DOCTORAL STUDIES. At the initiative of the Council for Third-Cycle Studies, all theses will undergo a plagiarism review with the iThenticate tool beginning next autumn. The review is being done to find similarities in theses texts that might later lead to allegations of plagiarism.
Initially, as of February 15, 2020, all doctoral students will be offered an opportunity to have their primary theses reviewed, but starting on September 15, the review will be mandatory for everyone.
The theses will be reviewed using the iThenticate tool. The tool compares the body of the text with texts that are or have been published on the internet and highlights similarities between the text in the primary thesis and previously published text. A growing number of scholarly journals currently use iThenticate to prevent plagiarized texts in manuscripts from being published, and Sahlgrenska Academy has previously urged doctoral students to guard against using paragraphs or diagrams from components in the primary thesis.
Enhancing the quality of theses
Khalil Helou, Academy-wide director of studies at Sahlgrenska Academy, explains that plagiarism review is being introduced to support doctoral students and supervisors at the faculty.
“It is a new procedure that will improve the quality of our theses. Plagiarism review should be regarded as a step in the doctoral student’s education that clarifies that the doctoral student is contributing to new research.”
Helping doctoral students
Theses at Sahlgrenska Academy normally consist of two to four component papers that are linked together by a primary thesis, or what is often called a frame story. The primary thesis is the doctoral student’s own description of the research conducted, in which students place the results of the component papers in relation to the research domain and demonstrate that they can identify strengths and weaknesses of their own contribution to the field.
The most common problem, which the new plagiarism review will help to avoid, is self-plagiarism, cases where doctoral students have accidentally copied into their primary thesis text passages, diagrams and tables from publications they have written themselves.
“When the text is recast in different versions, it is not uncommon for doctoral students to accidentally reuse formulations. In this way we highlight the problem of self-plagiarism and urge all doctoral students not to use texts in their primary thesis from their unpublished manuscripts. This prevents problems that may arise later,” says Helou. She notes that there have been cases at Sahlgrenska Academy where doctoral students had run into difficulties when their manuscripts have been ensnared in a journal’s plagiarism check because of formulations identical to the primary thesis text that had already been published in GUPEA, the University of Gothenburg’s electronic archive of publications.
“We are introducing the plagiarism review to help our doctoral students, and so far, everyone who has had their primary theses and their component papers reviewed for plagiarism has really appreciated the feedback they received,” says Helou.
A two-step process
The review will take place in two steps. A first plagiarism review is done three weeks before the thesis is to be submitted for printing. This report is submitted to the doctoral student and the supervisor so they can discuss it and so that the doctoral student can revise the text when this is necessary. A second plagiarism review will then be done when the thesis has been published digitally in GUPEA, and this report is submitted to the chair of the examining committee to consider in assessing the quality of the thesis.
Doctoral students send their primary theses (Word or PDF format) to the Academy-wide director of studies via https://sahlgrenskaacademy.wufoo.com/forms/ithenticate/
TEXT AND PHOTO: ELIN LINDSTRÖM