Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Citation Etiquette

In my English class in high school, I was always told that you should never copy blocks of text from a source and use it verbatim in your own essay/article. If it was not possible to write it in another way, then the copied sentence/paragraph should be enclosed in quotation marks and the source cited appropriately. Such methodology is particularly relevant when writing scientific articles for publication in peer reviewed journals. Failure to do so is not only plagiarising, but also infringes on copyright and general scientific etiquette. Today, I noticed that someone had cited one of my publications in their article and I was curious to know what aspect of my work they had referred to. When I found a copy of the article, I immediately checked the reference list to see where in the text they had referred to my article - to my surprise I was the first reference cited in the paper! When I began reading the introduction of this article, it was clear that they hadn't referred to my research, but rather had copied word-for-word the first paragraph and a half of the introduction from my article! Upon seeing this, I wasn't sure if I should be insulted or flattered by what they had done. Although both articles are about fuel cells, the papers are otherwise unrelated. In that regard, it seems irrelevant to have referred to my article. I guess there is some consolation in the fact that they did cite my article, thereby acknowledging the source of the information. And given that there is so much emphasis on the number of publications and citations, perhaps I should be happy with any form of citation, no matter the context. Although I don't agree with what they did, I am not going to take it any further. However, a colleague did suggest that I contact this group and inform them that this was not my best article and that next time they should copy another one... :)


Egor Kloos said...

I agree that you should at least let the author or publisher now that it's a 'shame' that you haven't been properly acknowledged.

Alphast said...

Well, nowadays, plagiary is nearly seen as a form of flattery. But I guess that you should still send a little message to the author saying: "thanks for referring me as a source, but, please, next time also use quotation marks."