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Just One Click Away: Stopping Plagiarism in Its Tracks

Chris Drews

It is so easy to do: You have a file on your computer that includes much of what you want to include in your new chapter, so you copy and paste from it, not remembering that it was published elsewhere. Or you are researching a concept on the Internet and find a paragraph that says exactly what you want to say. Stop! Before you copy and paste, remember that you need to credit the publication—whether print or online—and you may need to seek permission, which may cost more than you think.


Several editors at Human Kinetics have run into plagiarism scares. These have been completely unintentional on authors’ parts, yet these incidents have jeopardized their publications. To prevent any embarrassing moments, we encourage you to take seriously the effort to not plagiarize.


One of the most difficult concepts in the area of rights and permissions is that you often cannot use material you have previously published without permission from that publisher, even if the copyright is in your name. The publisher may hold the rights. You should review your original contract or contact your original editor to find out.


Your publication increases in value as you use original research and present original concepts—readers want to hear what you have to say. Not only can permissions be costly for you, but each time you use an item from another source, your work is less original.


Should you discover that you have unwittingly included material that has been previously published, all is not necessarily lost. We can evaluate the best path, whether that means seeking permission, reinterpreting the material, or deleting it.


As a general rule, data are not copyrightable, but the visual format—the way in which the data are presented—is copyrightable. As you write your manuscript, follow these tips:


  • Use original content.
  • Reinterpret the material, and reference as needed.
  • Evaluate the purpose of the figure, table, or quote: Is it really needed? Does it reinforce your main point? If not, consider deleting it.
  • What makes this item important to your product? Is it the source, the data, or the visual presentation of it? If it is the data, can the data be presented in a different way and referenced?


The Official Rules

With few exceptions, you cannot include anything previously published in any form, print or electronic, whether written by you or by others, without seeking permission from the previous publisher. Following are examples of material that is NOT acceptable for publication unless permission is sought:


  • Direct quotes of more than 250 words from a larger work or comprising more than 5% of a smaller work
  • Figures, tables, lists, forms, or other documents created by another person, whether published or not


The following are considered fair use by HK and require citation but not permission:


  • Quoted material of 250 words or fewer from a larger work or comprising less than 5% of a smaller work. Be sure to use quote marks and include a reference citation with the source’s page number or URL.
  • Minor paraphrasing of a very short passage of your or someone else’s previously published material. Ideally, you would provide new and original findings, but if you must paraphrase a very short passage, use good scholarship and cite the source.


We are here to help. If you have any questions, please contact your acquisitions editor or developmental editor or our knowledge management coordinator, John Laskowski, at for guidance.


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