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A Case Study in Plagiarism: The chronology of what happened I.

What follows is the chronology of events of a case that involved the plagiarism of one of my papers. The series of communications below is a reconstruction based on my files. The names have been changed to preserve the anonymity of the parties involved. Furthermore, I have fixed blatant typos and removed text that was marked as confidential by the sender.

This chronology is not meant to be a legal document, but rather is an illustration of how flagrant plagiarism was caught and the actions that were taken.

Letter I sent to the Dean and President of Prof. Cheater’s University on March 3, 2003.

This morning, I was notified by Prof. Editor, the editor of the journal Highest Tech, that one of your faculty members submitted a manuscript to him that is virtually a carbon copy of our paper that appeared in Applied Physics Letters (Kuzyk M.G.; Dirk C.W. Appl. Phys. Lett. 54, 1628 (1989)).  The manuscript submitted by Dr. Cheater (co-authored by Accomplice One and Accomplice Two of the University of Copied Results) is attached for reference.  I also enclose a copy of the reviewer’s comments. 

As an example of a comparison between the two documents, the left-hand figure above shows an excerpt from Cheater’s manuscript and the figure on the right is our figure.  Furthermore, that Cheater (or his coworkers) copied our work is evident in a side-by-side comparison (the table entries are virtually the same, our names for the molecules - which are not standard nomenclature - are the same, the calculations/conclusions presented are the same, etc.).

I request that your university investigate this apparent misconduct and ask that I be informed of your findings and actions.  In a day and age where electronic technology makes it easier for blatant plagiarism to slip though the system, it is important that unethical behavior not be tolerated and that guilty parties are appropriately disciplined.  If it were not for a sharp reviewer, this manuscript could have easily slipped through the review process.

I look forward to hearing from you about your investigation.


Mark G. Kuzyk
Professor and Associate Chair

Email Sent from Journal editor to Prof. Cheater on March 5, 2003.

Dear Dr. Cheater:

Given the problems we are having with your manuscript, I must ask you if there is any possibility that any part of your accepted manuscript was taken from some other published work without attribution or permission. Could you please respond to this immediately? Perhaps you should withdraw this paper if you find the situation unclear in this regard. If our journal publishes it on the assumption that it is entirely original work and finds out later that it was not, there could be extremely serious repercussions.

I also need your response with regard to another one of your papers that is out for review: was any part of this manuscript taken from some other published work without attribution or permission?

Thank you.

Dr. Editor

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