appropriately alter sentence language and structure;
  • Use original British measurement unit and put the metric equivalent within parentheses.

Modified from M.E. Eberle,"Issues in Scientific Writing"

Another example of data use

Original passage:

Fluorescence and fluorescence quenching resulted in assay failure rates of between 0.1 and 0.8% in approximately 5,000 compounds tested in 2007, accounting for between 12 and 49% of total failures.

Modified from: Fowler, S., and Zhang, H. (2008) AAPS J. 10, 410-424.


Satisfactory Passage:

Between 12 and 49% of overall failures rates can be attributed to fluorescence and fluorescence quenching which produced failure rates of 0.1 - 0.8% during testing in 2007. (Fowler, Zhang, 2008).

Reference Fowler, S., and Zhang, H. (2008) AAPS J. 10, 410-424.


Plagiarized passage:

Fluorescence and fluorescence quenching can result in assay failure rates of between 0.1 and 0.8% in at least 5,000 compounds. This accounted for between 12 and 49% of failures (Fowler, Zhang, 2008).

Reference Fowler, S., and Zhang, H. (2008) AAPS J. 10, 410-424.

Why is the passage considered to be plagiarized?

Because:

  • Facts are misrepresented;
    • Specific year was noted in the original version but not in the example;
    • Number of compounds tested was exaggerated;
  • Although some changes were attempted, the sentence remains very similar in language and structure to the original.

Solutions:

  • When paraphrasing, the student must ensure that the facts and meaning of the sentence remain intact;
  • Use direct quotations or ensure the language and structure of the original work is sufficiently changed.