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What if I conduct a study and suggest a hypothesis to test but later find out that this hypothesis was already tested before in a different industry/country. Can I still continue? In other words, is there such a thing as plagiarism in stating the same hypotheses?

I find it a burden to go and check the web for every hypothesis I write to see if someone else tested it before. Even though I am sure there are some common hypotheses and studies (like: customer loyalty leads to customer retention, albeit in different industries and/or countries) but I still have doubts.

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"I find it a burden to go and check the web for every hypothesis I write to see if someone else tested it before." *boggle* – David Richerby Feb 24 at 6:56
Don't get me wrong, I take it as using, for example, the exact wording of the hypothesis... – R. AS. Feb 24 at 7:45
I worry that you feel that doing a literature search is "a burden". – David Richerby Feb 24 at 8:37
Never. However, given 4 big essays (one of them is 9000 words) and 1 empirical study to conduct, all in a 2-4 weeks period (while attending regular classes) with final masters exams of 7 courses after the 4th week is not a funny thing, especially if you have OCD traits. :) – R. AS. Feb 24 at 9:26
up vote 13 down vote accepted

If testing the same hypothesis again is plagiarism, then the reproducible science folks are in trouble.

You seem to have a very flawed notion of what plagiarism is - it's the wholesale copying of writing without attributing it to a source. What it isn't is performing the same experiment in a different setting.

Not only can you continue, but you should. Testing the same hypothesis in a different population helps to uncover the variability of the effect, its generalizability, etc. Testing the same hypothesis in different settings is good research. In some fields, this is even recognized as important enough that "Someone else did this elsewhere" isn't even particularly grounds to consider your work not important.

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I think you have a big misconception of what plagiarism is. Passing other people's work as your own is plagiarism; doing something and later discover that it was done before is not. It is not even unethical.

The worst case is that your work is rendered redundant, but this depends on how different your settings and results are.

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If you want to present science as new, it has to be new. If the setting is sufficiently different, then you can present it as new, but you still need to cite the research that took part in other countries.

For example, if there has been research in the relation between air quality and chocolate consumption in Canada, nothing stops you from performing the same research in India. But you should still cite the Canadian team.

Plagiarism is when you present work as your own, whereas in reality you took it from somewhere else. If you inadvertently repeat research that has been carried out before, your work may be rejected for publication for not citing previous work properly, but it's not plagiarism.

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To begin with, it's not plagiarism if you properly cite your sources. There's absolutely nothing wrong with many people testing one hypothesis many times - in fact, an important part of good science is that it can be replicated. Just do a reasonable literature search for similar studies first, and cite the relevant literature. It would be wrong to pretend that you're the first to posit a link between smoking and lung cancer, for example, but it's perfectly fine cite other studies on the matter and then confirm or refute them with your own study.

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It is not only perfectly acceptable, but also encouraged in some fields. For example, some social sciences like Sociology and Demography, which study phenomena that are contingent on the characteristics of the country where the data come from, value studies of a new country case.

Depending on your field and topic, you may even be able to motivate your study precisely because it is conducted in a different country than the previous ones.

Edit: as indigochild suggested in the comments, it is important to note that the new case has to add some value. For example, you can motivate your study by saying that your new country case has a certain characteristic that is relevant to the theory being developed, but that has not been studied in the extant case studies.

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I +1'd, but it might be important to note that just doing the same research in a new country is probably not enough to be valuable, unless there is some specific value in the new country. – indigochild Feb 23 at 14:38
Agreed, the new case has to add something to what is known in terms of the interaction between contextual characteristics and the studied phenomenon. – Kenji Feb 23 at 15:04

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