Avoiding Plagiarism in the Methodology Section

For a couple of years now, AGU has been running a “similarity check” on every new manuscript submitted to one of its journals. I’ve written about these Similarity Reports, also about how to understand one of these reports, and how we as Editors interpret these reports. I’ve also written about self-plagiarism. I’d like to write a bit more about self-plagiarism, because it still comes up as an issue, especially in the Methodology sections of papers.

In short, you cannot cut and paste from a previous paper. Once it is published, that text belongs to that paper and you cannot reuse it. AGU leaves it to our discretion to monitor the exact amount of overlap, but a full paragraph of verbatim text is too much. You have to change it in some way.


            There are several ways to get around the similarity problems, with varying degrees of work on your part. Perhaps the easiest is just to put the entire verbatim text in quotes, citing the paper in which the text originally appeared. When we see something quoted we ignore it as “overlap.” Space physics hasn’t usually gone the way of paragraph-long quotes in papers, but it is an allowable option and something we might see more of in the near future because of the similarity checking.

Another thing is to do is to provide a sentence or two with references, stating the model is exactly the same as was described elsewhere. I can cut-and-paste a reference into Google Scholar and it gives me the link to the original paper in seconds. I actually see little need to repeat text when it is so easy these days to pull up a published paper.

A third option, and the one that will take the most time, is slightly rewrite the text from the previous paper, adding or rearranging words here and there so that the similarity software doesn’t report it as a solid block of text with exact overlap, but rather as a section with a lot of little bits of overlap.  This is much better and usually acceptable, as the meaning is the same but the text has been revised into an original wording.

And then there is this…


Happy writing.


5 thoughts on “Avoiding Plagiarism in the Methodology Section

  1. Pingback: Reviewers: Look Up Papers | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

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  4. Pingback: Defining Plagiarism | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

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