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I am currently undertaking a project as a part of a grad course I am taking. While making some research on the use of medical parallel manipulators, I found two research papers written by different authors. The majority of the content (visuals, equations etc.) presented are identical.

The paper that was written later has not given any reference to the one written earlier. Is this not considered a commitment of plagiarism?

Which paper shall I reference in my project paper?

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    At least one of them is a fraud. You cannot know which one(s) so cite both and mention they are identical. – Trilarion Nov 21 '17 at 10:45
  • Just to be clear. Are the two papers presented as independent? Or is the first a conference proceeding and the second the 'slightly more polished' journal publication resulting from the first? When you say different authors, are ALL the authors different? Or has the first author been switched for the second or something along those lines? As I understand it, it is not uncommon practice to present a paper at a conference as proof of concept with limited data, and then publish that material again under more rigorous peer review and more convincing data, (where often the conf. paper isn't cited) – Tasos Papastylianou Nov 21 '17 at 11:40
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Is this not considered a commitment of plagiarism?

If your account is accurate, yes. You should report your finding to both of the involved journals or publishers. Sites like Retraction Watch may also find this interesting, in particular if the journals do not react. (We have a few questions on how to best report plagiarism, e.g., this one.) You may also want to take a brief look at the publication history of the alleged plagiarisers and see whether you can identify similar incidents.

Which paper shall I reference in my project paper?

If you can identify the original with some confidence, cite that. Why should you credit a plagiariser? Note that the original may not necessarily be the one with the earliest publication date (also look at submission dates, published preprints, or similar). If you are unsure, just cite both, and possibly add a remark that you noticed the anomaly and reported it (or similar). Though playing plagiarism detective may be an educative exercise, it is not your duty to do anything beyond reporting something fishy.

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    @PyRulez : Independent discovery of identical visuals and identical equations? Time to move my 401(k) to the lottery... – Eric Towers Nov 19 '17 at 23:57
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    @EricTowers oh missed that part. – PyRulez Nov 20 '17 at 0:40
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    @EricTowers Identical equations I could see, in some cases there just aren't that many good ways to say a thing in math, identical visuals seems very fishy though. – DRF Nov 20 '17 at 7:29
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    You might want to start by checking Retraction Watch to see if one of the paper is already retracted. – Stig Hemmer Nov 20 '17 at 8:51
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    @StigHemmer: If the paper is retracted, this should be indicated on the journal’s website. – Wrzlprmft Nov 20 '17 at 9:05

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