A Survey of Knowledge and Perception of Plagiarism Among Chinese Authors and Reviewers

Pei-Fang Wei,1 Xiu-Yuan Hao,1 Yang Pan,1 Wei-Zhu Liu,1 Jing-Ling Bao,1 Jun-Min Wei,1 Yong-Mao Jiang1

Objective For the past decade, plagiarism has become a growing problem among Chinese researchers; it has soiled the academic world, especially the medical community in China. In this survey, we sought to investigate knowledge and perceptions of plagiarism among Chinese authors as well as authors who were also reviewers and to clarify the standards for plagiarism.

Design In January 2017, a 10-item questionnaire was distributed by email to 252 authors of articles published in the Chinese Medical Journal (volume 128, issues 13-24) and 63 authors of articles published in Chronic Diseases and Translational Medicine (volumes 1 and 2). Among the 315 authors, 62 (19.7%) also served as reviewers. The questionnaire included questions about different forms of plagiarism (yes/no questions) and standards of plagiarism (multiple choice questions). Differences between the authors and reviewers were analyzed with the χ² test.

Results We received responses from 70.5% of authors (n = 222, including 47 who were also reviewers). Among the responders, 60.8% (135) regarded the overall similarity index of 20% to 30% (threshold) as acceptable; 55.4% (123) thought the duplication of a maximum of 20 to 30 words from someone else’s work without references is plagiarism, and 31.1% (69) believed that the continuous duplication of a maximum of 100 words from other papers is plagiarism even if the references and quotation marks are included. Responses to the 10 questions about types of plagiarism are listed in Table. The χ² test indicated that there was no difference between authors and authors who were also reviewers in their knowledge and perceptions of plagiarism, except in their opinions about the similarity index (P = .048) and the provision of incorrect references (P = .049).

Conclusions There is a lack of agreement about the threshold for plagiarism among these Chinese authors, which implies that there is a need to establish a unified standard for researchers to follow. Chinese authors, including those also serving as reviewers, lack sufficient knowledge about plagiarism. Hence, special education programs should be provided to prevent plagiarism.

1Chinese Medical Association Publishing House, Beijing, China, weipeifang@cma.org.cn

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

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