How can I plagiarize without getting caught

Written off and caught: this is how the plagiarism check works

"Plagiarism is a form of scientific misconduct. It involves the adoption of texts, content or ideas without specifying the source. Even the mere translation is considered plagiarism, if a text from a foreign language is transcribed verbatim and as a separate achievement is published and used without reference to the source, "explains Peter Lieberzeit. Other forms of scientific misconduct include fabricating or falsifying data. "Finally there is the pretense of academic achievements through so-called 'ghostwriting'", adds the Studienpräses of the University of Vienna.

Since the beginning of 2015 there has been a definition of the term "plagiarism" in the University Act 2002 for the first time:
"Plagiarism is clearly present when texts, contents or ideas are adopted and issued as one's own. This includes in particular the appropriation and use of text passages, theories, hypotheses, findings or data through direct, paraphrased or translated adoption without corresponding identification and citation of the Source and the author. " (Section 51, Paragraph 2, Item 31 of the UG)

What is "Good Scientific Practice?"

As members of the University of Vienna, students as well as researchers and teachers are in principle obliged to behave in a scientifically correct manner. This includes in particular the correct handling of sources, the correct implementation of analyzes and the independent writing of written work.

"In principle, the rules of good scientific practice apply to all services provided at the university, both for services within courses - for example, written work such as seminar or bachelor theses - as well as for theses such as diploma and master theses and dissertations" , clarifies Peter Lieberzeit.

How does the plagiarism check work?

For all theses at the University of Vienna, there is a clearly regulated plagiarism check procedure for submission for assessment:

  1. Upload work: All students have to upload their diploma theses, master theses and dissertations to the university publication server.
  2. Software check: On the university publication server, the theses are compared with the help of special software for text equivalence with previously published works. If there is a match, the relevant passages are marked for further assessment. The automatic system creates a test report within a maximum of 24 hours.
  3. Evaluation: The study program directors are responsible for evaluating the results of the electronic control together with the respective supervisor or another competent person. They take a closer look at the marked text equivalents and determine whether there is plagiarism or not.
  4. Approval / Rejection: If everything is correct, the submitted work will be approved for assessment by the supervisor. If this is not the case, there are two options: Either the work is rejected due to deficiencies in the citation and returned to the author for revision, or it is determined that it is actually plagiarism.

What if i get caught?

If you want to avoid unnecessary anger and frustration, it is best to keep your hands off copying. Because one thing is clear: If scientific misconduct becomes known, it has very unpleasant consequences:

If the head of the study program and the supervisor come to the conclusion that a positive or scientifically correct treatment of the topic is no longer possible, the student must write a new paper on a new topic with a different supervisor.

In the case of courses with continuous exams, such as seminars or exercises, a "not assessed (X)" is entered in the collective report instead of a grade. This means that the course that is part of the examination must be repeated in its entirety - including any partial performance that has been positively assessed. The rating "X" is added to the maximum of four possible attempts.

"Academic misconduct can also occur during lecture exams, for example in the form of cheating or taking the exam with a false student ID," adds Julia Wippersberg from the Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies, who supports Peter Lieberzeit as Vice Academic President. Here, too, a "not assessed (X)" is given instead of the grade. This "X" is also counted towards the number of possible repetitions of the exam.

ATTENTION: Plagiarism does not expire!
Plagiarism that was not found at the time of the electronic check can lead to plagiarism reports and proceedings years later. If in the course of this procedure it turns out that there is actually plagiarism, the work in question will be subsequently declared null and void and the corresponding academic degree revoked.

Specific regulations

When it comes to adhering to good scientific practice, students must also take into account the specifics of each field of study. "Apart from very basic regulations - correct handling of sources and the prohibition of inventing and falsifying data - there can be different specialist cultures in different fields of study," explains Lieberzeit. If you want to be on the safe side, the best thing to do is to contact the responsible study program directors, according to the advice of the Studienpräses: "In general, don't worry! Whenever you clearly state where the information in your texts comes from, nothing can actually happen." (ms)


Studienpräses Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Peter Lieberzeit is a professor at the Institute for Physical Chemistry. Vice Academic President Priv.-Doz. MMag DDr. Julia Wippersberg works at the Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies. In addition to ensuring good academic practice, the activity profile of the Academic and Vice-Academic Presidents also includes advice on study law matters, the handling of study law proceedings, the appointment of assessors for doctoral studies, the ban on the use of academic work and the implementation of university scholarships (merit and support grants ).