I published some research papers in an ISI Journal during the past years. But due to the lack of precise knowledge of the correct referencing, and particularly due to attending an “unintentional plagiarism class” in my university, perhaps in some places of my papers, referencing rules unintentionally do not meet correctly and exactly. It seems that I have to modify some parts of my papers if possible. Also in some parts of my papers I commit an intentional plagiarism. Now what should I do? Should I contact the editor of the journal? Do they reject or retract my papers? I am a PhD student and if my papers are rejected or retracted I could not defend my PhD thesis.

Please guide me. I'm afraid of expulsion from the university and loss of honor.

  • 9
    "Intentional plagiarism" sounds indeed bad. What is exactly what you have done? Unintentional honest mistakes will probably be not too bad, specially if they don't affect the general quality of the paper.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 19:00
  • 2
    I recommend reading through this related question.
    – eykanal
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 20:01
  • 1
    I think in this case "intentional plagiarism" means that while the OP intentionally and knowingly copied material he wasn't aware that that is what plagiarism is.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


The journals need to be contacted, but I would not do it directly. Hopefully your university has someone, ideally a committee, who deals with academic misconduct. I would approach this panel with a detailed list of the occurrences in the papers where you now believe you have plagiarised. Explain to the committee how you were unaware of the norms of good academic research practice until your recent class on the topic. Have in place a plan that will help you continue your training and demonstrate to them that it will not happen again. While they may expel you, I think most academic misconduct panels would look favourably on a student who comes forth on there own with a plan in place. The committee should then be obliged to bring he matter forward with the presses and will negotiate a settlement.

As for loss of honor, it sounds like you plagiarised because you did not understand the norms. While some people will hold this against you, more will look favourably on your ability to admit a mistake.


As it stands it is impossible to say what can happen. Plagiarism is a serious thing but there are places where copied text is less detrimental and there are places where it is definitely so. If your self-plagiarized parts are in, for example methods descriptions where you are describing similar or in fact the same procedure or method, the issue may not be critical, not good either. So you need to assess, or perhaps better, let someone else assess the case. Why don't you contact the person(s) running the class you mention and ask them for advise with your papers at hand?

As for retraction, I am not sure the journal will necessarily retract your papers. Retraction is usually reserve for very serious cases of fraud. I suggest you carefully look at some of the cases written up on the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). COPE is for editors and publishers but their cases may give you an idea of how your cases stands vis-à-vis their published cases.

So, try to get some more experienced people to look at your material and provide feedback. This will provide you with a better perspective than what can be achieved through this site since any answer here will be speculation or hypothetical since we have not seen the publications. Once you have a better perspective from your peers, and your case seem to lean towards there being a serious issue, you can consider contacting editors to hear their view. It is of course not impossible to contact them right away but right now it is not possible to evaluate if this is necessary.

  • Here's another source for retractions: retractionwatch.com
    – user4507
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 22:49

StrongBad's answer is a good one though I would also suggest that when you approach anyone about it: have completed revisions of the papers with proper references on hand.

Going to them with "I just realized I made a mistake, these are the fixed versions I'd like to replace my old papers with" is probably better than just "I made a mistake".

Mistakes happen all the time in all fields but I'd be more concerned about the "intentional plagiarism" in their shoes, intentional dishonesty is much more serious than unintentional mistakes.

  • 1
    See my comment on the original question about intentional plagiarism. I think in this case the OP means he intentionally did something that is typically considered plagiarism, but wasn't aware at the time that it was wrong.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:19

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