Monday 1 February 2010

Plagiarism: Reusing figures from papers and textbooks in your work

One question I get asked is how to correctly reuse figures from textbooks and papers.

First, you will gain more marks IF you draw your own figures and do not recycle figures from other sources. However, having said that, it still does not mean you can redraw a figure you have found without stating from where it came, as that would be plagiarism.

Suppose you found the idea figure for your report/essay in a paper....

Original figure no legend

The figure you want to use...

and the paper in question is:

Mol Syst Biol. 2007;3:139. 2007 Oct 16.
PhosphoPep--a phosphoproteome resource for systems biology research in Drosophila Kc167 cells.
Bodenmiller B, Malmstrom J, Gerrits B, Campbell D, Lam H, Schmidt A, Rinner O, Mueller LN, Shannon PT, Pedrioli PG, Panse C, Lee HK, Schlapbach R, Aebersold R.

If you just used the figure shown above in Figure 1, that would be plagiarism. However, if you used the above figure and stated - 'Taken from the paper of Bodenmiller et al. 2007' - at the end of the figure legend and then gave the complete reference in the bibliography, that would not be considered plagiarism. (One possible problem here may be the figure legend. Some staff members may expect the legend to be rewritten in your own words, even though you have stated the figure source, and some staff members may not. So, to be safe, it is a good idea to re-write the legend.)

Therefore, the final figure will look like this:

Original figure no legend

Fig 1: Text describing the figure in your own words... Taken from the paper of Bodenmiller et al. 2007.

Now, if you changed the figure in some way, you added something to it (see below where a red circle has been added) but were still using the base figure, you would still have to state the source of the original figure. For example:

Adapted figure1

Fig 1: Text describing the figure in your own words... Adapted from the paper of Bodenmiller et al. 2007.

Now, to get the most marks, you should draw the figure yourself and add something relevant to it (don't forget to state where you got the information in the legend, that is, give the reference), but again, you should still state from where you got the original figure.

Own figure

Fig 1: Text describing the figure in your own words... Adapted from the paper of Bodenmiller et al. 2007.

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