Plagiarism in dentistry


Plagiarism is defined by the authors of this review by Farook et al, 2020 as, ‘the fraud of someone intentionally or unintentionally taking and using another person’s thoughts, writings, data and expressions as their own without permission or acknowledgement’. This includes copying of text, reproduction of images and data representations without recognising the originator. Plagiarism is one element of academic fraud, and this systematic review aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What is acceptable plagiarism and is there a threshold?
  2. Who carries out plagiarism?
  3. What factors could encourage plagiarism?
  4. How can plagiarism be managed?


An electronic database search of PubMed/Medline, Scopus and Web of Science were conducted up to 2019. Inclusion criteria included original and review articles in English (or with English translations) on plagiarism relevant to dentistry. Studies were excluded if they were editorial-based policies, letter, opinions or viewpoints and case studies on clinical/criminal misconduct by dental practitioners.


  • 29 studies were included in this systematic review.
  • 23 studies with datasets were assessed using the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) critical appraisal toolkit.
  • 16 studies did not take into account confounding factors and the methods and objectives of 10 studies were not clear and almost all papers showed bias.
  1. What is acceptable plagiarism and is there a threshold?
  • There was no clearly reported threshold for ‘acceptable plagiarism’.
  • Self-plagiarism was considered acceptable if it allowed development of ideas and concepts (as there is no mendacious intent).
  • The bar for ‘acceptable plagiarism’ from an internet source was lower than from the written word.
  • There is no distinction between plagiarism carried out by a student or researcher
  1. Who carries out plagiarism?
  • Students who have to submit work in a language that is not their own, possibly male students
  • Unrealistic expectations of institutions on staff or on staff for themselves.
  1. What factors could encourage plagiarism?
  • Individual, institutional and societal expectations including workload pressures
  • No consistent threshold for ‘acceptable plagiarism’
  • Inconsistent consequences if plagiarism is shown
  1. How can plagiarism be managed?
  • Application of plagiarism checkers
  • Educational inclusion with grammar support
  • Embedding ethical values and nurturing and rewarding the values of original and creative scholarship.


The authors concluded:

…plagiarism is unavoidable, but ranges from that carried out with nefarious intent to the mere shaping of previous ideas. Plagiarism should be managed by open discussion between students, researchers and scholars….


This systematic review highlights the important topic of plagiarism however there was a high risk of bias reported with the included studies, hence there are limitations in the conclusion which can be drawn from this review. Additionally, there was limited descriptive information provided in the results of the review regarding population, academic level, method of plagiarism detection etc., hence the results need to be interpreted with caution given the context is not clear.


Primary reference

Farook TH, Radford J, Alam MK, Jamayet NB. Plagiarism in dentistry – a systematic review. Br Dent J. 2020 Oct 20. doi: 10.1038/s41415-020-2026-4. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33082524.



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Manas Dave

Manas Dave is an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and Honorary Lecturer in Dentistry at The University of Manchester. Manas graduated from the University of Manchester with degrees in Pathology and Dentistry before undertaking General Professional Training in the North East. During this time, he achieved qualifications in Pathology Informatics and Medical Education. He is currently studying a Masters degree in Dental Public Health.

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