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Confronting Plagiarism in Government Organizations


Plagiarism can cause challenges in all sectors of society, including government organizations. To combat plagiarism in government documents such as grants, reports, reviews and legal documents, government organizations will find iThenticate to be an effective yet easy-to-use tool in their arsenal.

Contrary to common perception, the challenge of plagiarism and unoriginal work is not limited to academia. Plagiarism is also a problem in the corporate and government sectors.

While plagiarism itself is an issue, detecting it is an even greater challenge. Traditionally, finding potential plagiarism involved manually reviewing countless manuscripts, a tedious and time-consuming process. But thanks to the advent of innovative technologies, organizations now have new tools to efficiently check for plagiarism in multiple sectors of society.

In this article, we’ll examine what plagiarism is and how it can occur unintentionally. We will also explain how government organizations can maintain their high ethical and legal standards by ensuring the originality of their published content.

The Consequences of Plagiarism for Government Organizations

Writing and research play a major role in every branch of government as countless organizations produce documents and reports concerning laws, funding and action plans, among other things. Sensitive information pertaining to government technology, personal information and legal rights is often related in these documents, so it’s imperative that all documents are ethically produced and maintained. When important government documents are plagiarized, the consequences can be devastating.

The most obvious negative repercussion resulting from instances of plagiarism is the damage to the personal reputations of those accused. Those accused of plagiarism may also face legal consequences, especially in the government sector. Finally, plagiarism threatens the integrity of organizations where it occurs by making people question their legitimacy and ethics.

As organizations become more vigilant against plagiarism, it’s important to realize the potential pitfalls individuals and organizations face if plagiarism isn’t detected in important reports, research papers and other government documents.

Defining Plagiarism

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, plagiarism is defined as, “The process or practice of using another person's ideas or work and pretending that it is your own.” Because plagiarism’s definition is a bit open-ended, there are many gray areas organizations must be aware of in order to avoid plagiarism.

For instance, the improper citation of sources can often lead to unintended plagiarism. Since there are many different style manuals — AP, APA, Chicago and Harvard just to name a few — there are also as many standards concerning how and when a quote, passage or reference should be cited. For example, a writer may cite a source at the end of a paragraph when it should be done at the end of a sentence. This type of inadvertent plagiarism is often the result of writers not understanding how to properly cite sources or paraphrase work.

The Potential Trap of Text Recycling 

As conscientious writers avoid plagiarism through proper citation, they should also be aware of the potential for text recycling, also referred to as self-plagiarism. Text recycling is confusing because it involves a person referencing their own prior work, rather than borrowing an abstract of someone else's text.

Research scientist Ben Mudrak states that like other forms of plagiarism, self-plagiarism can also be complicated and nuanced.

Self-plagiarism is commonly described as recycling or reusing one’s own specific words from previously published texts. While it doesn’t cross the line of true theft of others’ ideas, it nonetheless can create issues in the scholarly publishing world,” writes Mudrak. “Beyond verbatim sections of text, self-plagiarism can also refer to the publication of identical papers in two places (sometimes called ‘duplicate publication’).”

As the notion of self-plagiarism remains debatable and various factors are taken into consideration when assessing the integrity of each individual case of text recycling, one thing can be elicited with confidence — clear and proper attribution of any pre-existing work is required, even when it comes to your own work.

iThenticate as a Solution to Prevent Plagiarism

Now that we’ve established how plagiarism is a potentially multifaceted problem for government organizations, let’s explore an effective preventative solution.

Government organizations around the world use iThenticate to maintain the ethical integrity of the many grant proposals, financial reports and other documents that come through their offices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) all rely on iThenticate to ensure their documents are original and cited properly.

iThenticate is user-friendly and simple to incorporate into your current process. Documents are submitted to the system, which iThenticate then compares to its extensive content database containing documents from scientific conferences, journals and books, including an exclusive partnership with CrossRef. It will also search more than 91 billion active and archived web pages as well as more than 170 million journal articles.

iThenticate then generates a “Similarity Index,” a score used to measure what percentage of a manuscript’s text is similar to other texts in the database.

Researcher Kimberly Yasutis adds: “The report also highlights the specific sources by number and color in the main text (left side) so that a user quickly sees which areas of text may be problematic.”

This level of detail allows users to explore each detected text match and review the sources fetched by iThenticate’s report. Necessary changes can then be made in the document to ensure proper source attribution before the text goes live. Adding this easy step to your organization’s workflow provides peace of mind when publishing content.

In addition to iThenticate’s extensive content database, users can create a private repository to store their documents. New document submissions can then be compared to your private repository to discover text similarity across the items uploaded within your organization. This functionality helps prevent self-plagiarism by ensuring your existing documents are cited properly.

iThenticate and its parent company, Turnitin, comply with the data security standards of the United States, the European Union and Switzerland. Since transparency and ethics go hand in hand and should be part of any organization’s best practices, Turnitin provides full disclosure concerning how data is stored and protected.


Plagiarism can cause challenges in all sectors of society, including government organizations. To combat plagiarism in government documents such as grants, reports, reviews and legal documents, government organizations will find iThenticate to be an effective yet easy-to-use tool in their arsenal.

Click here to schedule a demonstration of iThenticate today.