Disclaimer: I apologize for the vagueness of this post as i do not wish to speak negatively about anyone particular on a public forum.

I've been doing research on a specific topic looking at two articles, one a book published in the 1991 and the other an article published in 1964 in an academic journal.

I noticed that the procedures followed in both papers are very similar and the method seems almost identical, However the 1991 book makes no reference to the 1964 paper and claims its model is new.

I find this incredibly dishonest, its possible that I'm an idealist with reference to a highschool understanding of academic honesty but I think at the very least it should be reported to the publishers.

How do I report possible academic plagiarism to publishers? Is such an activity worthwhile?

  • 4
    Is it at all plausible the 1991 author didn't realize the 1964 work existed and came to the same conclusion? It's sometimes possible for independent workers to come to the same answer. It's also gotten easier to find past work since 1991 thanks to digitization (though in other ways harder due to the increased volume of published work).
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 17:46
  • 1
    How certain are you that this is not simply independent discovery, and what you makes you so certain about it?
    – anjama
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 19:04
  • 3
    A "proper literature review" was much harder to do in 1991 than it is to do today. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 21:24
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    Indeed, I suspect that most articles from 1964 were not even entered into the databases by 1991 Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 21:25
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    @EconJohn Is the 1964 paper widely cited, and widely cited before 1991? Does the 1991 paper cite others that cite the 1964 paper? What work does it build on, and is it the same work as the 1964 paper?
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


The perception of plagiarism has evolved significantly along the years, and practices that are not tolerated nowadays were instead not unheard of in the recent past. I recall seeing several papers from the 1980s and 90s replicated almost identically in different venues, without any cross-citation or copyright notice.

Moreover, bibliographic searches in the past were not so easy, and the authors of the most recent work may have found the same result independently and missed the older work.

Since almost thirty years have now passed from the publication of the second article, I'd ignore the matter: nothing really useful would come out by bringing it up.

  • 1
    Agreed, but you could mention the older article to the more recent authors, without making any claims of impropriety.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 17:46
  • 2
    @Buffy: Assuming, of course, that they are still around. If it's been 28 years, it's quite possible they are not. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 19:28
  • @NateEldredge the author of the latter work is alive the earlier one is not unfortunately
    – EconJohn
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 0:36

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