Editors  >  Editorial Office Guidelines  >  Plagiarism and Libel

Plagiarism and Libel


Plagiarism is defined as the unreferenced use of another's published or unpublished ideas. This may be the submission of a part or whole of a paper under new authorship. Plagiarism includes an author reusing his/her own material (sometimes known as "redundant publication").

To avoid plagiarism, sources must be disclosed. Quotations should be placed in quote marks or reworded. If illustrations or large sections of another's written material are to be used then authors must seek permission.

We recommend that a journal's guidelines to authors contain a clear statement that submissions must be original work and detail the possible outcomes for authors found guilty of plagiarism.

Detecting Plagiarism

With plagiarism detection software (e.g. CrossCheck's iThenticate) manuscripts can now be checked quickly and any overlap can be quantified.

Each journal with plagiarism software should consider how to use the software most effectively. Some check every manuscript, some only perform random checks, and others only perform a check when the possibility of plagiarism is raised by a reviewer.

Given that these checks are quick to perform, our recommendation is to check each new submission. It's also best to make authors aware that a journal uses plagiarism software.

What Plagiarism isn't

There can be no rule as to what degree of overlap constitutes plagiarism: some overlap is legitimate. Here are few examples where overlap doesn't equate to plagiarism:

  • The bibliography of two papers may be very similar and yet not constitute plagiarism.
  • Two papers may have very similar methods sections and yet not constitute plagiarism. (There is only so many ways to describe the same procedure.)
  • In some fields, depositing an earlier working version of the manuscript in a depositary is common and not considered prior publication.

Where significant overlap is found, the editorial office administrator should analyze the results to establish whether the overlap is legitimate or not.

If plagiarism is indicated then the matter should be investigated following the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)flowchart.

For more advice on managing plagiarism issues, refer to section 3 of Wiley's Best Practice guidelines on Publishing Ethics.


Libel and defamation are both unscholarly and illegal. Be very careful when dealing with articles that criticize other individuals or groups. Libel cannot be automatically detected.

Reviewers, who read through the manuscript in full, are best placed to discover possible libel. Ensure they know to raise any potential libel with you. The author should be encouraged to remove the statement or rephrase his/her remarks as opinions.

Legal definitions and penalties for libel vary between territories. If you're in any doubt about whether an article is libelous, contact your publisher or legal representation.